Municipality of Gestel
|Coat of Arms|
|Surface area||2.48 km² |
0.95 sq mi
|Population density||79.44 inh./km² |
207.37 inh./sq mi
|Number of villages||1|
|Number of hamlets||0|
|Number of wards||2|
|Patron Saints||Saint Lambert|
|Postal code districts||81x|
|Detail of Gestel's town hall.|
Gestel is the smallest municipality of Heist-op-den-Berg in terms of surface area and population. It is considered to be one of the most beautiful villages of the southern Campine region, with its pristine early modern village centre and two impressive castles. The village is completely surrounded by the valleys of the Grote Nete river and Gestel stream. The whole municipality is a protected landmark.
The Chapter of Lier mentions Gestel in one of its documents in 1261. The village was already part of the exclaves of the Lordship of Mechelen and was considered to be a dependency of Heist-op-den-Berg. This geopolitical arrangement, with two areas completely surrounded by the Duchy of Brabant, held up for several hundreds of years. Similar to Heist-op-den-Berg, the village had the privilege to form its own council.
Later on, in 1559, the exclave of Gestel was sold individually from Heist-op-den-Berg. However, it wasn't until the French occupation in 1795 that the historical bonds between the two were broken. The loss was again confirmed almost two centuries later when Gestel fused with Berlaar in 1965.
After the independence of Heist-op-den-Berg, the provisional government started a diplomatic mission towards the people of the village in an attempt to convince them to join the newly formed Republic. The interest not only came because of historical reasons, but the border also formed a perfect natural barrier that made it easier to define the Republic's borders. The diplomatic mission to achieve this was though, but succeeded: Gestel became Heist's seventh municipality on 1 July 2012.
Gestel is quite isolated and never cut through by an important road. Together with its status as heritage municipality, it is the most popular place in the country for recreational cyclists, walkers and tourists in general. The eye-cathers include:
- The Lambert Square, the heart of the village. Includes the 15th-century church, 19th-century clergy house and the 18th-century pillory which is also depicted on the 1 eurocent coin.
- Gestelhof Castle: the 19th-century design on a 16th-century foundation, once owned by the Le Grelle family.
- Rameyen Castle: a water castle dating back to the 13th century. It is one of the oldest buildings in the region. Founded by Jan II Berthout de Berlaer, which is today still visible in Gestel's coat of arms. During the late 17th and early 18th century, the castle was in possession of Pieter Paul Rubens' son and his descendants.
The number of inhabitants on January 1 of each year was:
2014: 189 - ▬
2015: 192 - ▲ (1.6%)
2016: 192 - ▬
2017: 195 - ▲ (1.6%)
2018: 197 - ▲ (1.0%)
- Maria van Soubourg (1250-1336): noblewoman, to whom the 4th chapter of the Middle Dutch chronicle Spiegel Historiael is dedicated to. This is Jacob van Maerlant's opus magnum.
- Nicolaas Rubens (1618-1655)