In the 1060s, Geraardsbergen (Grammont) was founded as a strategic stronghold on the eastern border of the county of Flanders. With the economic attractive center at the western part of his county (with cities such as Ghent and Bruges), it was important for the count to attract people to the financially backwards eastern part of his reign. A way to do so was to promise the people in – or willing to move to – the East relative independence by assigning cities such as Geraardsbergen municipal laws. This strategy worked: the cities and their importance grew, as becomes clear (for example) from references to Geraardsbergen as a centre of (cloth) trade and production in the twelfth century.
The story of Geraardsbergen is certainly not all good news, as it has been a place of troubles several times. In the 1430s, for example, it was one of the centers of a peoples’ revolt against financial arrangements of the authorities. A century later, once again the people of Geraardsbergen revolted against the city rulers, this because the latter (in the opinion of the former) had chosen sides with the central authorities in a tax dispute.
Nowadays, the city of Geraardsbergen is known for a completely different kind of battle. Each Spring, thousands of cycling pro’s and tourists travel to Flanders to participate in the annual Tour of Flanders. The ‘high mass’ of the early cycling season is one of the oldest and most renown races on the cycling calendar. Perhaps the single most famous and certainly one of the most feared hills on the Northern side of the Alps is situated in Geraardsbergen: the Muur van Geraardsbergen (‘Wall of Geraardsbergen’), a steep climb onto the city’s ramparts.
Go to: Geraardsbergen manuscript