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Leuven wapen.svg Flag of Leuven.svg
Leuven (Flemish Brabant)
State : BelgiumBelgium Belgium
Region : Flanders
Province : Flemish Brabant
District : Lions
Coordinates : 50 ° 53 '  N , 4 ° 42'  E Coordinates: 50 ° 53 '  N , 4 ° 42'  E
Area : 56.63 km²
Residents: 101,624 (Jan 1, 2019)
Population density: 1,795 inhabitants per km²
Post Code: 3000 (Löwen)
3001 (Heverlee)
3010 ( Kessel-Lo )
3012 (Wilsele)
3018 (Wijgmaal)
Prefix: 016
Mayor: Mohamed Ridouani ( sp.a )

Local government address :
Grote Markt 9
3000 Leuven
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Leuven ( Dutch Leuven ? / I , French Louvain ) is a Belgian city ​​in the Flanders region . It is the capital of the province of Flemish Brabant and the capital of the Leuven district . Leuven has 101,624 inhabitants (as of January 2019). Audio file / audio sample

Leuven is best known for its university, the Katholieke Universiteit Leuven , as well as for its cityscape, which has some of the most beautiful examples of Flemish architecture with the Gothic town hall and the Old Market. In addition, Löwen is the headquarters of Anheuser-Busch InBev , the world's largest brewery group.

Geographical location

Leuven is located about 20 kilometers east of Brussels on the Dijle River in the province of Flemish Brabant . The municipalities of Rotselaar , Holsbeek , Lubbeek , Bierbeek , Oud-Heverlee , Bertem , Herent and Haacht border on Löwen (clockwise, starting in the north) .

Since January 1977, Löwen has included the sub-municipalities Heverlee (21,429 inhabitants), Löwen (30,169), Kessel-Lo (27,476), Wijgmaal (3,505) and Wilsele (9,358).

Origin of name

The name "Leuven" used today appears for the first time in writings from the 16th century. Before that, the forms “Loven”, “Lovenne” and “Loevenne” were used. The origin of the name “Leuven” is uncertain. Most likely the name “Loven” combines the two words Lo ( forest ) and Ven ( swamp ), so that a swampy forest or a forest in a swamp is described. The location of the city in the formerly humid and swampy Dijletal and the proximity of the settlement to the forest speak for this.

There are also numerous legendary explanations. The name "Loven" is said to go back to a Scottish prince named "Lupus", who is said to have founded the city, for which there is no evidence whatsoever. According to another approach, the name "Loven" comes from the fact that there used to be a temple in the Löwener area in which a pagan god was worshiped (the Dutch "loven" means "to praise, to praise"). However, no evidence can be given for this approach either. There is also speculation that the name Loven was brought from Scandinavia by the Normans , only then given to the Dijle and then passed on to the neighboring settlement.


Early and Roman times

The area around Leuven was already populated 130,000 years ago, as archaeological finds show. The first branches, however, only date from around 3500 BC. Around 160 BC The Nervi and the Eburones lived in the Löwen area. The latter were wiped out when Gaius Julius Caesar conquered Gaul . Excavations show that the historic city center of Löwen was built around 50 BC. Must have been built up. The location of the settlement on the Dijle and on the trade route between Tienen and Elewijt (now part of the municipality of Zemst ) was extremely favorable. After the Germanic tribes invaded in the 3rd century AD , the population of the small settlement was again greatly reduced.

First mention and County of Leuven

In the 8th century, the population of the Löwen region was converted to Christianity , with Hubertus von Lüttich playing an important role. The current church of Sint Pieter probably dates from this time. In 891 (according to other sources as early as 884) "Loven" is mentioned for the first time when a Viking army was defeated by Arnulf, King of the East Franks, of Carinthia ("Battle of Lions"). According to legend, so much blood flowed during the battle that both banks of the Dijle were red with blood. This should symbolize the flag of the city (white with two red stripes). In 896 the victor of the battle was elected (East Franconian) Roman Emperor and crowned by the Pope in Rome.

Since 870 Leuven has been the capital of a county of Leuven . Their counts descended from the Carolingians and probably chose Löwen as their headquarters because of its favorable location on the Dijle and on the Roman road between Boulogne-sur-Mer and Cologne . A documentary mentioned Count of Leuven was Lambert I , who was also Margrave of Lorraine and gained a county from the Gau Brabant through marriage . Previously, Sieghard, Count in Liège and Hainaut, was also mentioned here as Gaugraf. In 1085/1086 the Löwen Count Heinrich III. a second county from this area was added as a fief. The Landgraviate was elevated to a duchy in 1183 , which is now seen as the basis for the creation of the Duchy of Brabant .

