This historic group of structures is a reminder of the glorious past but also used very much in the inglorious present by faculty and students lucky enough to live here. I went at night and absorbed the fantastic atmosphere.
The Louvain city hall... reportedly to be built as Louvain's answer to Brussels' Gothic city hall, that, in its turn, got into rivalry in elegance, with Brugg City hall. At last, the latter had borrowed from Ypres' city hall (the Cloth hall, in fact) its style... dixit our guide at the City Hall.
Now, between Brussels and Louvain... a rivalry dating back to the 15th century. The construction of Brussels city hall epitomized the ever-increasing power of Brussels as the capital of the Dukedom of Brabant. Thing is, also Louvain aspired to the title of 'capital of Brabant' and had constructed a massive and prestigious city hall.
And yes, beautiful it was. A facade that resembles some lacework. I noticed even more impressive work on it than on Brussels' town hall. Still, Brussels' is my favourite... I'm used to it, to the Grand-Place.
Facade of Louvain city hall: lots of "nests" where are housed historical characters, artists, geniuses (Mercator with his globe), popes, guilds officials. The upper nests' layers are dedicated to both local and foreign dynasties that ruled the country (French, Dutch, Belgian ones)... plus a saint.
Oooh! "The capital of Brabant" thingy... after centuries of existing as a whole province, Brabant province was divided in 3 distinct areas (two Brabants and Brussels region) in 1995.... with Leuven as the capital city of Flemish Brabant. So far, Brussels was the capital city of the Brabant. Please, check below website to know more...
St Peter is the patron saint of the city.
In Louvain, you can't miss this church. It's on the main place, the Grote Markt place, neighbouring the city hall and the Tafelrond (cf next tips).
If you come to Louvain by train and step down at Leuven station, just head to the place where stand the buildings that look of another era (rebuilt, not renovated). This place is Martelarenplein. From there, you may see the church from afar. That is, through Bondgenotenlaan, the main street that links Martelarenplein to the Grote Markt.
Of course, as you get close to the Grote Markt, you would see more details of the church till you arrive in front of it. Many streets lead you there so to give angles to shoot. You can shoot from Bondgenotenlaan or, closer, from Maarschalk Fochplein.
The seven chapels on the front (pic) remind me of sharply pleated papers or accordeon. Each time I go to Leuven, they fascinate me. A closer look at the top of the chapels would remind you of some terraces with tiny balusters. :) Drinks anyone?
Like many landmarks of Louvain, the church paid huge tolls of bombings in both WW. In 1914, the roof and nave burnt down. In 1944, the north aisle was damaged too.
The present Brabantine Gothic building is reported to be nearly completed in 1497. In 1425, work began at the choir, under the supervision of Sulpicius Van Vorst. Then, other architects played an important part in this respect. Plans included the rise of three towers, of which one should reach 170 meters. They never succeeded in doing that for the subsoil being not stable enough to support a heavy mass. In 1541, with a height of 50 meters, work was stopped. Check below website for more.
Also, if you look at the church standing in front (but back to) the City Hall (the Gothic building with a spire and an amazing lace-like facade :), you would notice a figurine. If you are lucky enough, you will see the little figurine on top moving, hammering to indicate the hours. A gift from KBC, branded "the bank of the peasants" in Belgium.
While visiting the city of Leuven, we had two guided tours: one of the City hall and a second, of the central University Library. They were interesting.. at least for me, since I could learn some bits of Belgian history.
We visited the Library first, in the morning. Though we walked in the Grote markt area when we stepped out of the train, this visit was booked for the afternoon.
This is one of the statues in the entrance of the city hall, from Belgian sculptor, Jef Lambeaux, reportedly to have roots in Leuven area. There were woodcarvings from Constantin Meunier too, another Belgian artists, namely interested and specialized in depicting the industrial and rural life.
Oddly enough, those artworks (all reportedly from 19 century) were there without any protection, at disposal of who interested to touch, to get close to them. That was what surprised me in the city hall.
Apart from that, it was a normal city hall, with the flags (of the country, the Flemish community, the Flemish Brabant region whose capital city is Leuven). Also, the flags of towns which make up the Groot Leuven (Greater Leuven).
To know more of the city and city hall, check below website. Some info on (un)guided tours there as well.
The Univercity is of course the reason why many foreigners know Leuven. It is one of the oldest still existing catholic universities in the world, founded in 1425. The univercity buildings are not concentrated in one building, but in many locations in and around the city.
The students make of Louvain a mess, but they also make louvain live. There's always something to do...
Much can be found about the 'Groot Begijnhof' here on VT as well as the internet in general.
I experienced a huge step back in time. The quiet cobbled streets, hardly a soul around (it is summer time after all and most inhabitants are away). The Great Beguinage is populated by students and professors of the Leuven University. In fact, the area is owned by the university, who restaured it and made the houses habitable for modern living.
The Groot Begijnhof is free of charge.
A mere detail: Groot Begijnhof is a World Heritage Site.
