Definitions

Oudenaarde

Oudenaarde

Oudenaarde, Fr. Audenarde, commune (1991 pop. 27,162), East Flanders prov., W Belgium, on the Scheldt River. It is a textile center and a rail junction. At Oudenaarde, in 1708, the allies under Marlborough and Eugene of Savoy defeated the French under the dukes of Burgundy and of Vendôme in the War of the Spanish Succession. Oudenaarde has a Gothic town hall (16th cent.).
Oudenaarde (French Audenarde, English sometimes Oudenarde) is a Belgian municipality in the Flemish province of East Flanders. The municipality comprises the city of Oudenaarde proper and the towns of Bevere, Edelare, Eine, Ename, Heurne, Leupegem, Mater, Melden, Mullem, Nederename, Volkegem, 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.

History

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 and Antwerp). 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.

Decline

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 regime.

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.

Sights

  • 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.

Events

  • 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.

Famous inhabitants

Twin cities

External links

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