The appearance of Leo also changed at this time. Today's town center was settled and the Counts of Leuven contributed to the expansion through numerous foundations. Sun founded Godfrey I of Leuven in the southeast of the city, the Park Abbey and had a new St. Peter's Church built. The first hospital was donated in 1080 and the construction of a city ​​wall began in 1150 .

Heyday and decline

Great Beguinage

Although Brussels became the capital of the duchy in 1267, Leuven was still more important for a long time. The financial difficulties of the dukes, who gave privileges to the cities in exchange for loans, led to the growing power of Leo. The population also increased to a few thousand, which led to the construction of a number of new buildings (including today's Lakenhalle). Numerous ecclesiastical orders also moved to Leuven. B. the Franciscans (1233), the Augustinians (1248) and the Magdalenerinnen (1248). The two beguinages also date from this period.

From 1350 Leuven began to lose importance in relation to the growing Brussels. Social tensions, the decline of the wool industry and the outbreak of the Brabant War of Succession , which required a new, costly city wall, brought about a difficult period for Leuven.

Golden era

After the balance of power had stabilized, from 1430 under Burgundian rule , the settlement of new branches of industry, such as B. linen weaving, for a new boom in the 15th century. The university was founded in 1425 by a bull from Pope Martin V. The Gothic town hall was built between 1439 and 1469, which with its rich ornamental decorations bears witness to the flourishing architecture of the 15th century. For Leuven these decades meant a brief golden era, which ended again in 1475 due to financial problems and some uprisings. In 1578 the plague raged in the city and decimated the population drastically. In the 16th century, now under Spanish rule , Leuven was the victim of sieges several times and eventually the university had to be closed.

Austrian rule and reconstruction

After the Peace of Westphalia in 1648, Leuven continued to belong to the Spanish Netherlands . Even if the population increased again from 1650, it remained economically insignificant. From 1714 - like all of Belgium and Luxembourg - part of the Austrian Netherlands , it only flourished again from 1750. Industry came back and wide streets were built connecting Leuven to Brussels and stimulating trade. A ship connection to Antwerp and thus access to the sea was established through the Löwen-Dijle Canal in 1750 . The success of this project was then reflected in the enormous growth in beer exports. In 1764 Löwen had 52 breweries.

French rule

In the Revolutionary Wars following the French Revolution , Flanders, and with it Leuven, was conquered by French troops in 1794. The population of Löwen was initially positive towards the new rule, but the mood quickly changed. The university was obliged to pay tribute and conscription was introduced. Churches were closed, art treasures were transported away, and the university finally closed. The canal was no longer maintained, guilds, crafts and monasteries disappeared and lions lost their importance again. The situation only improved slightly under Napoleon , so that he received a warm welcome when he visited Leuven.

Dutch rule and Belgian revolution

After the French interlude, the city became part of the Kingdom of the United Netherlands in 1815 due to the decisions of the Congress of Vienna . Under William I of the Netherlands , Leuven finally got some art treasures back and the university was reopened in October 1817. When the Belgian Revolution broke out in 1830 , Leuven was besieged by the Dutch, but they were driven from the surrounding area with the help of farmers. Eventually the Belgian Provisional Government was formed, including Sylvain van de Weyer from Löwen.

During the ten-day campaign in 1831, Löwen was in the line of fire and was encircled on August 12th. However, French troops moved in and finally the armistice was signed in Pellenberg, a town near Leuven (now part of Lubbeek ) .

After the independence of Belgium

View of Lions (circa 1890-1900)
Lions after being destroyed in 1915

After Belgium's independence, Leuven flourished again. The city received a railway connection, the station was built, and Leuven became an important railway junction. The industry - especially the breweries, textile factories and metal processing plants - recorded a new upswing. As a result, the population grew, but diseases such as typhus and cholera also broke out.

The First World War

If the city had even bigger plans, the outbreak of the First World War prevented it from being carried out. On August 4, 1914, attacked German troops in accordance with the Schlieffen Plan , the neutral to Belgium, to force a quick decision in the West. The occupation of Lion on August 19 was initially quiet, but on August 25 rumors circulated that Belgian and British troops were marching on the city and German soldiers reported that they had been targeted.

Due to experiences with Franktireurs in the war of 1870/71 , the fear of surprise attacks was great; When the Germans believed they would be shot, they retaliated against the civilian population. At the end of August 1914, fear had increased so much that the German army broke out into atrocities of war. A larger number of soldiers were quartered in the city, others flooded back from Antwerp before the Belgian army fell out or, like the 17th Reserve Division , marched through Löwen on the evening of August 25 on their way to the first frontline deployment, than anywhere a shot went off and a panic broke out in a wild gunfight.

The soldiers broke into the houses that had been shot, killed all armed people and set the buildings on fire. The punitive actions lasted a few days until the population had to leave Leuven on August 29 and the entire city was set on fire. Large parts of the city center were completely destroyed, only the Gothic town hall was spared.

The St. Peter's Church also suffered from the flames and many of its art treasures were lost. The greatest loss, however, was the destruction of the university library, where 1,000 manuscripts, 800 incunabula and 300,000 books that had been accumulated over 500 years of work were burned. This act led to the most violent reactions across Europe. While on the part of the Central Powers, for example, the Neue Freie Presse from Vienna initially (on August 28, 1914) spoke approvingly of a “punishment of the city of Leuven”, the outrage in other European countries was general; for example, the London Times on August 29 was upset that the German " Huns " had sold off at the "Belgian Oxford ". The fall of Leuven ultimately became a moral and propagandistic catastrophe for the Central Powers: the term Rape of Belgium was coined, as was The Crucified Soldier and Carcass Disposal Agency . On October 11, 1914, German intellectuals answered in vain with an appeal “ To the cultural world! ". Carl Zuckmayer's story Engele von Löwen takes place in Löwen at the time of the First World War.

It took a long time for Leo to recover afterwards. The building of the university library was reconstructed due to donations from the USA and inaugurated again on July 4, 1928. Article 247 of the Versailles Treaty obliged Germany to deliver to the University of Leuven “manuscripts, incunabula, printed books and collection items in the same number and value as they were destroyed by the fire set up by Germany”.

The second World War

The Second World War began on the western front with the so-called seat war . On May 10, 1940, the Wehrmacht began the western campaign and advanced unexpectedly quickly - and unexpectedly through the Ardennes - with strong armored units. Löwen was taken under German fire on May 13, 1940. The British Expeditionary Army (BEF) - which previously held the section between Leuven (25 km east of Brussels) and Wavre (25 km south of Leuven) - left the city on May 16. A day later, troops of the German Wehrmacht occupied Lions. The university library was hit again in an artillery battle between German and British units. 900,000 books, which had been collected through donations from around the world since the reconstruction, were destroyed by the flames, including the papal foundation bull from 1425.

In the spring of 1944, Löwen was heavily bombed by the Allies, which damaged the St. Peter's Church and the filigree facade of the town hall. After the Allied landings in Normandy on June 6, 1944 and the capitulation of Paris on August 25, 1944, the Allied troops advanced quickly. British armored divisions from the Lille area reached Brussels on September 3, 1944 and Antwerp on September 4. Shortly before, the German 15th Army had also cleared lions.

The subsequent reconstruction took a long time, for example the renovation of the town hall dragged on until 1982.

Demographic development

  • Sources: NIS and City of Leuven - Note: 1806 to 1970: censuses; from 1977: Population on January 1st
  • 1977: Integration of the previously independent municipalities of Heverlee, Kessel-Lo, Wilsele, the hamlet of Wijgmaal from the municipality of Herent and parts of the area of ​​Korbeek-Lo and Haasrode


By the highways A2 and A3 the city towards the west is linked to Brussels and the east of Genk and Liege .
Leuven also has an important train station on route 36 ( IC 01 : Ostend - Bruges - Gent - Brussels - Leuven - Liège - Guillemins - Verviers - Welkenraedt - Eupen). With 30,000 travelers per day, Leuven train station is the fifth most frequented train station in Belgium. The station has 13 tracks, 4 of which end here. Leuven is also an important station in the Brussels S-Bahn network and is the terminus of lines S 2, S 9 and S 20. Bus services in Leuven are operated by the De Lijn transport company .


town hall

Löwener Rathaus and Tafelrond (left)

The most famous attraction in Löwen is the Gothic town hall , built between 1439 and 1468 by Sulpitius van Vorst and Matheus de Layens . It is considered to be one of the most beautiful late Gothic buildings in Europe and is one of the most famous town halls in the world. The town hall is located on the Great Market ( Grote Markt ) directly opposite the Sint Pieterskirche. The model was originally the Brussels Town Hall, as sources from the 15th century show. The statues that were installed in the niches that were already there in the 19th century were intended to surpass the model in terms of the wealth of figures.

