Town Hall, St.Peter's Church & M Museum Leuven (Flanders - Belgium)

There are 5 major ticketed sites in Leuven – Town Hall, St.Peter’s Cathedral Treasury, M Museum Leuven, University Library and Stella Artois Brewery!
The Town hall was built in 1439-69 under 3 different architects! The last one was Matthijs de Layens and he was the one who designed the outer fa├žade as it is today with the 6 octoganal towers (but without any sculptures in the niches)! Unlike other cities in Belgium, a single tower of Belfry couldn’t be built here was the land here is marsh. This building barely escaped the bombing during World War which almost destroyed every other building in the town.
The statues were added only in 1850-1900. The ground floor is the people associated with the university, the first floor is of knights & legends and the topmost floor is of dukes & counts, totaling to 236 figures including 16 women! At the bases of the niches are scenes from Bible. Currently this is not being used as office, but only for ceremonial purposes. Only some of the rooms are open to the public to see, that too only via a guided tour. My guide was by Mr.Van Duyse.
As soon as you enter is the reception area, the wooden ceiling is unmissable and esp the carved details in the corbels!!! This belongs to the original structure of 1400s!!! Here are 7 flags of the 7 patrician families of Leuven – Knight Bastijn and his 7 son in laws!!!

Our next stop was the Wedding Room which has the paintings of Knight Bastjin and his 7 sons-in-law, followed by the Large Gothic Hall. The beam blocks here belong to 15th C CE and the flooring as well as the chimney belongs to the 19th C CE. Of the several paintings here, the important one is beside the chimney depicting the provost of St.Pieter’s Church handing over the papal sanction for the University to Mayor Vander Kelen. The funny situation – Vander Kelen was the mayor in 19th C, while this incident took place in 14th C!!!
We stopped at the Small Gothic Hall followed by the Portrait Salon which has the paintings of all the mayors since 1790s! The large chandelier here is worth a mention, which was originally lit by gas!

The last room was the most ornate which reminded me of the Arab room in Cardiff Castle and Buckingham Palace. The ceiling has an exquisite painting by Otto van Veen who was the teacher of Ruben who painted the Banqueting House in London (a post on that coming up soon)! The depiction here is Naked Truth discovered by Wisdom and Patience to the disappointment of Jealosy and Ignorance!!!

Bang opposite to the Town Hall is St.Peter’s Cathedral! We entered in through the treasury which has the most important thing to see – the Last Supper by Dieric Bouts! This painting is supposed to be in the altar, but right now its here for safe keeping. At the centre is the tomb of Henry I of Brabant and in one of the side tabernacles is the double tomb of his wife Matilda and daughter Marie. The literally towering, sacrament tower is a masterpiece from c. 1450 CE.

This was built originally in 986 CE. But was rebuilt with crypt and Romanesque styling in 1425 CE after a fire in 1176 CE.  The crypt here is perhaps the smallest I’ve ever seen! However the church was severely damaged in both wars and was rebuilt again and again!!!
In the nave of the church, the oak pulpit is one thing of beauty, carved in 1742 CE by Jacob Berge!
Leuven did have its own Municipal Museum long back. However in 2009, it was renovated majorly under architect Stephane Beel. The new museum is now called M – Museum Leuven!

The display is quite an eclectic mix of old and modern art, which I didn’t find very pleasing on the eyes esp if you’re trained in art! The first display was an Oil on Panel by Rogier Van Der Weyden in 1440!  This was followed by an Oil on Canvas by Robert Devriendt of 2015! The effort is understandable in showcasing the evolution of art since centuries in this town! There were also some products in display showcasing evolution of centuries – a silver gilt case of 1485 which has a relic of St.Gertrude and a modern projection display based art installation. But after seeing a pre-renaissance religious painting or craft, immediately seeing a modern art, back to back was a bit weird!

Another room was specialized for Leuven’s history. Another room was completely filled with pre to post renaissance paintings with a digital table that helped to explain each and every painting. The one that totally caught my attention was an Oil on Canvas, Joos Van Cleve’s Madonna and Child of 1511. Esp the fabric wrapping infant Jesus was so beautifully painted.

There was another room filled with sculptures of Jesus on cross and Jesus tied up seated on cold stone, all sculpted in wood. Research is on to decipher the actual sculptor behind the masterpieces and the most spectacular ones showing emotions have been credited to the Flemish Renaissance sculptor Jan Borman!
More rooms follow that talk about modern art, films, researches and more! There’s also a room dedicated to interactive art where you are welcome to create your own masterpieces with the objects provided!!! That’s a lot in one post, will come back with the rest 2 places in the next post. Stay tuned.
P.S: Check out here to know what I wore to Leuven.

To Get There:
Refer to my earlier post
All these sites are walkable from Leuven station & bus stand (located next to each other)

Entry Ticket & Opening Timings:
Town Hall: 3pm everyday; €4
St.Peter's Treasury: 10:00am to 4:00pm everyday; 11:00am to 4:30pm on Sat; Free at Church; €3 for Treasury
M Museum: 11am to 6pm everyday; 11am to 10pm on Thurs; Wed holiday; €12
Combo ticket (IluvLeuven) of these 3 sites + University Library Tower together is priced at €16. Can be bought online on their website or tourism office.

