Unesco recognises heritage in Flanders
The Last Post played at sunset at the Menin Gate, beer culture, lace-making and carillon music are among the phenomena approved last week by Unesco as official Flanders’ immaterial heritage.
Immaterial heritage includes a country or region’s traditions and customs, apart from material heritage like buildings and structures. Among events previously approved by Unesco are the carnival in Aalst, Flemish sign language and the Holy Blood Procession in Bruges.
The latest entries are the nightly playing of The Last Post, a piece of military music composed for bugle to mark the end of the day, and adopted as a daily ceremony in Ypres in 1928 to mark the dead of the First World War. Since then, the ceremony has attracted tens of thousands of visitors.
The beer culture dates back to the days when farmers brewed their own beer from the rich harvests of grain available in Flanders, later transferring brewing to local guilds and abbeys. Each strove to maintain the particularities of their local produce, something which still continues today even when brewing has become largely industrial.
Bell towers were once emergency beacons in the flat Flemish landscape but about 500 years became associated with churches. They are known to have been played musically since at least 1510, and the carillon tradition reached its peak in the 17th century. Now, Mechelen houses an internationally-renowned carillon school, to which specialists flock from around the world for master classes and the chance to play live.
Also among the events recognised by Unesco: the seven-yearly Coronation Festival in Tongeren, which dates back to 1479; cock-crowing in East and West Flanders, where the cock who crows the most in one hour on a Sunday morning wins; lace-making by hand, which became a local speciality in the 18th, when Flemish lace, each town with its particular patterns and techniques, was sought the world over; and the Hegge procession, which takes place once every 25 years to commemorate the legendary theft of a chalice and some communion wafers, later miraculously recovered at the entrance to a rabbit hole. The next is due to take place in 2012.