Lier, Belgium

Coordinates: 51°8′N 4°34′E / 51.133°N 4.567°E / 51.133; 4.567
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Hoogbrug over the Nete in Lier
Hoogbrug over the Nete in Lier
Flag of Lier
Coat of arms of Lier
Location of Lier
Lier is located in Belgium
Location in Belgium
Location of Lier in Antwerp Province
Coordinates: 51°8′N 4°34′E / 51.133°N 4.567°E / 51.133; 4.567
Country Belgium
CommunityFlemish Community
RegionFlemish Region
 • MayorRik Verwaest (N-VA)
 • Governing party/iesN-VA, Open Vld
 • Total49.85 km2 (19.25 sq mi)
 • Total36,646
 • Density740/km2 (1,900/sq mi)
Postal codes
NIS code
Area codes03, 015

Lier (Dutch pronunciation: [liːr] ; French: Lierre, French pronunciation: [ljɛʁ] ) is a municipality located in the Belgian province of Antwerp, arguably on the outskirts of Antwerp. It is composed of the city of Lier proper and the village of Koningshooikt. The city centre is surrounded by the river Nete, around which it grew. In 2018, Lier had a total population of 35,712. The total area is 49.70 km2 making a population density (PD) of 720 per km2. Lier is known for its beers (which include Caves), its patron saint St. Gummarus and Lierse vlaaikes cake. It is also home to the world headquarters of Van Hool, a global bus and coach manufacturer. Lier's two principal football clubs are K. Lyra-Lierse and Lierse Kempenzonen (formerly known as KFC Oosterzonen, which moved to Lier in 2018).


The etymology of the name Lier is still under debate. It most likely refers to the river Nete and the muddy soils that surrounds it. The Latin name of Lier is Lyra, the suffix of which (-ara) is probably derived from the Germanic or Celtic reference to river. Alternatively, the origin might be the Germanic words Ledo or Ledi, which both refer to a location near the confluence of rivers (in this case the Minor and Major Nete). Other explanations include the old Dutch word laar (clearance in the woods) or the word liere (parapet). There is also a resemblance to the Swedish word leira, which means muddy shore, or the Icelandic word leir, which means clay. An all together different explanation is the Germanic word hieura, which refers to a hillock type of country.[2]


Lier on the Ferraris map (around 1775)

There is scant record of Lier predating the 7th century. Saint Gummarus himself was born in the 7th century and died on 11 October 714. He was canonised in 754.[3] In 1194 Lier was given oppidum status and in 1212 granted municipal rights.[4] The Lier beguinage was founded in 1258 and in 1998 was inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List as part of the Flemish Béguinages site.[5] The last surviving beguine died in 1994.[6]

Beguinage, a UNESCO World Heritage Site

In the 14th century, Duke Jan II wished to reward the City of Lier for joining his fight against the City of Mechelen. He offered the city the choice of either hosting a university or a livestock market. The city notoriously selected the livestock market option, upon which the Duke is reported to have sighed: "Oh, those wretched sheep heads". Today, a herd of bronze sheep near the Zimmer tower serves as a reminder to this fateful decision. The university was eventually seeded in the city of Leuven, in 1425, as one of Europe's first and today most prominent universities. The nickname Schapekoppen (which translates to Sheep Heads) is still used in Flanders to refer to inhabitants of Lier.[7]

In 1496, Lier was the scene of the marriage between Philip the Handsome,[8] son of Maximilian of Austria, and Joanna of Castile. This marriage was pivotal to the history of Europe, for Charles V, who was born to this marriage (Ghent, 1500), would go on to rule both the Holy Roman Empire and the Spanish Empire.

King Christian II of Denmark, accompanied by his spouse Isabella (sister to Charles V and known as Queen Elisabeth), lived in Lier until 1523, after having been expelled from Denmark by the local nobility while waiting in vain for military support from his brother in law.[9] He attempted again to regain the Danish and Norwegian throne, but was taken prisoner and spent the rest of his life detained in the Danish castles of Sønderborg and Kalundborg. Isabella died in 1526 at the Castle of Zwijnaarde.[10]

"Witches stone" on the marketplace

A conspicuous feature of the market square is a headstone (witches-stone, placed in 1974) that marks the spot where Lier's last witchcraft-related execution is traditionally believed to have taken place.[11]

In 1860, a skeleton of a mammoth was unearthed at the site of the current city hall buildings.[12] It was the first mammoth skeleton to be discovered in western Europe.

At the start of the WWI, King Albert and his Chiefs of Staff were temporarily headquartered in Lier, before retreating to Temse as German lines advanced. Being part of the redoubt of Antwerp, the city suffered heavily under German artillery fire, leaving much of its medieval structures damaged beyond repair. Most medieval-style structures that exist today (including the town hall and its belfry) are therefore replicas, built shortly after the War.

