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Leuven, Belgium

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Leuven, Belgium

Leuven
Municipality of Belgium

Leuven Town Hall.

Coat of arms
Leuven
Leuven
Location in Belgium

Coordinates: 50°53′N 04°42′E / 50.883°N 4.700°E / 50.883; 4.700Coordinates: 50°53′N 04°42′E / 50.883°N 4.700°E / 50.883; 4.700

Country Belgium
Community Flemish Community
Region Flemish Region
Province Flemish Brabant
Arrondissement Leuven
Government
 • Mayor Louis Tobback (SP.A)
 • Governing party/ies SP.A, CD&V
Area
 • Total 56.63 km2 (21.86 sq mi)
Population (1 January 2012)[1]
 • Total 97,656
 • Density 1,700/km2 (4,500/sq mi)
Postal codes 3000, 3001, 3010, 3012, 3018
Area codes 016
Website www.leuven.be

Leuven (Dutch, pronounced [ˈløːvə(n)]; French: Louvain, pronounced [luvɛ̃], often used in English) is the capital of the province of Flemish Brabant in the Flemish Region, Belgium. It is located about 25 kilometres (16 miles) east of Brussels, close to other neighbouring towns such as Mechelen, Aarschot, Tienen, and Wavre. The township itself comprises the historical city of Leuven and the former municipalities of Heverlee, Kessel-Lo, a part of Korbeek-Lo, Wilsele and Wijgmaal.

It is home to Anheuser-Busch InBev, the world's largest brewer group and one of the top-five largest consumer-goods companies in the world; and to the Katholieke Universiteit Leuven, the largest and oldest university of the Low Countries and the oldest Catholic university still in existence.

History


The earliest mention of Leuven ("Loven") is from 891, when a Viking army was defeated by the Frankish king Arnulf of Carinthia (see: Battle of Leuven). According to city legend, its red-white-red colours depict the blood-stained shores of the river Dijle after this battle.

Situated beside this river, and near to the stronghold of the Dukes of Brabant, Leuven became, between the 11th and 14th centuries, the most important centre of trade in the duchy. A token of its former importance as a centre of cloth manufacture is reflected in the typical Leuven linen cloth, known in late-14th-century and 15th-century texts as lewyn (other spellings: Leuwyn, Levyne, Lewan(e), Lovanium, Louvain).[2]

In the 15th century, a new golden era began with the founding of the by-now largest and oldest university in the Low Countries, the Catholic University of Leuven, in 1425.

In the 18th century, the Leuven-located brewery Den Horen (meaning "the horn") flourished. In 1708, Sebastien Artois became the master brewer at Den Horen, and gave his name to the brewery in 1717, now part of AB InBev, whose flagship beer, Stella Artois, is brewed in Leuven and sold in many countries.

During its history, Leuven was besieged or occupied by foreign armies several times, including the Battle of Leuven (891), Siege of Leuven (1635) and Battle of Leuven (1831).

In the 20th century, both world wars inflicted major damage upon the city. Upon Germany's entry into World War I, the town was heavily damaged by rampaging soldiers. Some German soldiers shot the burgomaster, the university rector and all of the city's police officers.[3] In all, about 300 civilians lost their lives.[4] The university library was also destroyed on 25 August 1914, using petrol and incendiary pastilles.[5][6] 230,000 volumes were lost in the destruction, including Gothic and Renaissance manuscripts, a collection of 750 medieval manuscripts, and more than 1,000 incunabula (books printed before 1501).[6][7] The destruction of the library shocked the world, with the Daily Chronicle describing it as war not only against civilians but also against "posterity to the utmost generation."[8] It was rebuilt after the war, and much of the collection was replaced. Great Britain (on the initiative of the John Rylands Library, Manchester) and the United States were major providers of material for the replenishment of the collection.[4] The new library building was financed by the National Committee of the United States for the Restoration of the University of Louvain and built to the design of architect Whitney Warren; it was officially opened on 4 July 1928.[9]

