Location in Belgium

Coordinates: 50°40′N 05°38′E / 50.667°N 5.633°E / 50.667; 5.633Coordinates: 50°40′N 05°38′E / 50.667°N 5.633°E / 50.667; 5.633
Country Belgium
Community French Community
Region Wallonia
Province Liège
Arrondissement Liège
  Mayor Frédéric Daerden (PS)
  Governing party/ies PS, E.P.H.
  Total 23.54 km2 (9.09 sq mi)
Population (1 January 2016)[1]
  Total 39,617
  Density 1,700/km2 (4,400/sq mi)
Postal codes 4040-4042
Area codes 04
Website www.herstal.be

Herstal, formerly known as Heristal, or Héristal, is a municipality of Belgium. It lies in the country's Walloon Region and Province of Liège along the Meuse river. Herstal is included in the "Greater Liège" agglomeration, which counts about 600,000 inhabitants.

Herstal municipality includes the former communes of Milmort, Vottem, and Liers (partly, the other part being incorporated into Juprelle). A large armaments factory, the Fabrique Nationale or FN, and the biggest industrial zone of Wallonia (Haut-Sart) provide employment locally.


Merovingian and Carolingian golden age

The proximity of the Meuse River and the abundance of local resources attracted settlers in this area since the fifth millennium BC. Around the end of the Roman era and at the beginning of the Merovingian period, the hamlet had become a fortified stronghold, then known as Héristal. The major road that linked Tongeren to Aachen crossed the Meuse here, where a ferry likely carried travelers to Jupille.

Monument to Charlemagne, Liège, Louis Jéhotte, sculptor, 1867

In the 7th century, Héristal gave its name to the founder of the family that established the Carolingian dynasty. Pippin, lord of Héristal, the powerful Mayor of the Palace of Austrasia and of Neustria under Merovingian king Theuderic III, probably chose this location as his main residence because of its proximity to the major cities of Tongeren, Maastricht, and Liège. Pippin was the father of Charles of Héristal, victor of the decisive Battle of Tours that stopped the Arab-Muslim advance into northwestern Europe, earning him the nickname Martellus (“hammer”). Charles, in turn, was the grandfather of Charlemagne, also supposedly born in Héristal, where he lived for at least fifteen years. Charlemagne later established his capital in Aachen, ending Héristal’s period of medieval glory as capital of the empire.

Late Middle Ages until now

The town was incorporated into the Duchy of Lower Lotharingia, which became part of the Duchy of Brabant at the end of the 12th century. Despite its proximity to Liège, the territory of Herstal did not become part of the Bishopric of Liège until 1740, date at which the prince-bishop Georges-Louis de Berghes bought it from Frederick II of Prussia.[2] By that time, the town was mainly known for its able craftsmen: ceramists, blacksmiths, and clockmakers.

In the 19th century, Herstal became a city of coal and steel. It would, however, become world-famous thanks to the foundation of the Fabrique Nationale, a major armament factory, in 1889. Several motorcycle manufacturers also established themselves in town. On August 7, 1914, at the very beginning of World War I, the invading German army executed 27 civilians and destroyed 10 homes in Herstal.

Engraved firearm from the Fabrique Nationale

After World War II, heavy industry saw a prolonged period of decline, drastically reducing the number of jobs in these areas. Today, Herstal’s economy is picking up again, with more than 200 companies established on its territory, including Techspace, which manufactures precision parts for the European Space Agency’s Ariane rocket.


Municipal head
Mayor Frédéric Daerden (PS)
Deputy Franco Ianeri (PS)
Marc Haeken (PS)
Jean-Louis Lefebvre (PS)
Christian Laverdeur (PS)
Léon Campstein (PS)
André Namotte (E.P.H.)
Isabelle Thomsin (PS)
Party % Diff. 2000 Seat Diff 2000 Leader
PS[3] 50,86 -1,14 20 -1 Albert Crépin
EPH (PSC) 18,99 +2,59 6 +1 Norbert Weytjens
MR[4] (PRL) 14,14 +3,24 4 +1 Jennifer Maus [5]
PTB[6] 9,38 +2,18 2 0 Nadia Moscufo
ECOLO[7] 6,62 -2,28 1 -1 Anne-Marie Meunier-Balthasart


Notable people

Twin cities


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