Top Historic Sights in Leuven, Belgium

Explore the historic highlights of Leuven

Leuven Town Hall

The Town Hall of Leuven is a landmark building on that city"s Grote Markt (Main Market) square, across from the monumental St. Peter"s Church. Built in a Brabantine Late Gothic style between 1448 and 1469, it is famous for its ornate architecture, crafted in lace-like detail. The building today known as the Town Hall was the Voirste Huys of a larger complex of municipal buildings on which construction started in 1439 at ...
Founded: 1439 | Location: Leuven, Belgium

St. Peter's Church

Saint Peter"s Church is situated on the Leuven Grote Markt (main market square), right across the ornate Town Hall. Built mainly in the 15th century in Brabantine Gothic style, the church has a cruciform floor plan and a low bell tower that has never been completed. It is 93 meters long. The first church on the site, made of wood and presumably founded in 986, burned down in 1176. It was replaced by a Romanesque chu ...
Founded: 1425-1497 | Location: Leuven, Belgium

St. Michael's Church

Saint Michael"s Church was built between 1650 and 1671 for the Jesuit College of Leuven by Jesuit architect Willem Hesius. Initially it was built as a house of prayer for the Jesuit monastery. Following the Franco-Spanish war the Spanish members of the community were ordered to leave France, and in 1542 seven Spanish Jesuits came to Leuven. The facade of the church with its rich decorations is one of the so-called s ...
Founded: 1650-1671 | Location: Leuven, Belgium

Grand Béguinage

The Grand Béguinage of Leuven is a well preserved and completely restored historical quarter containing a dozen of streets in the south of downtown Leuven. With some 300 apartments in almost 100 houses, it is one of the largest still existing beguinages in the Low Countries. It is owned by the University of Leuven and used as a campus, especially for housing students and academic guests. As a community for unmarri ...
Founded: 1234 | Location: Leuven, Belgium

Hortus Botanicus Lovaniensis

The Hortus Botanicus Lovaniensis is the oldest botanical garden of Belgium, dating from 1738. The botanical garden has always been linked with the Katholieke Universiteit Leuven. It first aim was to provide herbs for medical use. Later, the gardens became used for study purposes and they hosted an extensive collection of ornamental plants, cultivated plants that could possibly be used for economic purposes and rare plants ...
Founded: 1738 | Location: Leuven, Belgium

Saint Gertrude's Abbey Church

Saint Gertrude"s was an Augustine abbey, limited to 12 canons of noble descent. The church was built from the 14th to the 16th century. The tower has an openwork spire, dating from 1453. Inside is an 18th century carillon. The abbey was closed in 1796 (during French occupation) and the buildings got other uses. In 1919 it became a Benedictine abbey. Reconstructions were carried out after the fire during World War II ...
Founded: 14th century | Location: Leuven, Belgium

Arenberg Castle

The Arenberg site had been the castle of the lords of Heverlee since the 12th century, but this family became impoverished and had to sell the site in 1445 to the Croÿ family from Picardy. Antoon van Croy demolished the medieval castle and started works to build the current château in 1455 on the site, of which he destroyed all but one tower. Willem van Croÿ completed the works on the château in 1515 ...
Founded: 1455 | Location: Leuven, Belgium

Saint James' Church

Saint James" Church is considered "unstable" and is not open to the general public. Only the tower remains of the original church, and is in late Romanesque style, dating from 1220-1230, clearly early times in the history of Leuven. It has been a parish church since 1252, and collegiate church since 1454.
Founded: 1220-1230 | Location: Leuven, Belgium

Keizersberg Abbey

Keizersberg Abbey, also known as Mont César Abbey is a Benedictine monastery. The Keizersberg (Caesar"s or Emperor"s hill) was the site of the castle around which the city of Leuven grew up, and which local legend connected with Julius Caesar. The castle was demolished in 1782 by order of Emperor Joseph II. On the east side of the same hill a commandery of the Knights Templars was built in 1187, which whe ...
Founded: 1888 | Location: Leuven, Belgium

Saint Quentin's Church

Saint Quentin"s Church lies about in the middle of the Naamse straat. The substructure of its tower is still in 13th century Romanesque style. Construction of the present church started in 1440.
Founded: 1440 | Location: Leuven, Belgium

Featured Historic Landmarks, Sites & Buildings

Historic Site of the week

Veste Coburg

The Veste Coburg is one of Germany's largest castles. The hill on which the fortress stands was inhabited from the Neolithic to the early Middle Ages according to the results of excavations. The first documentary mention of Coburg occurs in 1056, in a gift by Richeza of Lotharingia. Richeza gave her properties to Anno II, Archbishop of Cologne, to allow the creation of Saalfeld Abbey in 1071. In 1075, a chapel dedicated to Saint Peter and Saint Paul is mentioned on the fortified Coberg. This document also refers to a Vogt named Gerhart, implying that the local possessions of the Saalfeld Benedictines were administered from the hill.

