To this day philologists can not agree on the meaning of the name Merendree. "Meer", plural "meren" now means "lake". But what does that have to do with the name "Merendra" found for the first time in a document of the year 722 when Wendelfridus donated his goods to the St. Peters Abbey of Ghent ?
The oldest archaeological finds in Merendree date from 15000 to 10000 years ago (late palaeolithic age). They were found on the Molenkouter ("molen" = mill; "kouter" = field). Artefacts such as points, scrapers and small blades from the Mesolithic were found just about everywhere along the Kale river. A fragment of a polished axe and an arrow head indicate human activity in the Neolithic age. Some burial mounds on the Melderenkouter and on the Dosweg are from the Bronze age. On the Molenkouter and Melderenkouter Iron Age objects were found.
In the Fall of 1995 on the Molenkouter east of the current town center a Roman road, provision pits, rubbish pits, stake holes and earthenware were uncovered. But in these excavations shards were also uncovered that belong in a Germanic or Merovingian tradition.
The church of Merendree is dedicated to St. Radegunda, the Merovingian queen who became a nun, founded a nunnery at Poitiers and died there in the year 587. In Belgium only three churches are dedicated to her, two in the Walloon part of the country and one here in Merendree. Because of this it is believed the origin of the church might be Merovingian.
The first Flemish martyr Gerulfus came from a noble family from Merendree and was buried in Merendree's basilica in 748.
Since 1319 the Seigneuries of Vinderhoute and Merendree belonged to the same lord. The two Seigneuries with only one bailiff remained separate administratively and juridically. In Merendree there was a court of justice with the bailiff or his substitute the sheriff and seven aldermen. Two of the aldermen came from Landegem, two from Hansbeke and three from Merendree itself. Merendree's sheriff (meier) lived in the "Meierswal", also called "Gerofswal". This later became the parsonage.
The Anabaptists came to the Land of Nevele
from Bruges and Ghent. Merendree is halfway between these two great cities
and it was soon one of their favorite places. Already in 1542 inhabitants
of Merendree paid with their lives for their religious convictions. The
baptizers eventually retreated north, i.a. to Aardenburg ("aarde" =
earth; "burg" = fortress), in Zeeland Flanders, now part of the
Netherlands. Until the second half of the 17th Century there were reformed
believers in Merendree. To this day an area of Merendree has the name
"Dopershoek" (Baptists' Corner). The name reminds us of the
place where the anabaptists lived, far from the town center and well out of
reach of the Catholic clergy.
The source of the above is the excellent "Streekgids Meetjesland", 1998, 122-124. See also: Our Sources.
Merendree's church is dedicated to Saint Radegunda. She was a Thuringian princess but in 531 she was part of the war booty of Chlotar I, a Merovingian king. Next thing we know she gets married to this same Chlotar. But the "piety and continence" of our Queen Radegund were such that she soon received permission to become a nun. And she went on to found a nunnery in Poitiers and to perform numerous miracles. Her dream to become a martyr had not come true when she died in Poitiers on 13 August 587 and of course 13 August is her feast day.
On 1 January 2011 Merendree had 1,930 inhabitants. And six years later there were 1.017 women, 1,037 men which makes a total of 2,054. Hmm, more men than women !