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  LEUVEN : The Saint Peter's Church
 
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In front of the town hall is the impressive St. Peter's church. Both buildings were constructed in Gothic style, although the church seems to be less elegant and flamboyant than its civil neighbor. This site was first occupied by a smaller Romanesque church. The new gothic church was built by the same architects who constructed the town hall. Sulpitius van Vorst erected the choir of the church before 1409-1410. After he died in 1439 architect Keldermans continued the work of his predecessor and afterwards architect Mathijs de Layens constructed the transept.

 By the end of the 15th century the nave of the church was completed. In 1507 the construction of the towers started. This very important part remained unfinished. The soil under the church proved to  be too unstable to carry the weight of the middle tower which should have reached an altitude of 165m. At the beginning of the 17th century the tower had to be partially demolished to prevent further destruction of the church.

During the 19th and 20th centuries different renovation campaigns were undertaken. The church suffered considerable damage during the bombing raids of the Second World War in 1944. Between 1945 and 1963 the Saint Peter's church was partially rebuilt. In 1992 the restoration of the Western facade was completed. Bij 1998 the restoration of the choir was finished. There are still renovations going on inside the church.

The church is certainly worth a visit for the rich inside decoration. One can admire the beautiful rood loft from 1488 above which hangs a triumphal crucifix from around 1500. The chairs in the choir were sculpted by Nicolaas de Bruyne from 1438 until 1442. There is a magnificent 12m high sacraments  tower (probably made by Mathijs de Layens around 1450). The baroque wooden pulpit (1742) in the nave originally belonged to the monastery of the Flemish city of Ninove. In the left aisle a wooden sculpture of the Madonna can be seen. This Madonna is called the 'Sedes Sapientiae' (Seat of wisdom) and is the symbol of the University of Leuven. It was sculptured in 1442 by De Bruyne. There are numerous paintings inside the church. However, the most important ones are by Dirk Bouts, one of the famous Flemish Primitives from the 15th century. One painting by Dirk Bouts is called 'The Martyrdom of Saint Erasmus' (before 1464).

The most important painting, however, is Dirk Bouts' 'The Last Supper' (painted between 1464 and 1468), painted for the altar of the Holy Sacrament of the church. The painting is a triptych. The last supper can be seen in the middle panel. The four panels around the center show four representations of the Eucharist in the Old Testament: the Jewish Pasha, The sleep of the prophet Elias, The sacrifice by Abraham to Melchisedek and .

One of the other treasures of the church is a magnificent 'Head of Christ' in Romanesque style, a remainder of a 12th century Crucifix. Remarkable tombstones decorate the side chapels of the choir: the tombstone with lying statue of Henry I (Duke of Brabant who died in 1235), one of the oldest tombstones in Belgium. In the fifteenth chapel stand the tombstones of Machteld (Duchess of Brabant - died 1211) and her daughter Maria of Brabant (died 1260).

Saint Peter's Church
Location : Grote Markt
Open: Tuesdays to Saturdays from 10 am to 12am,(From 15 March to 15 October: also on Mondays) and from 2 PM to 5 PM. Sundays and Bank Holidays: from 2 PM to 5 PM
 

 


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