Duchy of Brabant: Wikis


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Hertogdom Brabant (nl)
Duché de Brabant (fr)
Duchy of Brabant
State of the Holy Roman Empire

Coat of arms

The Duchy of Brabant around 1350
Capital Brussels
Government Principality
Historical era Middle Ages, Renaissance
 - Established 1183
 - Inherited by Burgundy 1430
 - Inherited by the House of Habsburg 1477
 - Disestablished 1648

The Duchy of Brabant was a historical region in the Low Countries. It consisted of not only the three modern-day Belgian provinces of Flemish Brabant, Walloon Brabant and Antwerp as well as the Brussels-Capital Region, but also the present-day Dutch province of North Brabant. The Flag of Belgium is based of the colors of Brabant's coat of Arms. The colors on Belgium's flag are Black, Yellow, and Red.

In Roman times, Brabant was situated in the Roman provinces of Belgica and Germania Inferior and inhabited by Celtic tribes, until Germanic peoples replaced them and made an end to roman imperial rule. Its most important cities were Brussels (Brussel), Antwerp (Antwerpen), Leuven, Breda, 's-Hertogenbosch, Lier and Mechelen. The region's name is first recorded as the Carolingian shire pagus Bracbatensis, located between the rivers Scheldt and Dijle, from bracha "new" and bant "region".


Historical map of the duchy of Brabant and of the Prince-Bishopric of Liège (1477).

The Landgraviate of Brabant was established as a feudal imperial fief within Lower Lotharingia. As such, it was an integral part of the Holy Roman Empire. The imperial fief was assigned to count Henry III of Leuven about 1085-1086, more exactly after the death of the preceding count of Brabant, Count Palatine Herman II of Lotharingia (1085).

The Duchy of Brabant was formally established in 1183-1184 and the hereditary title of Duke of Brabant was created by the German Emperor Frederick I Barbarossa in favour of Henry I of Brabant, son of Godfrey III of Leuven, Duke of Lower Lotharingia. Although the corresponding county was quite small and limited to the territory between the rivers Dender and Zenne, situated to the west of Brussels, its name was applied to the entire country under control of the dukes from the 13th century on.

In 1190, after the death of Godfrey III, Henry I of Brabant also became duke of Lower Lotharingia, a title practically without territorial authority. According to protocol, all his successors were therefore called dukes of Brabant and Lower Lotharingia (often called Duke of Lothier).

Map of the Duchy of Brabant; territory covering approximately the present Dutch province of North Brabant, the three Belgian provinces Antwerp, Walloon Brabant and Flemish Brabant, and the Brussels-Capital Region.

After the Battle of Worringen in 1288, the dukes of Brabant also acquired the duchy of Limburg and Overmaas. In 1354 the Blijde Inkomst, or charter of liberty was granted to the citizens of Brabant by John III, Duke of Brabant. In 1430, the Duchies of Lower Lotharingia, Brabant and Limburg were inherited by Philip the Good of Burgundy and became part of the Burgundian Netherlands. In 1477 the title fell to the House of Habsburg by dowry of Mary of Burgundy. The subsequent history of Brabant is part of the history of the Habsburg Seventeen Provinces.

The Eighty Years' War (1568-1648) brought the northern parts (the present North Brabant) under Dutch military control. After the Treaty of Westphalia in 1648, the United Provinces' independence was confirmed and the northern Brabant formally ceded to the United Provinces as Staats-Brabant, a federally governed territory.

The southern part remained in Spanish Habsburg hands as a part of the Southern Netherlands. It was transferred to the Austrian branch of the Habsburgs in 1714. During the French occupation of the Southern Netherlands in 1795 the duchy of Brabant was dissolved. The territory was reorganised in the départements of Deux-Nèthes (present province of Antwerp) and Dyle (the later province of Brabant).

Cities of Brabant

The Duchy of Brabant was historically divided in four parts each with their own capital. The four capitals are Louvain, Brussels, Antwerp and S Hertogenbosch. Before Den Bosch was founded Tienen formed the fourth capital.

The unwalled cities did not have the right to construct walls. Trade was allowed in these areas and usually this right gave birth to a bigger population density and the development of headvillages and later cities. The unwalled cities had also the right to hold markets which they held on a huge market square. This differs them in shape from surrounding villages who were not allowed to hold markets and who didn't possess a market square. Being unwalled also meant that some of these places suffered heavely in war and during the Dutch Revolt.

Louvains part:

walled cities:

  • Louvain: is the capital of Brabant from where Brabant expanded. It has been a college town since 1450.
  • Tienen: is a city east of Louvain. Historically it was along with Lier, Diest and Tienen one of the bigger cities after the four capitals.
  • Zoutleeuw: is a city east of Tienen. It lies near the boarder of Brabant. In time it must have been a very wealthy town. It was also the biggest garrison town near the boarder with Liege. A swamp separates Zoutleeuw from Liège
  • Landen: Landen lies south east of Zoutleeuw and was a small garrison town. Pepin of Landen, St Gertrude, St Bavo, St Ida and St Begga all lived south west of this city.
  • Hannut: this city lies south of Landen. It is like Landen a small garrison town
  • Aarschot: lies north east of Louvain: it was the capital of the Duchy of Aarschot. It is known for the architecture : the Demergothik which uses a local type of red stone to build churches and other important buildings in the city
  • Scherpenheuvel: lies east of Aarschot. It was the only baroque town in the Netherlands and it is still an important pilgrimage place.
  • Zichem: lies north of Scherpenheuvel. The city was destroyed by the religious revolt giving it a rural character ever since. The church and the Maagdentoren in the local red stone are impressive buildings from Zichems past. Zichem was part of the Baronie of Diest
  • Diest: lies east of Scherpenheuvel. It was one of the biggest cities after the four capitals. It was an important brewery town. The city still counts numerous monuments today. The city is like Zichem and Breda a Nassau city. Diest is also the capital of the Baronie of Diest
  • Halen: A small garrison city where the battle of the Iron Helmets took place during World War 1. A victory of the Belgian Cavalry
  • Jodoigne: lies south of Tienen: The city and the surrounding area is known for its white stone which gives the hole area a pictoresque character. Although many battles took place in this area and other parts of Brabant Wallon
  • Gembloux: Lies south of Jodoigne: is known for the abbey of Gembloux

unwalled cities

  • Wavre: Wavre lies west of Jodoigne and is today the capital of Brabant Wallon
  • Dormaal: south of Zoutleeuw: this place never really developed in to city. Although it holds city rights it could be named a village.

Brussels part

walled cities

  • Brussels: the capital of this part of Brabant: former capital of the Southern Netherlands and today capital of Belgium. Known as the city of nobles because of the presence of the court.
  • Vilvoorde: lies North of Brussels. The first prison of the southern Netherlands was build here under Austrian rule.
  • Nivelles: South of Brussels: Known for the abbey and Gertrude of Nivelles who played an important role in the early history of Brussels and the region.

unwalled cities

  • Braine Alleud: south of Brussels: the battle of Waterloo took place near this city. The church functioned as a hospital
  • Genappe: east of Nivelles is a small city that still developed an old centre around a market
  • La Hulpe: North east of Braine Alleud. Could again be considered a village. Although it could hold markets and spoke law in its own domain. It became more important after the Ancien Regime as the residence of Solvay
  • Overijse: South ouest of Brussels: was historically more important, it held an own beguinage and cloth hall but the city never much expanded besides the area around the large market square
  • Tervuren: East of Brussels: Tervuren was the residence of the Dukes of Brabant and later the Habsbourgs on the countryside. Again residences of nobles caracerise the shape of Tervuren. Also the Congo-museum is situated in the park of Tervuren
  • Duisburg: Duisburg lies south east of Tervuren and was ruled by the abbey of Coudenberg. It never developed into a city
  • Merchtem: North Ouest of Brussels : is also a rather small unwalled city but bigger then La Hulpe - Duisburg
  • Asse: Ouest of Brussels: is next to Genappe and Braine Alleud one of the bigger unwalled cities of the part of Brussels. It holds an old hospital and market square.

Antwerp part

walled cities

  • Antwerp: Antwerp is the capital of this part. She was also the bishop city for this part of Brabant which includes de Barronie of Breda and the Markizaat of Bergen op Zoom. Antwerp is the city of merchants with many merchant palaces build in this city
  • Lier: lies south east of Antwerp: known for the wedding of the parents of Charles V.
  • Herentals: lies east of Lier: it is a city in a forest area
  • Zandvliet: lies north of Antwerp: a garrison city to defend the Southern Netherlands
  • Bergen op Zoom: lies north of Zandvliet: a port town
  • Steenbergen: lies north of Bergen op Zoom: is also an important port town
  • Breda: North east of Antwerp. Breda is one of the Nassau cities
  • Geertruidenberg: North of Breda: its name comes from St Gertrude of Nivelles. It defends the north of Brabant although it was carried over to the county of Holland.

Unwalled cities

  • Turnhout: North of Herentals: the biggest of the unwalled cities of Brabant
  • Geel: east of Herentals. Known for its health care
  • Hoogstraten: North east of Antwerp: capital of the county of Hoogstraten
  • Duffel: south of Antwerp: was more illustrious in the past then it is today. An important baronie which was mostly destroyed by wars.
  • Walem: part of the baronie of Duffel never became bigger then a village
  • Arendonk: east of Turnhout: was famous for training falcons and eagles for hunt.

note: the city of Mechelen formed a separate state along with the Land of Heist op Den Berg and Gestel. Willemstad and Klundert were part of the County of Holland.

S Hertogenbosch part

walled cities

  • 's Hertogenbosch (= Den Bosch): capital and bishop city of this part of Brabant.
  • Heusden: north west Den Bosch : is said to be the untakable city and lies close to the county of Holland and Gelderland.
  • Helmond: east of Eindhoven: was build to function as a counter weight to the counts of Gueldres. It has a massive water fortress
  • Ravestein: east of Den Bosch
  • Meghem: north of Ravestein
  • Grave : south of Ravestein: These three cities are the garrison towns of the North east of Brabant

unwalled cities

  • Oirschot
  • Oisterwijck

See also

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