CHEVALERIE DE L'ORDRE DU CHUFFIN (KNIGHTS OF THE ORDER OF THE OWL)
From the end of 1968, under the leadership of the commanders, three sections were set up: the Compagnons de la Basoche (theatre), the Ménestrels (ancient music) and the Compagnie des Archers. The Chevalerie's first event was musical in nature. Roger Caro, the prince of the Ménestrels (Minstrels), invited René Zosso to Saint-Roch on 6 December 1968 to sing and play the hurdy-gurdy in a surprising repertoire ranging from Gregorian chant to drinking songs from the 10th to the 20th centuries. On 26 April 1969, Gibert UNDORF and his archers put on a brand new show in Juslenville village hall: Duel et Escrime (Duelling and Fencing), a condensed history of weapons fighting through the ages, with the support of fencers from L'Épée club. The Grand Commander of the Basoche, René Lahaye, had his companions rehearse mediaeval pranks which would be performed at the first Franche Foire, amongst other events. In 1969, two new sections were set up: the Annuytants du Vert Bouc. The young excavators of the castle, under the leadership of their prince Renaud Gillard, took themselves back to the age of chivalry before taking flight as Compagnons de Franchimont, whereas, led by Fernand Braipson, the history section known as the Chroniqueurs du Marquisat came to life. On 25 October 1969, the first enthronement took place at Franchimont Castle. The ceremony put together was inspired by the rites of Middle Age chivalry: invocation to the Owl, purification by the purifying water of the well, dubbing with the sword blessed at the chapel, etc. This ceremony has been repeated each year, making it possible to confer the title of Chevalier (Knight) on 208 worthy members and the title of Connétable (Constable) on 104 people who, though not part of the Chevalerie, have rendered eminent service to the society or to the Franchimont cause.
In 1970, a new tradition was started when, on 24 January, the Archers, with the whole Chevalerie, celebrated their patron saint, Sebastian, and carried out a Tir du Roy (Royal Shoot) competition. The first years of the Tir du Roy were carried out with pomp and a costume procession, pulling the monster Gorr through Theux, putting Gorr to death, and holding a thanksgiving mass and final burning. This ceremony has generally become more subdued, except for example in 2008 for the 40th anniversary of the Chevalerie, and has so far led to the election of 33 Kings (some of them having extended their term of office through their skill). In 1970, the Chroniqueurs du Marquisat section put on a major exhibition on the 1940-1945 war, in the Theux Cercle Paroissial (Parish Centre), which was open for two months. It was the start of a series from which we can mention in 1980: Life in Theux in the 19th and 20th centuries, in Rue de la Chaussée, then, from 1985, annual exhibitions at the Galerie de la Marotte then at the municipal library. At the end of 1970, a new section started up: the Baladins de Taillevent, a folk dance group which quickly specialised in mediaeval and Renaissance dances. Under their dance master, Marcel Beaujean, the Baladins soon gained a flattering reputation not only in Belgium, but also abroad. They performed at the Franches-Foires at Franchimont, the Fêtes du Festin at Lessines, the international Kalinka Festival at Namur, the mediaeval fairs at Chimay, Grenoble festival and the Burga festival in Romania. More recently, the Baladins whose number has increased, have worked on two workshops: Renaissance dances on the one hand, and Walloon and foreign dances on the other.
In 1971, a new section was set up: Chuffilm, under the impetus of Raymond Benoit and Jean-François Peret. It reconciled up-to-date techniques with folklore. Thanks to its well-equipped laboratories, it enabled a number of amateur photographers to develop their skills and its exhibitions brought all the old corners of Theux to life, in all seasons. It stopped in 1980, but out of it a local cultural radio station was developed: Radio Franchimont. Under the impetus of Roger Caro, concerts were organised throughout the municipality. In 1970, Renaissance music at the Theux Cercle Paroissial, music from the age of Shakespeare at St. Nicolas' Chapel at Marché, and harpsichord recitals by Miss Van den Driessche at Theux church and C. Koenig at Juslenville church. And, in 1977, the first Pascal Taskin festival was held at the Institut Saint-Roch: three days led by internationally renowned musicians. All these concerts led to the idea of a separate musical section and, in 1978, the Zimtheux came along. Under the leadership of the new Prince of the Ménestrels, Roger Maréchal, this folk and Renaissance music group quickly created a special place for itself. It sometimes supports the Baladins but also puts on a show delighting eyes and ears. They are at all the important gatherings: Franche Foire and shows at Franchimont, the evocation of the Entrance of Joseph II at Spa, and Scheveningen Festival (NL). In 1995, Sylvie Noël took up the torch and then Jean Rouault, who had been loyal to the section since it began and who also enlarged it.
