) is a Belgian municipality
in the Flemish province
of East Flanders
. The municipality comprises the city of Oudenaarde proper and the towns of Bevere
, and Welden
From the 15th to the 18th century, but especially in the 16th century, Oudenaarde was a world-known centre of tapestry production. The town's name, meaning “old field”, still lingers on in “outnal”, an obsolete English term for a kind of brown linen thread. Today, Oudenaarde is known as the pearl of the Flemish Ardennes.
The glory of Ename
The history of the current municipality of Oudenaarde starts in 974, when Otto II, Holy Roman Emperor
and King of Germany
, built one of its three fortifications on the Scheldt
at Ename to protect his kingdom against possible attacks from France
(the other two frontier posts were at Valenciennes
). Ename grew very fast. By 1005, the town already had a couple of churches and had become the largest town in the duchy of Lotharingia
. In 1033, Baldwin IV, Count of Flanders
took the city as a frontier post against Germany
. In 1047, Baldwin V
consolidated his father’s victory by having his wife found a Benedictine
abbey there. By that time, the former merchants and guild artisans of Ename had fled across the Scheldt to the recently founded city of Oudenaarde.
Oudenaarde’s golden age
In the 11th century, Oudenaarde’s economy flourished, thanks to the proximity of the Scheldt and to the burgeoning, but vibrant cloth and tapestry industry. Churches, cloisters and hospitals were built. Throughout the Middle Ages, the city was one of the staunchest supporters of the Counts of Flanders, defending them against insurrections from the South, and even from Ghent. The city became known as the residence of the nobles. It built itself a flagship town hall (built 1526–1537), which we can still admire today, and the St-Walburga church. Charles V stayed here for a couple of months in 1522 and fathered an illegitimate daughter, Margaret of Parma, who was to become Regent of the Netherlands.
During the Reformation
, the people of Oudenaarde chose Protestantism
and allied themselves with Ghent
against Charles V
. In 1582, after a prolonged siege by Margaret's son, Alexander Farnese
, the city finally gave in, causing most merchants, workers, and even nobles to flee. Oudenaarde belatedly embraced the Counter-Reformation
, which revived for a short while the commerce of tapestry. The glory days, however, never came back. The French attacked and took the city three times in less than a century. In 1708, one of the key battles in the War of the Spanish Succession
, known as the Battle of Oudenaarde
, was fought in the vicinity of the city. Oudenaarde slumbered as a provincial town under the Austrian
Like its neighbours, in the 1790s it suffered the religious curtailments imposed by the French Revolution. The city suffered damages during World War I, which is commemorated by several monuments scattered around town.
- The Flamboyant Gothic-style Town Hall and its Belfry were designated by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site in 1999. The city hall houses a unique collection of Oudenaarde tapestries.
- The Church of Our Lady of Pamele, begun in 1234 on the banks of the Scheldt, and the Church of St Walburga near the market square, are both worth a visit.
- Oudenaarde is also home to the Centrum Ronde van Vlaanderen, a museum dedicated to the Ronde van Vlaanderen (Tour of Flanders) cycle race.
- Recurring events include a beer fest in June, an open-air musical festival in the summer, and an agricultural fair in February. The celebrated Ronde van Vlaanderen, the Ronde van Vlaanderen cycle race for women, starts every spring in Oudenaarde. The race for men passes through Oudenaarde several times.
- Every ten years, one of Flander’s largest floral displays takes place on the market square (Grote Markt). The last one took place in 2005.
- Arnold of Soissons, saint (1040-1087)
- Margaret of Parma, daughter of Charles V and Regent of the Netherlands (1522-1586)
- Johannes van den Driesche, orientalist and exegete (1550-1616)
- Charles Liedts, politician (1802-1878)
- Gentil Theodoor Antheunis, poet, (1840-1907)
- Reimond Stijns, writer (1850-1905)
- Adriaen Brouwer, painter (1605-1638)
- André Dierickx, road racing cyclist (b. 1946)
- Jotie T'Hooft, poet (1956-1977)