St. Leonard's Church

Zoutleeuw, Belgium

The Saint Leonard's Church in Zoutleeuw stands on the former site of a Romanesque chapel erected in 1125 by Benedictines from Vlierbeek Abbey near Leuven. Construction of the present church began around 1231, and additions continued into the 16th century. Rendered mainly in the Gothic style, the building in its oldest parts shows traces of the Romanesque.

The two heavy square towers flanking the west facade are connected with each other by means of a gallery over the nave. The slender central tower, octagonal in cross-section, contains a carillon with 24 bells. Since 1999, this church with its towers has been part of a UNESCO World Heritage Site 'Belfries of Belgium and France'.

Few if any other medieval churches in Belgium remain in such an excellent state of preservation as St. Leonard's, which stayed clear of the widespread iconoclasm during the Protestant Reformation. It also survived the French Revolution intact, because three canons took an oath of allegiance to the French regime. The interior thus offers an authentic glimpse of how the churches of Brabant were furnished centuries ago.

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Spottinghistory.com team said 7 months ago
Hi Frans, we are sorry for founding your photos on our website without a proper license. This image link is now removed and we checked there are no more images used from your Flickr account ("Frans.Sellies"). This is related to old problem where site was not able to check proper licenses when adding photos.

Frans Sellies said 7 months ago
Please buy my photo, instead of stealing it. Just mentioning that I have copyright is not enough ! I stated clearly enough on my Flickr page: © All rights reserved. Use without permission is illegal. Unauthorized use, copy, editing, reproduction, publication, duplication and distribution of my photos, or any portion of them, is not allowed. You can purchase the photo here: https://www.gettyimages.nl/detail/foto/the-church-of-zoutleeuw-belgium-royalty-free-beeld/497363747


Details

Founded: 1231
Category: Religious sites in Belgium

Rating

4.4/5 (based on Google user reviews)

User Reviews

Jente Michel (2 years ago)
Dj DubbelDekker (3 years ago)
Bidden bidden en nig eens bidden! Mooie kerk!
Martin Lamboo (3 years ago)
Bijzonder grote en mooie gotische kerk - zeker voor zo'n klein plaatsje als #Zoutleeuw. Je kunt er het belang en de rijkdom van Zoutleeuw in de middeleeuwen uit afleiden. Kerk heeft een bijzonder rijk en goed bewaard interieur, omdat ze niet getroffen is door de beeldenstorm, noch te lijden heeft gehad van de vernielingen door de Franse revolutionaire troepen. Beslist een omweg waard!
Viviane Es (3 years ago)
Te bezoeken door elke historicus en liefhebbers van het nationaal patrimonium.
Paul Van Bladel (3 years ago)
Prachtige gotische kerk. Pièce unique. Vaut le detour. Dit is een absolute top 5 locatie in België. Brugge heeft meer dan zoutleeuw maar geen Sint Leonarduskerk.
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Quimper Cathedral

From 1239, Raynaud, the Bishop of Quimper, decided on the building of a new chancel destined to replace that of the Romanesque era. He therefore started, in the far west, the construction of a great Gothic cathedral which would inspire cathedral reconstructions in the Ile de France and would in turn become a place of experimentation from where would later appear ideas adopted by the whole of lower Brittany. The date of 1239 marks the Bishop’s decision and does not imply an immediate start to construction. Observation of the pillar profiles, their bases, the canopies, the fitting of the ribbed vaults of the ambulatory or the alignment of the bays leads us to believe, however, that the construction was spread out over time.

The four circular pillars mark the start of the building site, but the four following adopt a lozenge-shaped layout which could indicate a change of project manager. The clumsiness of the vaulted archways of the north ambulatory, the start of the ribbed vaults at the height of the south ambulatory or the choice of the vaults descending in spoke-form from the semi-circle which allows the connection of the axis chapel to the choir – despite the manifest problems of alignment – conveys the hesitancy and diverse influences in the first phase of works which spread out until the start of the 14th century.

At the same time as this facade was built (to which were added the north and south gates) the building of the nave started in the east and would finish by 1460. The nave is made up of six bays with one at the level of the facade towers and flanked by double aisles – one wide and one narrow (split into side chapels) – in an extension of the choir arrangements.

The choir presents four right-hand bays with ambulatory and side chapels. It is extended towards the east of 3-sided chevet which opens onto a semi-circle composed of five chapels and an apsidal chapel of two bays and a flat chevet consecrated to Our Lady.

The three-level elevation with arches, triforium and galleries seems more uniform and expresses anglo-Norman influence in the thickness of the walls (Norman passageway at the gallery level) or the decorative style (heavy mouldings, decorative frieze under the triforium). This building site would have to have been overseen in one shot. Undoubtedly interrupted by the war of Succession (1341-1364) it draws to a close with the building of the lierne vaults (1410) and the fitting of stained-glass windows. Bishop Bertrand de Rosmadec and Duke Jean V, whose coat of arms would decorate these vaults, finished the chancel before starting on the building of the facade and the nave.

Isolated from its environment in the 19th century, the cathedral was – on the contrary – originally very linked to its surroundings. