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Malmedy from the south
Malmedy from the south
Flag of Malmedy
Coat of arms of Malmedy
Coat of arms
Malmedy is located in Belgium
Location in Belgium
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Country Belgium
Community French Community
Region Wallonia
Province Liège
Arrondissement Verviers
 • Mayor André Denis
 • Total 99.96 km2 (38.59 sq mi)
Population (1 January 2013)[1]
 • Total 12,336
 • Density 120/km2 (320/sq mi)
Postal codes 4960
Area codes 080

Malmedy (French pronunciation: ​[malmədi]; German obsolete Malmünd) is a Walloon city and municipality of Belgium. It lies in the province of Liège. On January 1, 2006, Malmedy had a total population of 11,829. The total area is 99.96 km² which gives a population density of 118 inhabitants per km².

The municipality consists of the following sub-municipalities: Malmedy proper, Bellevaux-Ligneuville, and Bévercé.

Under the complex administrative structures of Belgium, which has separate structures for territorial administration and for language community rights, Malmedy is part of Wallonia and of the French Community of Belgium. But since it has a German speaking minority, it is one of Belgium's municipalities with language facilities (or "municipalities with facilities"). Malmedy and Waimes are the two Walloon municipalities with facilities for German speakers. The population of Malmedy is approximately 95% French speakers and 5% German speakers.[2] The variety of German spoken is Moselle Franconian.


Cathedral of Malmedy.

The name of “Malmedy” comes from the Latin sentence “A malo mundarum,” meaning “the place of the bad confluence.” In the Middles Ages, the the town was regularly flooded by the rivers. It was not a good place to be. 

The city was created in 648 by Saint Remacle, Provost of Solignac abbey in France. He had established his Benedictine Monastery in Malmedy. Between this date and 1794, the history of Malmedy is linked to the religious Principality of Stavelot-Malmedy, a clerical microstate.

For 1146 years, Malmedy and Stavelot formed together the Principality of Stavelot-Malmedy. 77 successive prince abbots of the Germanic Holy Roman Empire and the County of Logne leaded the state. However, a rivalry grew up rapidly between the two towns, because Saint Remacle decided to choose Stavelot as the main city of the Principality.

In the 16th Century a lot of industries appeared in the area of Malmedy: cloth industry, leather industry and the production of gunpowder. In the 17th Century, Malmedy and Stavelot became the most important tannery center in Europe. But the main industry in Malmedy was the paper making industry. It brought considerable wealth to the town. 

In 1795, during the French revolution and the Liège revolution, the Principality of Stavelot-Malmedy disappeared and was united with France. Malmedy was a lower prefecture in the "département de l'Ourthe"[3].

After the defeat of Napoléon in 1815, during the Congress of Vienna, the decision was made Malmedy, a roman and walloon town, would be linked to Prussia, a germanic state. This special situation of Malmedy caused a lot of problems in the first fifty years. The inhabitants were free to speak French as they pleased, including its use in proceedings and decisions of the town council.

This situation changed when Chancellor Bismarck took power and following the Franco-German War of 1870. For the Prussian Administration, Malmedy suffered a double disadvantage as it was both francophone and the majority of the inhabitants were catholic. From this moment, Malmedy was forced to be Germanized. In schools, lessons in French were banned and the German language was mandatory. The priests were not allowed to preach any longer in French[4].

During the First World War, the population of Malmedy fought in German uniforms. But when the defeat of Prussia was proclaimed, Malmedy and the other eastern cantons were annexed to Belgium by virtue of the Treaty of Versailles. Malmedy and neighbouring Eupen were subject to a plebiscite to determine whether the region would be separated from Germany and annexed to Belgium. The plebiscite ballots required registration of the names and addresses of the pro-German voters (the others were assumed to be pro-Belgian), and the German-speaking population of Eupen and Malmedy were intimidated[citation needed]. Both were formally annexed on 6 March 1925. The main church of Malmedy was built in 1777 and served as a cathedral from 1920 to 1925.[5] Some old sources spell the city's name "Malmédy" as this accent was intentionally added when being part of Prussia and Germany, but its official website lists it as "Malmedy", with no accent. Along with the neighboring city of Eupen, it formed a German-speaking area of Belgium. This was reversed after the war. During this period, a few undaunted individuals went as far as founding a “Walloon Club” in 1897, and this still exists today[6].