In World War II, after the start of the German offensive, Leuven formed part of the British Expeditionary Force's front line and was defended by units of the 3rd Division and Belgian troops. From 14 to 16 May, the German Army Group B assaulted the city with heavy air and artillery support. The British withdrew their forces to the River Senne on the night of 16 May and the town was occupied the next day.[10] The new university library building was set on fire by shelling on 16 May and nearly a million books were lost.[11]

Economy

Given the presence of the KULeuven, an important European institution for academic research and education, much of the local economy is concentrated on spin-offs from academic research. There are several biotech and ICT companies; Gasthuisberg (nl), the academic hospital and research centre and a large number of private service providers in the medical and legal fields.

Because it is the capital of the region of Flemish-Brabant, many governmental institutions are located in Leuven, as well as the regional headquarters of transport corporations such as De Lijn. As the largest and one of the oldest Flemish cities in the immediate vicinity, with a large range of cafés, restaurants, cultural institutions and shopping neighbourhoods, Leuven also attracts people from nearby cities and villages.

Leuven is the worldwide headquarters of Anheuser-Busch InBev, the largest beer company in the world. InBev's Stella Artois brewery and main offices dominate the entire north-eastern part of the town, between the railway station and the canal to Mechelen.

Population

There are 101,000 people (2013) currently living in Leuven. The arrondissement of Leuven counted 472,060 in 2007.

The city itself is made up out of the center of Leuven (30.487), Kessel-Lo (28.814), Heverlee (22.318), Wilsele (9.653) and Wijgmaal (3.580).

Student population

Nowadays Leuven is a real "student city", as during the academic year most citizens in its centre are students.

Leuven sports one of the liveliest bar scenes in Belgium. It boasts the "longest bar" in Europe, the Old Market, and dozens of bars and cafés crammed into a central square in Leuven.

The Katholieke Universiteit Leuven (KU Leuven; University of Leuven) is the oldest Catholic university still in existence in the world, and the largest university in Belgium.

There are also a number of hogescholen (Vocational university, literally translated: "high schools"), such as the Katholieke Hogeschool Leuven (nl) (KHLeuven, the Catholic High School Leuven), and the university college Groep T (Group T).

Transportation

Within the city and its immediate surroundings most distances can be covered on foot or with a bicycle. Nevertheless, there are numerous buses, primarily from the public transportation company De Lijn, that connect the city with the region while providing travel options within the city center. The so-called Ringbus follows the ring road of the city. Except for long distance routes (such as to other cities) and other irregular bus services, most buses come by every 10 minutes. Buses 616, 652 and 651 connect Leuven with Brussels Airport.

There are also a few car parking lots. Several streets are off-limits to vehicle traffic and within the ring road speed regulations prescribe 30 km/h (19 mph) as the maximum speed limit.

The train station of Leuven is located on the railways 35 (Leuven - Aarschot - Hasselt), 36 (Brussels - Liège), 36N (Schaarbeek - Leuven), 53 (Schellebelle - Leuven), and 139 (Leuven - Ottignies). In Bierbeek, south-west of Leuven, lies the beginning of HSL 2, the high-speed railway towards Liège.

Politics

Mayor

The current mayor of Leuven is Louis Tobback, a socialist prominent on the national level, formerly minister of internal affairs and leader of the socialist faction in the lower chamber of the Belgian parliament, among other positions held. The governing coalition consists of SP.A (16 out of 45 seats in the municipal council) and CD&V (9 seats). The opposition is composed of N-VA (9 seats), Groen! (7 seats), open VLD (3 seats) and Vlaams Belang (1 seat).

Culture

One of Belgium's finest conservatories is based in Leuven: the Lemmens Institute, which is described as "Faculty of Music, Performing Arts and Education". It is known for its Music Therapy Education and its Wordart-Drama Education.

