Wervik is a municipality
A municipality is essentially an urban administrative division having corporate status and usually powers of self-government. It can also be used to mean the governing body of a municipality. A municipality is a general-purpose administrative subdivision, as opposed to a special-purpose district...

 located in the Belgian
Belgium , officially the Kingdom of Belgium, is a federal state in Western Europe. It is a founding member of the European Union and hosts the EU's headquarters, and those of several other major international organisations such as NATO.Belgium is also a member of, or affiliated to, many...

 province of West Flanders. The municipality comprises the city of Wervik and the town of Geluwe
Geluwe is a town in the West Flanders province of Belgium. It is contained within the municipality of Wervik. The town is known for the "yawning festival" ....

. On January 1, 2006 Wervik had a total population of 17,607. The total area is 43.61 km² which gives a population density
Population density
Population density is a measurement of population per unit area or unit volume. It is frequently applied to living organisms, and particularly to humans...

 of 404 inhabitants per km². The area is famous for its excellent tobacco and has a tobacco museum. The town is separated from its French
The French Republic , The French Republic , The French Republic , (commonly known as France , is a unitary semi-presidential republic in Western Europe with several overseas territories and islands located on other continents and in the Indian, Pacific, and Atlantic oceans. Metropolitan France...

 counterpart Wervicq-Sud
Wervicq-Sud is a commune in the Nord department in northern France. Wervicq-Sud is one of the oldest villages.The town is separated from its Belgian sister town of Wervik by the Lys River.Located 15 km north of Lille and 20 km south of Ypres....

 by the river Leie.


Stone Age artefacts, flint axes and spearheads, were found in the district of Lower Flanders and the site Oosthove. The archeological excavations at the Pioneer in 2009 yielded traces of inhabitation from the Iron Age to the Roman Period.

Roman period

Wervik was probably a settlement of the Menapians led by the chief Virovos, at a small height along the banks of the Lys (current Island Balokken). This is still unproven. At the time of the conquest of Gaul by Caesar, a Roman stopping place was built next to the Celtic village. The Roman settlement was registered on Roman road maps from the 3rd to 4th century under the name Viroviacum (Itinerarium Antonini) or Virovino (map of Peutinger). Vioviacum was located on the Roman road between Kassel and Bavay. Remains from that period are still being found regularly in Wervik. Excavations at Saint Martin's Square in the centre exposed the foundations of the old Saint Martin's church, which was partly built with Roman waste materials. According to some historians this was formerly a temple dedicated to Mars or Priapus. This is still unproven.

Middle Ages

In the 13th century the population of Belgium rose sharply, thanks to the great heyday of the textile trade which penetrated international markets up to the Far East. In 1927 the city was taken by Philip of Valois and partially destroyed.

During the Ghent uprising of 1382, Wervik was an outpost of the army of Philip van Artevelde during the Battle of Westrozebeke. The rebellion failed, and the city was plundered by the Bretons and reduced to ashes. The Saint Medardus church had to be rebuilt completely. Wervik had not yet fully recovered when a major fire in 1400 destroyed again the whole town. Of the 820 dwellings there only 20 remained. "John the Fearless" (Jan Zonder Vrees) gave Wervik a market hall in 1401, as an incentive for recovery and revival. In 1436 part of the garrison of Calais invaded Wervik and again burnt the town to ashes, in 1440 the town was burnt again. The many successive fires were mainly because most houses were built of wood and straw, and that the town had no protection against attacks as it was never walled. After the succession of fires the town was attacked by the plague. In the years 1436 and 1468 the population was decimated by the epidemic.

Habsburg Netherlands

In the middle of the 16th century finally a quieter period began for Wervik. Prosperity had vanished and the population had dropped to about 3000 inhabitants. During the religious quarrels, the Saint Medardus church was badly damaged and today still bears the traces of the iconoclastic. The Beggars (Geuzen) burnt the church in 1579.

In the 17th century the entire region wa affected by the ongoing annexation attempts of the French king Louis XIV. Wervik was taken by the French in 1668 and was later annexed to the Spanish crown in 1678. After the Peace of Nijmegen treaty in that year, Wervik became again French territory. The continuous impoverishment of the town left it with only 3172 inhabitants.

In 1713 the town was divided in half by the Treaty of Utrecht. Lys was the state border and separated the town into South Wervik (current Wervicq-Sud) and Austrian Wervik. But for the population the town remained whole, and the Saint Medardus church remained the parish church for both town parts.

First French Republic

After the French Revolution and the French invasion of 1794, the Saint Medardus church was again turned into ashes. Wervik became part of the French département of Lys, and entered a period of terror, coercion and persecution.

Kingdom of Belgium

After the Congress of Vienna in 1815, the town became part of the Kingdom of the Netherlands until the Belgian Revolution in 1830.
During World War I German troops entered the town on October 5, 1914. A customs officer had noted German Uhlanen in South Wervik on October 4, and turned the swing bridge between Wervik and South Wervik so that no one could cross it, throwing the key in the Lys. The next day the Germans arrived and fished out the key. After a short fight with the Gendarmerie, the town was conquered by the Germans. Because Wervik was the first town conquered just outside the front line, it got a military government and German soldiers were billeted there, and wounded soldiers cared for. Wervik's population was forced to work in German operated factories serving the trench warfare. In 1917 the population had to evacuate the town because British guns were aimed at Wervik and ruined the town.

Wervik was largely rebuilt after the war. The Bruges architect Huib Hoste carried out several projects, including several rows of houses, commercial buildings and the town sewers.

During the Second World War Wervik was again occupied by German troops, until the inhabitants were freed in 1944 by Canadian soldiers.


The Saint-Medardus church is a massive gothic church.

National tobacco museum - the region of Wervik is known for its tobacco farms.

Famous people who were born in Wervik

  • Yves Leterme
    Yves Leterme
    Yves Camille Désiré Leterme is a Flemish Belgian politician, a leader of the Christian Democratic and Flemish party , and the 48th Prime Minister of Belgium.Leterme was the Prime Minister of Belgium from March 2008 to December 2008...

    , Prime Minister of Belgium
  • Wim Delvoye
    Wim Delvoye
    Wim Delvoye is a Belgian neo-conceptual artist known for his inventive and often shocking projects. Much of his work is focused on the body. He repeatedly links the attractive with the repulsive, creating work that holds within it inherent contradictions- one does not know whether to stare, be...

    , artist
  • Ronny Coutteure
    Ronny Coutteure
    Ronny Coutteure was a Belgian actor. He worked in cinema, radio, television, opera and theatre.He was a celebrity in his home country and in France and is most famous internationally for his supporting role of Remy in the The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles...

    , actor
  • Joseph Demuysere, cyclist, winner of Milan-Sanremo
  • Sam Bennett, cyclist, Irish u23 Champion
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