Pierre David (mayor)

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Pierre David
DAVID Pierre (1771-1839).jpg
Burgomaster (mayor) of Verviers
In office
1830 – 30 June 1839
Maire (mayor) of Verviers
In office
4 July 1800 – 21 September 1808
Succeeded by
Personal details
Born9 January 1771
Verviers, Prince-Bishopric of Liège
Died30 June 1839 (aged 68)
Verviers, Belgium

Pierre David (9 January 1771 – 30 June 1839) was a Belgian civic official who was mayor of Verviers under French rule from 1800 to 1808 and, after Belgian independence, from 1830 until his death. David's family were cloth-makers and ran a weaving factory. He became involved in local government after serving as an officer in the city's police force. David, a Francophile and Republican, was appointed mayor of the city after the French annexation of the Prince-Bishopric of Liège. He resigned in 1808 after disagreeing with one of the Emperor Napoleon's decrees but remained involved in the running of the city. When Verviers was incorporated into the United Netherlands David secured a seat on the city's Regency Council. During the 1830 Belgian Revolution David supported independence for Belgium as a republic and when this proved unachievable voted for union with France. David was subsequently appointed the first mayor of Verviers within the independent Kingdom of Belgium, holding this position until his death.

David was responsible for establishing the city's first fire brigade and creating a new cemetery to replace its inner-city burial ground. He also supported low-cost housing for workers, established a secondary school and several charitable organisations. David played a key role in constructing the city's second river crossing and also planted numerous lime trees. After his death he was memorialised in a fountain in the city centre, in which his heart was entombed. Several busts of David survive in the city and some of its streets are named after him.

Early life[]

Pierre David was born on 9 January 1771 to Pierre David and Catherine-Joseph Jacob David. The David family was involved in cloth manufacture and Pierre maintained a factory with 26 looms that employed 20 workers. His brother Jean-Nicolas David maintained a factory at Lambermont, west of Verviers, that had 140 looms and 200 workers. Pierre David was noted for his patriotism during the 1789 Liège Revolution and was appointed as a second lieutenant in the Verviers police force by César-Constantin-François de Hoensbroeck, after the re-establishment of the Prince-Bishopric of Liège. He was sworn in on 20 February 1792, at the same time as Jean-Nicolas who was appointed adjutant. They were assigned particular responsibility for the Brassine (brewery) district.

Civic official[]

Liège was annexed by the French First Republic in 1795 and Verviers became part of the Ourthe department of France. David, a Francophile and supporter of the French Revolution, was appointed a municipal officer by the French authorities on 20 April 1799 and became maire (mayor) on 4 July 1800. David established a fire brigade in Verviers in 1802 and in 1808 supported the construction of low-cost housing for workers. Decrees from Napoleon, following the establishment of the First French Empire, threatened the freedom David had enjoyed as mayor and on 21 September 1808 he resigned the position. Succeeded by , David remained a key adviser with a significant role in the management of the city.

Verviers city hall

Verviers was captured by forces of the Sixth Coalition on 5 February 1814, as part of the Campaign in north-east France. David was appointed by the coalition as a member of their commission d'arrondissement for the area. After the Congress of Vienna Verviers and the rest of Belgium were absorbed into the Kingdom of the Netherlands. David afterwards secured a seat on the city's Regency Council. In 1817 David closed the old church cemetery in the city and established a new cemetery on the outskirts. In 1830 the Belgian Revolution against Dutch rule began and David, a supporter of the Belgian cause, sat on the Commission of Public Safety. He was also a member of the National Congress and was one of nine members who voted for the establishment of a Belgian republic and, later, voted for Belgium to be annexed to France. David was appointed the first burgomaster (mayor) of Verviers under the Kingdom of Belgium in 1830.

David played a key role in stabilising the city in the aftermath of the revolution, during which it had been damaged. He led a campaign to build a second bridge across the Vesdre in the city, laying the foundation stone personally on 9 May 1832. The following year David received the royal visit of King Leopold I and his new Queen Louise-Marie. David survived local government reforms in 1836, securing re-election as a city councillor and being reappointed as mayor by Royal decree. During his time in office he established a secondary school as well as a number of charitable organisations and planted 53 lime (Tilia spp.) trees on the Promenade des Récollets to provide shade.

Death and legacy[]

Fontaine David in Place Verte

David never married and lived with his sister on a 5-hectare (12-acre) farm in the city district. On 30 June 1839 David had gone up into his hay loft to air it out. The door had swollen due to heavy rain and in trying to force it open the hinges broke and he fell through it. David hit his head and died instantly. A large number of city residents went to the mortuary to view David's corpse. The Regency Council arranged David's funeral for 2 July at the  [fr] and requested that local businesses release their workers at 4 pm to attend. After the service a funeral procession accompanied the body to the cemetery.

After his death all three of the city's rival newspapers praised David, despite their differing political stances (liberal, conservative and republican). Prior to his burial surgeons had reconstructed the bones in David's face, damaged during his fall, to allow for a death mask to be made, this is now on display in the city museum. A portrait of David was commissioned from Laurent Olivier to hang in the city hall and is now also in the museum's collection. A bust by B Delbove is located in city hall. In 1843 David had a railway locomotive named after him and the city considered naming a new bridge in his honour, but opted to call it the Pont du Chêne (Oak Bridge) instead. David's brother had named his son Pierre in his honour and his son was also named after him, both men were involved in local and national government.

Three days after David's death, with his family's permission, his heart was removed with the intention of entombing it within a suitable memorial structure. It was preserved in a jar of alcohol within a zinc casket. Disagreements over the type of memorial and funding meant that the heart sat in storage at the city hall for four decades. A memorial fountain, the Fontaine David in the city's Place Verte, was designed by Clément Vivroux and inaugurated on 25 June 1883. The fountain underwent extensive renovation works in 2020 and on 20 August the heart was rediscovered. It was found within a hollowed stone near to a bust of David. Its zinc casket was found to be engraved with the text "The heart of Pierre David was solemnly placed in the monument on 25 June 1883" in French. The case was put on display at the city's Fine Arts Museum until 20 September.

In 1889, the 50th anniversary of his death, a medal commemorating David was struck. Several busts of David, and a number of streets named in his honour, remain in Verviers.


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  2. ^ , p. 155
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  6. ^ "Heart of Belgian city mayor found entombed in fountain". BBC News. 1 September 2020. Retrieved 3 September 2020.
  7. Carbonaro, Giulia (2 September 2020). "Not just an urban legend: Heart of Belgian city mayor dug out of fountain". CGTN. Retrieved 3 September 2020.
  8. ^ , p. 159
  9. ^ , p. 158
  10. ^ "Belgian mayor's heart dug out of fountain during renovation works". The Brussels Times. 1 September 2020. Retrieved 3 September 2020.
  11. ^ , p. 160
  12. ^ , p. 161
  13. ^ , p. 163
  14. , p. 162
  15. ^ McGreevy, Nora (2 September 2020). "Renovations Reveal 19th-Century Mayor's Heart Entombed in Belgian Fountain". Smithsonian Magazine. Retrieved 3 September 2020.
  16. "Verviers - fontaine David". Musée de l'Eau et de la Fontaine (in French). Retrieved 3 September 2020.
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