Seven Ancient Wonders of Leuven
Throughout his 1895 standard work “Louvain dans le passe et dans le present” Edward Van Even tells of seven ancient wonders of Leuven. It is a romantic 19. Century idea which, just like the idea of the seven hills on which great cities were built, was meant to contribute to the venerable image of the city in question.
- De Levenden gaen onder de dooden (the living pass under the dead): This is a reference to St. Michele”s gate , formally located on Tiensestraat. At the time, part of church was built above the gate so that pedestrians passing through the gate were also walking under the people buried in the church. The gate and chiurch were both demolished in 1781.
- “De menschen gaan onder de wortels der boomen” (the people pass under the roots of the tree): Near the former Tervuren gate. Was a bulwark on which a few elm trees grew above the gate’s arch. Anyone passing through the gate would therefore walk beneath the trees. The gate disappeared for good in 1829.
- Den autaer buiten de kerk (the altar outside the church): The façade of what is now St. Michele church on Naamsestraat formerly the Jesuit church is shaped like a 17. century altar the brainchild of its architect Guillaume Hesius, Sj The church was built between 1656 and 1666.
- De klock buiten den toren (the bell outside the tower) : in 1478, master Jean van Henegauwe , bell founder in Mechelen , made a new bell for the St James Church clock. It was hung on outside of the tower so that it could be heard more clearly.
- De toren zonder negels (the tower witout nails): The tower of St. Gertrude’s Church was built in the 15.century to plan by the Brussels architect Jean van Ruysbroec ( who also design Brussels town hall) . Unusually for the time . the elegant spire was not slated but consisted of lacy open work made of stone. Legend has it that the spine was built by dwarves.
- De toren lager dan de kerk (the tower lower than the church) : This wonder occurred in the 17. Century in the convent of the discalced Carmelites in what is now Tiensestraat, approximately at the junction with Vlamingenstraat. A small wooden tower above the sacristy rose no higher than the ridge of the church roof. After the Carmel was abolished in Leuven by order of Emperor Joseph II in 1783 , its buildings were sold publicly in 1808 and later demolished. Afterwards, people would recognize this wonder in the magnificent tabernacle tower of St. Peter’s Church.
- Additions et observations supplementaires : Van Even reports that when St Gertrude”s Lock on the river Dijle was closed, the water would flow in the opposite direction, and that this was considered to be one of the seven wonders. Of course, people once again let their imaginations run away with them and associated this wonder with the legend of Leuven’s popular saint Fiere Margriet (Proud Margaret) , which tells that after she was murdered, her body floated upstream back towards the city.
(Source: Leuven Anno2005, Uitgeverij Lannoo, Tielt, Belgium), photo by Aslı Tezcan.