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 seven wonders of Leuven. The Jesuit order was abolished in 1773. When the local parish church of Saint Michael was in disrepair, the parish church of Saint Michael was transferred to the Jesuit-built church. A copper holy-water font of 1473 near the entrance, was transferred from the old church of Saint-Michael. The porch altars, communion rail and confessionals date back to the original 17th century original baroque furnishings.
The church was almost completely destroyed during bombardment of the city on the night of 10-11 May 1944. Luckily the frontal facade remained undamaged. Rebuilding of the church was completed in 1950.
Along each side nave is a collection of confessional boxes (17th century, Brabant baroque) linked together to form a whole. They are decorated with carvings of angels, statues and depictions of scenes relating to the Eucharist and the confession.
The original pulpit was transferred in 1776 on the order of Empress Maria—Theresia to the cathedral in the city of Brussels (where it can still be found today). The pulpit from Brussels was brought to Leuven. It was made for the Brussels cathedral by Simon Duray in 1667. On transfer to Leuven, the original images of St. Goedele, St. Michiel and the four evangelists were removed.
In the church there are many wooden statues of Christ, Our Lady with child and various saints. The paintings of the calvary stations date from the early and mid 19th century, by different Flemish painters. Several valuable works of art, both statues and paintings, have been given to the Municipal Museum of Leuven for safe keeping.References:
The Church of the Savior on Spilled Blood is one of the main sights of St. Petersburg. The church was built on the site where Tsar Alexander II was assassinated and was dedicated in his memory. Construction began in 1883 under Alexander III, as a memorial to his father, Alexander II. Work progressed slowly and was finally completed during the reign of Nicholas II in 1907. Funding was provided by the Imperial family with the support of many private donors.
Architecturally, the Cathedral differs from St. Petersburg's other structures. The city's architecture is predominantly Baroque and Neoclassical, but the Savior on Blood harks back to medieval Russian architecture in the spirit of romantic nationalism. It intentionally resembles the 17th-century Yaroslavl churches and the celebrated St. Basil's Cathedral in Moscow.
The Church contains over 7500 square metres of mosaics — according to its restorers, more than any other church in the world. The interior was designed by some of the most celebrated Russian artists of the day — including Viktor Vasnetsov, Mikhail Nesterov and Mikhail Vrubel — but the church's chief architect, Alfred Alexandrovich Parland, was relatively little-known (born in St. Petersburg in 1842 in a Baltic-German Lutheran family). Perhaps not surprisingly, the Church's construction ran well over budget, having been estimated at 3.6 million roubles but ending up costing over 4.6 million. The walls and ceilings inside the Church are completely covered in intricately detailed mosaics — the main pictures being biblical scenes or figures — but with very fine patterned borders setting off each picture.
In the aftermath of the Russian Revolution, the church was ransacked and looted, badly damaging its interior. The Soviet government closed the church in the early 1930s. During the Second World War when many people were starving due to the Siege of Leningrad by Nazi German military forces, the church was used as a temporary morgue for those who died in combat and from starvation and illness. The church suffered significant damage. After the war, it was used as a warehouse for vegetables, leading to the sardonic name of Saviour on Potatoes.
In July 1970, management of the Church passed to Saint Isaac's Cathedral (then used as a highly profitable museum) and proceeds from the Cathedral were funneled back into restoring the Church. It was reopened in August 1997, after 27 years of restoration, but has not been reconsecrated and does not function as a full-time place of worship; it is a Museum of Mosaics. Even before the Revolution it never functioned as a public place of worship; having been dedicated exclusively to the memory of the assassinated tsar, the only services were panikhidas (memorial services). The Church is now one of the main tourist attractions in St. Petersburg.