All summer there are midday concerts from July 3 - August 26th at 12.15 hrs. The concert is about 45 minutes.
It takes place in the choir of the Pieterskerk and entrance costs 4 euro.
The series is called: Summer of Sint Pieter.
We enjoyed musicians Sharman Plesner (fiddle/singing) and Jonathan Dunford (banjo/singing). Their programme was raw American folk music. However, these two are actually top baroque performers, they play in the most well known baroque ensembles in the world.
It was a very informal concert. The performers encouraged people to dance, a little boy was dancing on his chair, while an Einstein-lookalike drew pictures of the performers in his little sketchbook.
Unfortunately, you are not allowed to go and see the treasury of the church once the concert is over. Oddly enough, you need to buy a new ticket for that, enter through the same entrance to see! You can try to duck the supervisors but we didn't succeed in that.
This church is situated within the Great Beguinage.
We could not visit inside because it wasn't open. It will be something to look forward to during a next visit to Leuven.
This church has a new carillon since autumn 2009. There are concerts there.
More information (in Dutch) at
If you are an organ player or a carillon player who wants to specifically visit one or both of these instruments, you may want to contact someone via above website.
The visitor's information may be useful:
Open from 1 April-30 September from 13.30-16.30 hrs.
Guided visits (all year): phone +32(0)16211540
Saturdays at 18.15 hrs
Sundays at 11.00 hrs
For more information about the church or the University Parish (UP): see details below.
When I saw the Town Hall, I thought how wonderful, personally I love details and decorations. Here you will find an abundance of detail. During the 2nd half of 19th century statues of 236 persons were placed in niches. They all wear costumes from the period they lived in. The images reflect the different classes of society and in the church. Very nice.
For more information and pictures:
The University library in Leuven is located in several buildings. This blog article however is focussing on the central library on Ladeuzeplein 21. It's a fantastic building from architect Whitney Warren and was build from 1921 till 1928. The collection of 1,3 million books is mainly composed of reference and heritage books, and literature. Connected to the library building you find the carillon tower open for visitors, but only after making a reservation. Inside the library you find vaulted ceilings on the ground floor and on the first floor beautiful wood carved staircases. Certainly worth a visit.
This is the biggest beguinage "Begijnhof" of Flanders. It is a historical district where in the early 13th century single regilious women where living. The most important period for this beguinage was during the mid 17th century when there lived around 360 women. The university of Leuven has financed the restoration and the houses are now used for students and professors.
Next to the incredibly beautiful town hall, you find the oldest parish church in Leuven. The parish was founded during the 10th century. The original church building was erected in Romanesque style but rebuilt after several devastations with white sandstone in the Gothic style. This started around the year 1400. The choir of the church was built on two levels and is the most striking element of the church.
The choir of St. Peter's holds true treasures. Besides a collection of religious silverware it is also the proud custodian of 3 famous paintings of the "Flemish Primitives".
For those interested in architecture, religion, art or history this church is certainly worth a visit.
For full article and more pictures: see link
Brecht/Museeuw brought me to this interesting site - the old library done out totally it seems in lovely wood panelling and carvings.
The Nazis destroyed the thousands or million so book collection and at the end of the war were made to compensate the library/university - I found that very interesting!
You'll find here a very nice collection of blooming plants in every season.
Chaque saison apporte sa collection de belles plantes fleuries.
Je vindt hier een prachtige collectie van bloeiende planten gedurende elk seizoen.
At the right hand side of the town hall enter the Naamsestraat and turn left to the Muntstraat again.
Via the Aldons’ Meiersstraat you arrive on the Hogeschoolplein. At the beginning of the 16th century pope Adrian VI has founded a college on this place and has even taught in it. Some university colleges have been destroyed to build this square.
Go straight on and join the Naamsestraat and the St.Michael’s church, considered as one of the 7 wonders of Leuven as for its altar is outside the curch.
A droite de la maison communale on prends la Naamsestraat pour après prendre à gauche à nouveau la Muntstraat. Ici on prends le Aldons’s Meiersstraat pour arriver au Hoge Schoolplein. Cette place a été érigée après la démolition de plusieurs collèges universitaires. Au début du 16e siècle le pape Adrien IV a fondé un collège sur cette place et y a enseigné.
Poursuivez tout droit jusqu’à rejoindre la Naamsestraat et l’église St Michel. Cette église est surnommée une des sept merveilles de Louvain à cause de son autel, qui se trouve à l'extérieur de l'église.
Rechts van het Stadhuis ga je de Naamsestraat in om dan weer links de Muntstaat in te slaan, om via de Aldons’s Meiersstraat op het Hoge Schoolplein te komen. Dit plein werd aangelegd na afbraak van enkele universitaire colleges. In het begin van de 16e eeuw heeft paus Adrianus IV op dit plein een college gesticht en er gedoceerd.
Loop steeds rechtdoor totdat je terug aan de Naamsestraat bent, voor de Sint-Michielskerk. Deze kerk wordt één van de zeven wonderen van Leuven genoemd, omwille van zijn altaar buiten de kerk.