Round table

Another attraction at the Grote Markt , to the left of the town hall, is the Gothic round table. It was built by Matheus de Layens between 1480 and 1487 and originally served as a meeting place for the guilds of rhetoricians and riflemen, later also as a ballroom. After the building fell into severe disrepair in the 19th century, it was finally demolished in 1818 and replaced by a neoclassical structure. After the First World War, it was decided to rebuild the original building, which was completed by 1928. Thereafter, the round table housed the National Bank. Statues of bank directors in Gothic style were placed in the niches of the facade. The building was damaged in the Second World War, but was then completely restored.

St. Peter's Church

Sint Pieter

Opposite the town hall on the Grote Markt is the St. Peter's Church , which is considered one of the main works of the Brabant Gothic. Originally there was a Romanesque church on this site , donated by Count Gottfried I von Löwen , which was replaced in the 15th century by the current Gothic building. The exact start of construction is controversial as the church's archives have been lost. What is certain, however, is that the construction of the church - like that of the town hall and that of the table circle - was started by Sulpitius van Vorst and continued after his death by Matheus de Layens . The construction work dragged on until the 16th century, when Joost Massys last worked out plans for the completion. Nevertheless, the church has remained unfinished to this day. Originally, three high towers were planned, one 150 m high, the other two 120 m high. However, these plans failed due to poorly worked out calculations and unfavorable soil conditions. In 1604 one of the unfinished towers partially collapsed again, so that the church has remained without a noteworthy tower to this day.

The Sint Pieterskirche has repeatedly been the victim of looting throughout the history of Löwen. During the First World War she suffered badly in the fire of Löwens (see above), which destroyed a large part of her church treasures. It was damaged in a gun battle during World War II.

In the treasury of the church are the triptych "The Last Supper " , a major work by Dierick Bouts the Elder . Ä., As well as the painting "The Martyrdom of St. Erasmus" exhibited. There is also a Gothic tabernacle , designed by Mathaeus de Layens, as well as numerous other paintings and statues in the church. The crypt of the previous Romanesque church is still preserved under the choir .

Hortus Botanicus Lovaniensis

Orangery of the Kruidtuin

The Hortus Botanicus Lovaniensis (also known as "Kruidtuin") was created in 1738 and is therefore the oldest botanical garden in Belgium. Originally it only comprised herbs and medicinal plants , so it was primarily used for medical research. Ornamental plants, useful plants, rare plant species and arboreta were added to the garden . Today there is a large collection of trees and shrubs on the 2.2 hectares of the garden, as well as a variety of herbs, aquatic plants and tropical plants in the greenhouse complex.

In 1976 the Hortus Botanicus Lovaniensis was raised to the rank of "Landschap" by royal decision and the orangery was declared a "Monument".

Great Beguinage

The Great Beguinage in Leuven, with three hectares of built-up area, is one of the largest existing beguinages in Flanders . Since March 31, 2000, he is part of the UNESCO - World Heritage Site . The Great Beguinage originated in the early 13th century and had its two heydays in the 13th century and later towards the end of the 16th century when the number of beguines rose to over 360. The last beguinage died here in 1988. In 1960, the Katholieke Universiteit Leuven agreed to restore the then dilapidated beguinage to accommodate students and visiting professors. The entire courtyard was renovated in two phases in the 1960s / 70s and in the 1980s.

The Löwener beguinage is a typical city beguinage with numerous small streets and squares as well as three bridges over the Dijle , which flows through the courtyard. A number of houses date from the sixteenth century; the majority of the buildings were built between 1630 and 1670. The architecture is traditional, with a few baroque decorations. The Sint-Jan-de-Doper church is early Gothic with some Romanesque elements; In the interior, numerous old wall paintings were uncovered during the restoration.

Sint Kwintenskirche

Sint Kwinten is a 15th century church in the Brabant High Gothic style . As early as the 11th century there was a small chapel at this point, probably built in the time of Lambert I von Löwen . This building was expanded in the 13th century and finally replaced in the 15th century by the current Gothic building, except for the tower. The Sint Kwintenskirche is a simple building, but immediately catches the eye due to its elevated position on a hill on the edge of Naamsestraat. Justus Lipsius described it as the most beautiful of all the Loewen churches. Numerous paintings by the brothers Jan Jozef and Pieter Jozef Verhaghen can be viewed in the interior.