P.S: I was invited by VisitLeuven to experience the city for review purposeshowever the opinions are my own and this post does not to advertise the product/service.

Bhushavali N

An ardent traveler by passion. I am a wanderlust.. Read more about me here.

22 comments:

  1. Did you visit the Stella Artois Brewery too? We had no end of problems trying to book tickets online but against the majority of reviews we really enjoyed the tour there.

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  2. Interesting stuff! I can't believe those Town Hall photos and how much work must have gone into building that thing. I wish they still made buildings as intricate as that. Seems nuts they were able to without all of the technology we have today. The room with the gold accented ceiling and chandelier is to DIE for! I want that in my house ASAP :) Haha. Thanks for sharing!

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  3. Belgium is so distinctly beautiful. I really like the oak pulpit of St. Stephen's Cathedral. The art displays are also a bit surreal, especially the Jesus statues.

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  4. I couldn't stop staring at the photo of the Town Hall, those details were stunning!! Like, can I have all of those gold trims in my apartment?! I've never been to Belgium before and didn't know much about the country but this post has me wanting to visit :)

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  5. The architecture of this building is absolutely stunning! I am going to Amsterdam for my birthday and hope to visit Belgium while I'm over there. This place looks stunning and Fine Art has such a special place in my heart and stirs so many emotions to see things like this last through time and wars and space- its just so incredibly inspiring.

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  6. Love the outside architecture of the buildings. But the paintings inside are quite dark. I usually prefer modern paintings. But I like the golden ceiling!

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  7. Even during my school days I wished to visit Belgium, the country of Tintin. But it has much more to offer and my wishlist keep on piling up with every visit to your blog.

    Leuven is another one in the list. However, I was delighted more to see that squirrel carved out of oak in the midst of all the divine figures.

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  8. Belgium has such great architecture and you've captured that in awesome pictures. Personally I liked the paintings more than the sculptures, maybe because I could feel the connect there. Loved the wedding hall, it is simply so beautifully arranged with a splendid dias. You've have provided since nice historical concepts here as well. Great post.

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  9. You really are getting to explore lots of Belgium. I had never heard of Leuven but the Town Hall building is absolutely stunning. With everything being walkable from the Leuven train station it must make it an easy day trip. The painting of Madonna and Child is beautiful, there is nothing more beautiful than a mother with a baby!

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  10. Such an interesting tour you just had. Learning about history is such a great way to get acquainted with the local and from where it all began :)

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  11. Belgium is sch a cool place to visit and it has so much rich history an stories around every corner. looks like a great art exhibition

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  12. As of now I only knew Belgium because of it's famous beers and it as a country of Tintin. I loved the content & the history of this town. I adored the the painting from wedding room by Otto van Veen. I am not sure if I liked the painting most or the quote "Naked Truth discovered by Wisdom and Patience to the disappointment of Jealosy and Ignorance!!!" . :) Keep Writing and Travelling

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  13. I can't believe that the Town Hall had 3 different architects! That's insane! Fortunately it looks like their styles were all pretty similar. Imagine if they had big differences and the Town Hall was a mess when it was finished! It's stunning.

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  14. This brought back a lot of memories. I love its most famous export, Stella Artois beer! :) The town hall is amazing but I didn't know it had three different architects. Now that is just crazy.

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  15. The place looks stunning. As a photographer, taking phitos of those exquisite architectural details, paintings, and sculptures is a dream come true. Glad you included the entrance fees.

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  16. Great post highlighting the richness of Flanders art and architecture. I was surprised to see the two canvases together...1440 Oil on Panel by Rogier Van Der Weyden and 2015 Oil on Canvas by Robert Devriendt. But both are incredible in their own way.

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  17. All these beautiful Belgian buildings makes me want to visit it next soon. The sense of history enhances the beauty. I agree with you that I am also not too much a fan of modern art compared to the classics.

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  18. The architecture of this building is such a breathtaking. The art display is wonderful and interesting. The detailed painting is so great.

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  19. Congratulations on your nomination, Bhushavali.
    A few words of advice- since a lot of readers may be non-Europeans or those who do not know much about the Renaissance, a few words about the same is desirable.
    And yes, I am pleasantly surprised to find these works of art in such a great shape even after the Second World War bombings!
    The paintings are exquisite and give the feeling that they are photos.
    The shapes of the arches remind me of the arches we find in India.
    Great post.

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  20. Wow. Such beautiful architecture. And I love the detail on the ceilings. I would also be interested in visiting the Stella Artois brewery there!

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  21. So cool that three different architects helped to design the town hall. With how intricate it is, it totally makes sense! It's a gorgeous buidling

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  22. I wish we would have seen Belgium while we were in Europe. Definitely seems like we missed out on some great experiences. Beautiful works and amazing history from this post. Thank you for sharing.

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