Lier is routinely referred to with the rhyme Lierke Plezierke (which roughly translates as "fun in Lier"). This expression originates from a booklet Felix Timmermans wrote in 1928, in celebration of the 50th wedding anniversary of a neighbouring couple.[13]

The strong ties Lier had developed with the Belgian military ever since in 1888 artillery barracks were built, continued after the World Wars. From 1955 to 1997 the barracks housed the Royal School of Cadets (cadet school for the Belgian army).[14] A prominent alumnus of this school is Belgian astronaut Frank De Winne. The site was vacated by the army in 1998, acquired by the city, and now houses city hall and the police department. Two artillery pieces are on display on the city hall's patio, as a reminder of the building's past.[15] The city of Lier is also patron city to the Belgian Army's Second Artillery Regiment (now termed the Artillery Battalion).


Some might argue that Lier is a part of the Antwerp suburban area, making it a district on itself, but generally, Lier is divided into five main districts: Leuvensepoort, Mechelpoort, Lisp, the city centre and Koningshooikt. The last is a historic village that was administratively joined to the town as a sub-municipality in 1977.

Name Surface area
- Centre
- Koningshooikt



Historical population of Lier, Belgium
YearPop.±% p.a.
1806 9,816—    
1816 11,397+1.50%
1830 13,153+1.03%
1846 13,849+0.32%
1856 14,608+0.53%
1866 15,128+0.35%
1876 16,103+0.63%
1880 17,133+1.56%
1890 20,135+1.63%
1900 22,656+1.19%
1910 25,869+1.34%
1920 25,380−0.19%
1930 27,350+0.75%
1947 28,982+0.34%
1961 28,755−0.06%
YearPop.±% p.a.
1970 28,416−0.13%
1976 27,834−0.34%
1977   §—    
1977 31,409—    
1980 31,319−0.10%
1985 31,115−0.13%
1990 30,918−0.13%
1995 31,704+0.50%
2000 32,191+0.31%
2005 32,947+0.47%
2010 33,930+0.59%
2015 34,652+0.42%
2017 35,244+0.85%
2020 36,918+1.56%
§ 1977: addition of Koningshooikt to Lier
  NIS – from 1806 till 1976 census on 31 December;
     from 1977 = inhabitants at 1 January

Source: Statbel

Local government[edit]

Former mayors[edit]

Era Mayor
1831 - 1848 Charles Mast-De Vries independent
1848 - 1853 Jan Baptist Peeters Liberal
1853 - 1872 George Bergmann Liberal
1872 - 1911 Florent Van Cauwenbergh Catholic
1911 - 1927 Jozef Schellekens Catholic
1927 Jules Van Hoof Catholic
1928 - 1941 Joseph Van Cauwenbergh Catholic
1941 Frans Raats acting mayor Catholic
1941 - 1944 Alfred Van der Hallen oorlogsburgemeester VNV
1944 - 1954 Joseph Van Cauwenbergh CVP
1954 - 1959 Jules Van Hoof CVP
1959 - 1976 Frans Breugelmans CVP
1977 - 1982 Raymond Callaerts CVP
1983 - 1984 Herman Vanderpoorten PVV
1984 - 1994 Maurice Vanhoutte PVV / VLD
1995 - 2012 Marleen Vanderpoorten VLD / Open Vld
2013 - heden Frank Boogaerts N-VA

Notable people[edit]

Points of interest[edit]

In popular culture[edit]

In 2004, Lier was the host for the third episode of Fata Morgana, the TV show in which Belgian celebrities gave a city or town several challenges. The theme was "Lier 2020" and the inhabitants succeeded in completing all challenges.


See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Bevolking per gemeente op 1 januari 2020". Statbel.
  2. ^ "Van waar komt de plaatsnaam Lier? - Website Lier". Retrieved 28 September 2017.
  3. ^ Sint-Gummarus
  4. ^ Historische stadskern van Lier
  5. ^ "Flemish Béguinages". UNESCO World Heritage List. UNESCO. Retrieved 6 November 2021.
  6. ^ Beguinage
  7. ^ Van waar komt de naam "De schapenkoppen"?, text in Dutch, explaining where the nickname "sheep heads" originates from.
  8. ^
  9. ^ "Family tree of King Christian II Of Denmark". Geneanet.
  10. ^ III, Fermin de la Fuente. "Isabella archduchess of Austria Infanta of Castile & Aragon Queen of Denmark, Sweden & Norway (1501-1526) » Fermin de la Fuente III, descendant from King Pelayo Balthes of Asturias » Genealogy Online". Genealogy Online.
  11. ^ Grote Markt
  12. ^ Our Natural Selection - The Lier Mammoth
  13. ^ "Felix Timmermans".
  14. ^ Historiek Koninklijke Cadettenschool
  15. ^ Wist je dat Lier een petekind heeft?
  16. ^ "World Heritage List | Belfries of Belgium and France". UNESCO. Retrieved 2021-03-16.

External links[edit]