Leuven is well known for its summer rock festival, Marktrock. The main football club of the municipality is Oud-Heverlee Leuven, successor of K. Stade Leuven. Leuven also has some orchestras, such as the famous Arenberg Orchestra (nl).[12]

The Higher Institute of Philosophy is famous worldwide for the archives of the German philosopher Edmund Husserl.

Buildings and landmarks

  • The Town Hall, built by Sulpitius van Vorst (nl), Jan II Keldermans, and, after both of them died, Matheus de Layens between 1439 and 1463 in a Brabantian late-Gothic style. The reception hall dates from 1750.
  • The St. Peter's Church (1425–1500) was finished by Jan Keldermans and Matheus de Layens. During the Second World War the church was damaged; during the restoration a Romanesque crypt from the 11th century was found. In the church itself there are several paintings from the 17th and 18th centuries (among others, Dirk Bouts's famous painting of the last supper) and the grave of Duke Henry I of Brabant. The 50-metre-high tower — which was meant to be 169 metres high, but was never completed — is home to a carillon. The tower was included in UNESCO's list of Belfries of Belgium and France in 1999.
  • Saint-Anthony's Chapel, Pater Damiaanplein, from the 17th to the 20th centuries, contains the tomb of Father Damien, the "leper priest" of Molokai, who was canonized by Pope Benedict XVI on Sunday October 11, 2009.[13][14] The Catholic Encyclopedia calls him "the Apostle of the Lepers",[15] and elsewhere he is known as the "leper priest". The Catholic priest's remains were returned in Belgium with great fanfare in 1936, after having been originally buried on the Hawaiian Island of Molokai where he had served the outcast lepers until his death.
  • The Linen-hall, in an early-Gothic style, with baroque addition, is today the University Hall.
  • The Church of Saint Michael was built in the typical Jesuit Baroque Style.
  • The Church of Saint Quinten incorporates remains of a Romanesque church built in the 13th century.
  • The University Library on the Ladeuzeplein was built by the American architect Whitney Warren. It was a gift from the American people to Leuven after World War I, during which the Germans burned down the original library, causing much outrage in the US. The tower houses one of the largest carillons in the world.
  • Totem is a statue at the centre of the Ladeuzeplein; it is a work of the Belgian artist Jan Fabre. Featuring a 23-metre-high needle impaling a giant jewelled beetle, the statue towers over the square in front of the university library.
  • There is a neo-Romanesque Abbey on the Keizersberg ("Emperor's Mountain"), where there once stood a 12th-century ducal castle, which was demolished in the 17th Century.
  • The Large Beguinage is one of the world's best remaining examples of its architectural type. It was recognized by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site in 1998.
  • There are several other smaller churches and chapels throughout the town.
  • "Fonske" is a statue near the centre of town. Its full name is Fons Sapientiae, Latin for "fountain of wisdom". The statue represents a university student who, while reading a book, lets wisdom flow into his head as liquid from a glass. Just like Manneken Pis in Brussels, Fonske is, from time to time, dressed in costumes appropriate for specific occasions.
  • Lerkeveld is a famous Jesuit abbey, and headquarters of the Jesuits in Belgium.
  • The Irish College of Louvain/Leuven in located in the city, on Pater Damiaanplein. The Leuven Institute for Ireland in Europe is located on the premises.

Gallery

Notable people from Leuven

Born in Leuven

Lived in Leuven

International relations

Twin towns – Sister cities

Leuven is twinned with:

Friendly relations

Besides these, Leuven has friendly relations with:

References

  • Some Old Flemish Towns. ()
  • Knuth, Rebecca (2006). Burning Books and Leveling Libraries: Extremist Violence and Cultural Destruction. Westport, CT: Praeger Publishers.
  • Tuchman, Barbara (1962). The Guns of August. New York: Macmillan.

Further reading

External links

  • Official Leuven website
  • Detailed map of Leuven (detailed map of Leuven by the KUL)
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