A document signed by Pope Honorius II in 1206 refers to a mons coburg, a hill settlement. In the 13th century, the hill overlooked the town of Trufalistat (Coburg's predecessor) and the important trade route from Nuremberg via Erfurt to Leipzig. A document dated from 1225 uses the term schloss (palace) for the first time. At the time, the town was controlled by the Dukes of Merania. They were followed in 1248 by the Counts of Henneberg who ruled Coburg until 1353, save for a period from 1292-1312, when the House of Ascania was in charge.

In 1353, Coburg fell to Friedrich, Markgraf von Meißen of the House of Wettin. His successor, Friedrich der Streitbare was awarded the status of Elector of Saxony in 1423. As a result of the Hussite Wars the fortifications of the Veste were expanded in 1430.

Early modern times through Thirty Years' War

In 1485, in the Partition of Leipzig, Veste Coburg fell to the Ernestine branch of the family. A year later, Elector Friedrich der Weise and Johann der Beständige took over the rule of Coburg. Johann used the Veste as a residence from 1499. In 1506/07, Lucas Cranach the Elder lived and worked in the Veste. From April to October 1530, during the Diet of Augsburg, Martin Luther sought protection at the Veste, as he was under an Imperial ban at the time. Whilst he stayed at the fortress, Luther continued with his work translating the Bible into German. In 1547, Johann Ernst moved the residence of the ducal family to a more convenient and fashionable location, Ehrenburg Palace in the town centre of Coburg. The Veste now only served as a fortification.

In the further splitting of the Ernestine line, Coburg became the seat of the Herzogtum von Sachsen-Coburg, the Duchy of Saxe-Coburg. The first duke was Johann Casimir (1564-1633), who modernized the fortifications. In 1632, the fortress was unsuccessfully besieged by Imperial and Bavarian forces commanded by Albrecht von Wallenstein for seven days during the Thirty Years' War. Its defence was commanded by Georg Christoph von Taupadel. On 17 March 1635, after a renewed siege of five months' duration, the Veste was handed over to the Imperials under Guillaume de Lamboy.

17th through 19th centuries

From 1638-72, Coburg and the Veste were part of the Duchy of Saxe-Altenburg. In 1672, they passed to the Dukes of Saxe-Gotha and in 1735 it was joined to the Duchy of Saxe-Saalfeld. Following the introduction of Primogeniture by Duke Franz Josias (1697-1764), Coburg went by way of Ernst Friedrich (1724-1800) to Franz (1750-1806), noted art collector, and to Duke Ernst III (1784-1844), who remodeled the castle.

In 1826, the Duchy of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha was created and Ernst now styled himself 'Ernst I'. Military use of the Veste had ceased by 1700 and outer fortifications had been demolished in 1803-38. From 1838-60, Ernst had the run-down fortress converted into a Gothic revival residence. In 1860, use of the Zeughaus as a prison (since 1782) was discontinued. Through a successful policy of political marriages, the House of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha established links with several of the major European dynasties, including that of the United Kingdom.

20th century

The dynasty ended with the reign of Herzog Carl Eduard (1884-1954), also known as Charles Edward, Duke of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, a grandson of Queen Victoria, who until 1919 also was the 2nd Duke of Albany in the United Kingdom. Under his rule, many changes made to the Veste in the 19th century were reversed under architect Bodo Ebhardt, with the aim of restoring a more authentic medieval look. Along with the other ruling princes of Germany, Carl Eduard was deposed in the revolution of 1918-1919. After Carl Eduard abdicated in late 1918, the Veste came into possession of the state of Bavaria, but the former duke was allowed to live there until his death. The works of art collected by the family were gifted to the Coburger Landesstiftung, a foundation, which today runs the museum.

In 1945, the Veste was seriously damaged by artillery fire in the final days of World War II. After 1946, renovation works were undertaken by the new owner, the Bayerische Verwaltung der staatlichen Schlösser, Gärten und Seen.

Today

The Veste is open to the public and today houses museums, including a collection art objects and paintings that belonged to the ducal family of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, a large collection of arms and armor, significant examples of early modern coaches and sleighs, and important collections of prints, drawings and coins.