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There are quite a few theaters and cultural centers in Leuven, but the most striking one, especially when it comes to the lavishly decorated interior, is the "Stadsschouwburg" (City Theater) - an 800 seater in the heart of town. On the schedule are plays, music, cabaret, etc ...
The building looks really nice when lit at night, and through the windows you can see one of the huge chandeliers in the foyer.
Updated Mar 31, 2004
Address: Bondgenotenlaan 21
The first Town Hall of Leuven was situated on Old Market Square, the second was located on the Great Market Square. It had its place in a row of houses in front of St. Peter's Church, but outside the present building line. The construction of the present Town Hall started in 1439.
The spacious cellars of the houses were retained when the building of the façade began. These cellars have been restored and can now be reached through a small door, at the left bottom part of the building.
The belfry-tower that had to be built at the corner of Naamsestraat was left out so that the building got its flamboyant Gothic character with four corner turrets, two ridge turrets and a balustrade all around the building.
There are three floors. Between the windows there are oriels each of them with two niches; three corner-turrets also have niches.
The carved bases of these niches represent biblical subjects. The motif 'sin-punishment' is often repeated. These scenes had a didactic and admonishing function, not only for the common people but for the judges who resided in the building as well.
The 236 statues in the niches were only placed after 1850. The whole set has become the Leuven pantheon! Unlikely to the figures in the bases who wear Burgundian clothes, the persons in the niches wear the clothes of the period in which they lived. The two rows of the ground floor represent artists, scholars and eminent citizens of the Leuven past. The first floor displays figures who symbolise the municipal privileges and the patron saints of the parishes. On the second floor the Counts of Leuven and the Dukes of Brabant can be noticed; the turrets represent biblical figures.
Since the nineteenth century three restorations have taken place. The latest was finished in 1983 and repaired the war damage, suffered when a bomb scraped the façade and did not explode...
Check my travelogue "A closer look at the Gothic town hall" for more pictures.
Written Mar 13, 2004
Address: Grote Markt (Great Market Place)
Phone: + 32 (0) 16 21 15 40
Saint-Peter's Church is the oldest in Leuven. It was presumably founded in 986. The first church burnt down in 1176. A new Romanesque church was built with a crypt, an extension, at the back of the choir. The Westwork was flanked by two towers as can be seen the old town seal.
The construction of the present Gothic building, much larger than the Romanesque church, started in 1425. Work began at the choir, under the supervision of architect Sulpicius Van Vorst. Several architects succeeded him. Jan Keldermans II and Mathieu de Layens played an important part in this respect. The church was practically completed in 1497. Of the three towers that were planned and of which one should reach a height of 170 meters, only the bases remain. In 1541 when the height of 50 meters was reached, work was stopped. The subsoil was not stable enough to support a higher tower. After some collapses, the tower was lowered to its present level. The successive architects did not change the original plans and this brought about a fine example of pure Brabantine Late Gothic Style.
The church was severely damaged in both World Wars. In 1914 the roof and nave burnt down and in 1944 the north aisle suffered bomb damage.
The Treasury of Saint Peter is housed in the church. Two masterpieces (15 C.) of the Flemisch Primitive Dirk Bouts, i.e. "The Last Supper" Martyrdom of Saint Erasmus" are on display.
Opening times Saint-Peter's Church
Tuesday to Friday: 10 a.m. - 5 p.m., Saturday: 10 a.m. - 4.30 p.m.
Sun and public holidays: 2 p.m. - 5 p.m.
Mon: 10 a.m. - 5 p.m.(15-03 / 15-10).
Admission: Treasury of Saint-Peter (The admission ticket is also valid for the Municipal Museum Vander kelen-Mertens - combination ticket)
€ 5,00 for individuals
€ 2,50 for groups (10 or more), for young people between the ages of 12 and 18, students and senior citizens
children - 12 y: free
note : see my travelogue "A closer look at St.Peter's church" for more photos.
Written Mar 13, 2004
Address: Grote Markt (Great Market Place)
The original building was erected by order of the Municipality in 1479. Strictly speaking it was three houses in one building. The various premises were let out to guilds, drama societies, etc.
In 1817 the dilapidated building was pulled down and replaced by a construction in the Empire style. However, the name was kept. After this building had been burnt down in 1914, the National Bank decided in 1921 to reconstruct the original Gothic building.
The statues in the niches represent the Governor and the Administrators of the National Bank and regional trades as well.
*Update* : it may sound hard to believe, but for some reason the city actually SOLD the building for 3 million Euro in June 2005. I'm not sure who owns it now, so I have no idea what the new purpose for the Tafelrond will be. However, I guess it's safe to assume the outside will remain unchanged so it won't make much of a difference... I certainly hope so.
Updated Jul 31, 2005
Address: East side of the Great Market Square
This 'Begijnhof', or 'garden of the Begijns', was founded in the 13th century outside the town wall of the time. The oldest houses date from the 16th century when the original houses were replaced by brick structures. The 72 houses are generally named after a saint or a Biblical event.
The church, dedicated to St. John the Baptist, is early Gothic. The date of construction, 1305, is carved into the right buttress of the north portal. Approximately 300 'Begijns' lived in the 'Begijnhof' in the 17th century. The 'Begijns' or 'Beguines' were women who lived a religious life but kept their own property and supported themselves. They did not make perpetual vows. The movement was very strong throughout the Low Countries.
The 'Begijnhof' was taken over by the Welfare Commission in 1925. Except for the church, it was sold to the University in 1962 under the condition that the entire complex was to be restored. A year later the Restoration began under the direction of Professor R. Lemaire.
The 'Groot Begijnhof' is now a University residential quarter for students, professors, and employees of the University. Foreign guests are also housed here. There is room for 500 people.
The Infirmary of the 'Begijnhof' has been converted into the Faculty Club, a place for the academic, scientific, administrative, and technical staff of the University to meet. The Chi?vres Convent (Nr. 39) has been converted into a congress center.
On 31th March 2000, it was officially recognised as an UNESCO World Heritage site.
note : see my travelogue "A walk in the great Beguinage" for more photos.
Updated Mar 20, 2004
This baroque building was designed by the architect and Jesuit Willem Hesius and built between 1650 and 1670. Its impressive façade with its rich, baroque decoration illustrates the spirit of the counterreformation; the church building had to make an unforgettable impression on the believers so that they would persist in their Catholic faith. In the church there is a permanent exhibition about its history.
For more information: 'Friends of St-Michael' phone + 32 (0) 16 23 12 45.
Open: from 1st April to 30th September: from Tuesday to Sunday from 01.30 p.m. to 04.30 p.m.
Written Mar 20, 2004
Phone: + 32 (0) 16 23 12 45.
These are the houses behind the St-Gertrude church/abbey, the entrance is to the right of the church. The facades look a bit strange, don't they ? Like a mix-and-match of styles. The reason for this is that they were made out of rubble during the first World War.
You can't tell from this picture, but Sint Geertrui Hof is actually a little park, with a good view on the Geertrui Abbey tower. Nice to take a stroll in. Check out the gate and pedestrian bridge at the back.
Updated Mar 30, 2004
The church was constructed between the 13th and 15th century. The late Gothic tower, said to be one of the seven wonders of Leuven because its tower was built without securring pins, dates from 1454 and was constructed by the master builder of the Brussels' town hall, Jan van Ruysbroeck. In the church noteworthy late Gothic choir stalls can be admired.
The abbey belonged to the Augustinian Order. The buildings, built between the 14th and 17th centuries, have been recently restored and found a new purpose as a housing complex.
Updated Aug 9, 2005
Leuven's history is very much one of building, rebuilding and preserving the past. The city suffered tremendously during both world wars - also this Library building of its world renowned university was bombed and later restored/rebuilt with the aid of the international community - especially the United States of America.
It's a stunning building, both from afar and up close. If you walk past the walls you can read several commemorative plaques which testify the generosity of other communities which helped rebuild this important institution.
The "Ladeuze" square where the building is located is in the heart of town, every friday morning there's a market there (and in other parts of town as well) but most of the time it's just a peaceful, quiet square. Enjoy the sight of the building and its calm, charming surroundings any moment of the day from one of the brasseries at the opposite side of the square (angle from which this picture is taken) while you're tasting one of those infamous Belgian beers, which is probably why you came here in the first place ;-)
Updated Mar 14, 2004
Address: Ladeuzeplein, centre of Leuven
Here we are..
The central University Library was built like a monument. This was the first guided tour we had in Leuven, that day. Thanks, BM, for having put it together.
Well, I' ve never thought a library would be something to visit. In Leuven, it is really worth the detour.
At some points, you would think it is the City hall. All elements for that seem to be there: the Flemish neo- Renaissance style, the belfry.
Not that the Flemish neo-Renaissance would grant it with the status of City hall. I was rather thinking of its place in a city like Leuven: an outstanding landmark built as the traditional landmarks one would find in any Belgian major city (city hall, church). Nowhere else, i have found such a defined archirecture for a Univ Library.
In fact, this one on Mgr. Ladeuzeplein replaced another building that was blown away during the first World War. Buildings, books, works, fruits of research, documents ... blown away, with very few exceptions. I was not born at that time, not even my parents were. Still that, sure, was a shock for the international community: German bombings destroying the central library of a prestitgious university.
An international solidarity, led by the USA in which France, UK, Japan.. (and other Allied and neutral countries) took part, allowed the rebuiliding of the library after the bombings.
Indeed, how can you believe that the oldest Catholic University that is still present wouldn't have its main library?
How would you stand that a multicentennial university (founded in early 15th century), the oldest in then Low countries area, wouldn't have his library anymore?
That same solidarity and friendship enabled the quick restoring of the book collection. Indeed, what would be a University, center of knowledge, open-mindedness without books and archives?
I know, internet exists but it was not developed, let alone vulgarized as today in the 1920s.
The visit we had, led by Jan, a great guide, started out as a moving tour. Started with windy morning on Mgr. Ladeuzeplein...
Updated Feb 28, 2004
2 Reviews and 89 Opinions Facility was clean, service was excellent - the staff was very accomodating. Parking is not so good.