Art, theater, dance, music

  • M - Museum Leuven
  • Art center STUK
  • Docville
  • Internationaal Kortfilmfestival Leuven
  • Lemmensinstituut


University library

Leuven is the seat of the oldest university in Belgium and the Benelux countries, the Katholieke Universiteit Leuven. Since its foundation in 1425, it has been one of the most important European universities and has brought countless well-known scientists and personalities such as Adriaan van Utrecht ( Pope Hadrian VI ), Matthias Wesenbeck , Erasmus von Rotterdam , Justus Lipsius , Andreas Vesalius , Gerhard Mercator , and Georges Lemaître . The estate of the philosopher Edmund Husserl is also administered at this university .

In 1968 Leuven became one of the centers of the Belgian language dispute , in which the Dutch-speaking provinces, which were economically and politically catching up with the dominant francophone upper class , demanded political and cultural autonomy within Belgium. Although the university was officially bilingual (French / Dutch) at the time, at the beginning of the age of mass universities, the de facto state of growing French-speaking student numbers was increasingly felt by Dutch-speaking students as unacceptable. After sometimes violent disputes between students and the authorities, the KU Leuven was finally divided into a Dutch- speaking ( KUL) and a French-speaking (UCL) university. Löwen then remained the seat of the Dutch-speaking KUL, while the French-speaking Université catholique de Louvain was relocated to the newly founded town of Louvain-la-Neuve in the Walloon part of the country.

In addition to the university, various universities of applied sciences are also located in Leuven, as well as a private academic theological university, the Evangelical Theological Faculteit . The IMEC research center (Interuniversity Microelectronics Center) is located in the Heverlee district in the south of the city .

The cityscape of Löwen is strongly influenced by student life (2006: 31,205 students, of which 3,849 are foreign students). There are many bars and pubs in the city ​​center .

In addition to the university, the corporate headquarters of the world's largest brewery group, Anheuser-Busch-InBev, is one of the city's largest employers.

sons and daughters of the town

Sylvain van de Weyer
Charles Auguste de Bériot

Town twinning




  • Kristof Aerts, Luc De Vos, Jan Abts: Leuven: de bevrijding 1944–1945. Lions 1994.
  • Luc De Vos, Werner Steurbaut, Arnout Wouters: Leuven in de tweede wereldoorlog. Leuven / Brussels / Heverlee.
  • Divaeus: Rerum lovaniensium libri IV. In: Opera Varia. Lions 1757.
  • Justus Lipsius: Leuven - Description of the city in the hair university. Latijnse tekst met inleiding, vertaling en aantekeningen. Trans. V. Jan Papy. Löwen 2000, ISBN 90-5867-055-4 .
  • JA Torfs: Geschiedenis van Leuven van den vroegsten tijd tot op heden. Lions 1899.
  • Robert Schediwy : Lions - the dark secrets of the past. In: Wiener Zeitung. April 9, 1999.
  • Edward Van Even: Louvain dans le passé et dans le présent. Lions 1895, ISBN 2-87723-578-5 .


Web links

Commons : Leuven  - collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. JA Torfs: Geschiedenis van Leuven van den vroegsten tijd tot op heden. 1899, p. 22.
  2. ^ J. Lipsius: Leuven. Description of stad en hair university. 2000, p. 53; JA Torfs: Geschiedenis van Leuven van den vroegsten tijd tot op heden. 1899, p. 24.
  3. Divaeus , Rerum lovaniensium libri IV, I, 1, p. 2
  4. a b J. Lipsius: Leuven. Description of stad en hair university. 2000, p. 51; JA Torfs, Geschiedenis van Leuven van den vroegsten tijd tot op heden. 1899, p. 23.
  5. Divaeus: Rerum lovaniensium libri IV, I, 1, p. 1
  6. JA Torfs: Geschiedenis van Leuven van den vroegsten tijd tot op heden. 1899, p. 26 f.
  7. The rich figurative decorations originate - except on the consoles with their biblical themes - mostly from the 19th century.
  8. Peter Schöller : The lion case and the white book. A critical examination of the German documentation about the events in Löwen from August 25 to 28, 1914. Böhlau, Cologne / Graz 1958.
  9. See the latest results of the research in: Ulrich Keller: Belgian underground war and German retaliation in August 1914. Schöningh, Paderborn 2017, ISBN 978-3-506-78744-6 , pp. 43–99.
  10. Subsidie ​​voor jumelage-activiteiten ǀ Stad Leuven. Retrieved November 26, 2017 .