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 the site of an existing town hall. The first architect, Sulpitius Van Vorst, died soon after the back wings of the complex got started and was succeeded briefly by Jan Keldermans II, whose death in 1445 ended the first construction campaign. The project resumed in 1448 under the direction of Matheus de Layens. The first stone of the Voirste Huys was laid on 28 March of that year. The cellars of some demolished houses were incorporated into the new construction and can today be accessed through a small door at the left side of the Town Hall. The initial plans, influenced by the town hall at Brussels, included a belfry tower at one of the corners. This design was modified by de Layens, resulting in the symmetrical arrangement of turrets observed today. The exterior masonry and roof were finished in 1460, and in 1469 the building was complete.
In the 19th century, the Town Hall underwent renovations made necessary by centuries" worth of decay. The building remained standing amid the devastation of Leuven during World War I, escaping with only minor damage. In the Second World War, a bomb strike in front of the building caused yet more damage; it took until 1983 before repairs were completed.
The Town Hall has three main stories, lined with pointed Gothic windows on the three sides visible from the Markt. Above is a gallery parapet, behind which rises a steep roof studded with four tiers of dormers. At the angles of the roof are octagonal turrets pierced with slits allowing for the passage of light.
Statues in canopied niches are distributed all over the building. The corbels supporting the statues are carved with Biblical scenes in high relief. While the niches and corbels are original with the building, the 236 statues themselves are relatively recent, dating from after 1850. Those of the first floor represent personages of importance in the local history of the city; those of the second, patron saints and symbolic figures; those of the third, the Counts of Leuven and Dukes of Brabant from various ages.
The main façade has an entrance staircase, and two portals in the center, above which are figures of Saint Peter (left) and Madonna and Child (right), the former in compliment to the patron of the church opposite.
The interior accommodates an interesting collection of artwork, including sculptures by Constantin Meunier and Jef Lambeaux. Inside can also be seen the portraits of the Leuven mayors since 1794.References:
The Château de Chaumont was founded in the 10th century by Odo I, Count of Blois. The purpose was to protect his lands from attacks from his feudal rivals, Fulk Nerra, Count of Anjou. On his behalf the Norman Gelduin received it, improved it and held it as his own. His great-niece Denise de Fougère, having married Sulpice d'Amboise, passed the château into the Amboise family for five centuries.
Pierre d'Amboise unsuccessfully rebelled against King Louis XI and his property was confiscated, and the castle was dismantled on royal order in 1465. It was later rebuilt by Charles I d'Amboise from 1465–1475 and then finished by his son, Charles II d'Amboise de Chaumont from 1498–1510, with help from his uncle, Cardinal Georges d'Amboise; some Renaissance features were to be seen in buildings that retained their overall medieval appearance. The château was acquired by Catherine de Medici in 1550. There she entertained numerous astrologers, among them Nostradamus. When her husband, Henry II, died in 1559 she forced his mistress, Diane de Poitiers, to exchange Château de Chaumont for Château de Chenonceau which Henry had given to de Poitiers. Diane de Poitiers only lived at Chaumont for a short while.
Later Chaumont has changed hands several times. Paul de Beauvilliers bought the château in 1699, modernized some of its interiors and decorated it with sufficient grandeur to house the duc d'Anjou on his way to become king of Spain in 1700. Monsieur Bertin demolished the north wing to open the house towards the river view in the modern fashion.
In 1750, Jacques-Donatien Le Ray purchased the castle as a country home where he established a glassmaking and pottery factory. He was considered the French "Father of the American Revolution" because he loved America. However, in 1789, the new French Revolutionary Government seized Le Ray's assets, including his beloved Château de Chaumont.
The castle has been classified as a Monument historique since 1840 by the French Ministry of Culture. The Château de Chaumont is currently a museum and every year hosts a Garden Festival from April to October where contemporary garden designers display their work in an English-style garden.