Ronsele may be a one horse town but it has been there for a fair while. A document of the Saint Bavo Abbey of Ghent mentioned "Rondeslo" in 1105 and a document of 1210 names "Ronslo". Indeed, one of the earliest known occupants of the Seigneury was called Boudewijn (Baldwin) van Ronslo. The name Ronslo is of Germanic origin. It means a small wood on higher sandy ground, which corresponds exactly with the local topography.
Until 1563 the Seigneury of Ronsele belonged to the Zomergem Corporation. In that year the new Waarschoot Corporation is formed. It consisted of Waarschoot, Oostwinkel and Ronsele. The Seigneury was then owned by Adorne, a well known patrician family from Bruges.
In 1569 the church was completely destroyed by the iconoclasts and for more than a century it remained not much more than a ruin. This is why in the first half of the 16th Century the parish was suspended. Part of it was given to the parish of Zomergem and the other part went to Oostwinkel.
On 15 April 1665 the first stone of a new church (dedicated to Saint Gandalphus) was laid and this small new church was opened for services before the end of the same year.
In 1708 in the Steenberg (Stone Mountain) in Ronsele there lived a certain Mathys Clardijn, a hermit. Two inhabitants of the town, Jan Versluys and Jan Rotsaert had given him each a piece of land to build his hermitage. On a pilgrimage to the Holy Land this Clardijn had met a certain Joannes Ahorn who was from Switzerland. They had decided to build a hermitage in Ronsele to live in together according to the rule of the Order of St. Antonius. Not much more is known about this hermitage than that it has existed and that Joannes Ahorn had soon abandoned our Friar Mathys. In 1711 Mr Clardijn is in Spa in the Southern part of Belgium to ask permission to build there a small hermitage for devotion and piety. In 1725 a bad debt of our hermit here in Ronsele was written off because he had been gone a long time. Certain accounts of 1735 mention the hut of the hermitage then belonging to Madam Albertine Triest and the place is still called the "Kluize", meaning the Hermitage.
On 14 Augustus 1788 Baron De Draeck, then the owner of the Seigneury, took the radical decision to separate Ronsele from the rest of the Corporation so he himself could exercise some of the rights of a lord. Ronsele from then on had its own tribunal and its own administration.
With the arrival of the Revolutionary French in 1794 feudalism came to an end and Ronsele became an independent town. Besides the town center there were two hamlets, Daalmen and Hoek.
In 1855 the Schipdonk Canal was dug and some of the towns on its borders acquired a strategic importance: Ronsele was one of the many victims of both World Wars. In October 1918 the town came under heavy fire: the church, the parsonage (the house of the village priest), the town hall and quite a few other houses in the town were destroyed and several inhabitants died. By 21 October 1918 the church was nothing but a ruin. It was rebuilt and solemnly reconsecrated on 14 October 1923.
In May 1940 Ronsele was once again on the receiving end of the guns. This is known as the "Battle of Ronsele". The Germans used heavy bombers to attack the Belgian Army; under cover of heavy fire they crossed the canal and many soldiers were killed in hand to hand fighting. For those of you read Dutch here is an newspaper article about this battle.
Ronsele is only 620 acres (2.51 km2). Its neighbours are
Oostwinkel (2,066 acres) and
Zomergem with its 6,899 acres. On 1
September 2006 there were 606 inhabitants. It is now administratively part
The source for most of the above is the excellent "Streekgids Meetjesland", 1998, pp. 93-94. We are most grateful to Mr. Maurice Ryckaert for his story of Mathys Clardijn in "Ons Meetjesland" (Our Meetjesland), 16th year, number 2, 1983 published by Mr. Romano Tondat. See also: Our Sources.