In 1944, during the Battle of the Bulge, the area was the site of the Malmedy massacre, where 84 American prisoners of war were executed by Nazi SS troops under the command of Joachim Peiper. This was one of a number of such massacres of prisoners and Belgian civilians which took place in the Malmedy area. Between 1940 and 1945, Malmedy was re-incorporated into Germany.

On 21 December the town itself, which was then held by US troops, was attacked by German forces under the command of Otto Skorzeny, who were repelled. Moreover, on 23, 24 and 25 December 1944 the city was bombed repeatedly by the United States Army Air Forces in a series of friendly fire incidents. Approximately 200 civilians were killed in the tragic attacks, while the number of American casualties has never been revealed by the United States Department of Defense.

Today, the people of Malmedy is a mix of roman culture and german culture. Despite all the changes, the Malmedians seem to have preserved the qualities recognized by an 18th century English chemist when he stated, “The inhabitants of Malmedy are honest, skillful, opulent, gracious, sociable and courteous towards foreigners.”

Nowadays, the population counts approximately 12,000 inhabitants, there are 7 male choirs, 2 song groups, 4 brass bands, an accordion club and a mandolin club. Without forgetting a very active music academy [7].


Cwarmê, sunday. Haguète and others traditional costumes.

Inhabitants are proud of their Walloon language and their typical folklore. The people of Malmedy never miss to celebrate a festival. The main celebrations in Malmedy are the “Cwarmê” (Carnival), the “Saint-Jean d’été” (Midsummer's Day), the “Saint-Pierre” (the annual fun fair at Saint Peter's Day), the "Saint-Géréon" (in Walloon “Tribodlèdje”) and the Saint Martin's day (“Evêuyes”).


The "Cwarmê", a walloon word defining the Carnival of Malmedy, is the main festivity of the town. Even if a part of the Malmedian culture is linked to the German culture, the "Cwarmê" of Malmedy is really a Walloon and Latin carnival.

The celebration takes place from the Shrove friday to the Shrove tuesday, 40 days before Easter. The "Cwarmê" sunday is the most important day. For the tourist, it's the opportunity to see the old traditional costumes in the streets (2,500 people in costume). The "Cwarmê" is depicted as a "street carnival" and is not only a parade. People who are disguised pass through the crowd and perform a part of the traditional costume they wear.

Some traditional costumes at the "Cwarmê" of Malmedy[52]:

    • The "Haguète" is the most beautiful and the most famous traditional costume of the "Cwarmê". She has a a great hat with multicolored feathers and uses a sort of long wooden tongs to catch the foot of a spectator.
    • The "Longuès-Brèsses" (Long-bras in french, Long-arms in english) is a kind of clown with long arms. He uses his arms the catch the spectator's hat and put it on the head of another person.
    • The "Long-Né". They form a group of 8 people and they wear long nose mask, a traditional blue smock and a long red-white cap. The group chooses a spectator in the crowd, they follow and imitate this one until he decides to offer them some beverages.

Image gallery

See also


  1. Population per municipality on 1 January 2013 (XLS; 607.5 KB)
  3. "History and Growth". Retrieved 2016-01-07.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  4. "The Prussian Epoch (1815-1919)". Retrieved 2016-01-07.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  5. Jean Finot. New York Times, May 30, 1915.
  6. "The Prussian Epoch (1815-1919)". Retrieved 2016-01-07.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  7. "Malmedy Today". Retrieved 2016-01-07.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>

External links