On 20 February 1982, Radio Franchimont took its first steps on the Theux wavelengths. It broadcast from the former Chuffilm premises which had been converted into studios. But RFT very quickly moved to the 2nd floor of the municipal offices which was totally restored through the support of members and supporters. And, on 28 February 1983, the chairman Pascal Dombard was able to officially open these new facilities including studios and meeting room. For 15 years, the radio station provided a full programme each weekend, developed and produced by presenters and technicians, all of whom were volunteers. The programme was varied and of high quality, responding to the demands of Theux listeners. Radio Franchimont stopped broadcasting at the end of 1995. In 1989, after a brilliant presentation at the Franche Foire and at its request, the Excalibur group joined the Chevalerie. Until the middle of the 1990s, under the impetus of its founder Willy Wafflard, Excalibur extended its reputation and field of action at mediaeval and craft events and other fairs. Their songs and music, whether boisterous or romantic, rang out from Franchimont to Mons and Maredsous. The Octarine group took over from Excalibur when the latter disbanded, under Emmanuel Forain with, we must say, quite a lot of problems recruiting volunteer musicians, an essential feature of all the members of the Chevalerie from 1968 to today. In 1996, the Compagnie de la Verte Tente joined the Chevalerie, reminding everyone that the Middle Ages were decidedly aggressive. The clatter of its weapons and armour resonated louder and louder and further and further afield, for the greater renown of the Chevalerie. Thanks to these Compagnons, the 600 Franchimontois went off to Liège again in 1998 and in 2003, the 530th and 535th anniversaries of the ancestral epic. Unfortunately, the section did not remain part of the Chevalerie for long. However, 2008 saw the return of the "Marche sur Liège", an organisation belonging to Theux tourist office and Theux Cultural Centre, both associated with the Chevalerie.
The finest jewel of the Chevalerie must be the famous Franche Foire held at the castle; it too has become a Franchimont tradition. It was back in December 1970 that organising a mediaeval fair was discussed first of all by the Chroniqueurs, then by the Grand Council, based on an idea from Maurice Corne. At the start of 1971, a detailed plan was drawn up and submitted to the municipal authorities and the tourist office, which resulted in the first Franche Foire in 1973. Looking back over these thirty years we see an impressive series of wide-ranging concerts and lectures (of which two have remained in the memory of those helping: Arsène Boury's Universe of the Astronauts and Paul Pahaut's Window of Theux), historical exhibitions, theatrical performances highlighting little-known sites such as the Ferme de la Dîme, the Ferme de la Chapelle, the Limbourg gardens and St. Nicolas' Chapel. We cannot mention all the many activities of each section, but let us highlight that the Archers with their (field) bird shooting have attracted entrants from the four corners of Europe, that the Baladins have fruitful contacts in Belgium and abroad, and that the Zimtheux are constantly being asked to perform at festivals further and further afield. Through their exhibitions, publications and other means of expression, the Chroniqueurs have prevented plenty of events, people and places of former years from being forgotten.
Forty years have passed; some have left us, alas for ever; others have gone off in search of new horizons; but new members have joined. The newcomers work with the original members with the same enthusiasm. The Chevalerie remains faithful to its original ideal: to promote cultural life in Theux, especially with regard to Franchimont's history and folklore. It can look towards the future with confidence and fearlessly sign a new lease for at least as long a time.
General Committee (the Grand Council): firstname.lastname@example.org
Chairman (Grand Commander): Philippe DETHIER
Mont, 23, 4910 THEUX - email@example.com
Secretary (Grand Scribe): Pascal Herck
Rue de la Station, 5/2A, 4910 THEUX - firstname.lastname@example.org
Treasurer (Grand Argentier or Grand Superintendent of Finance): Paul PIRARD
Rue Chaussée, 12, 4910 THEUX - email@example.com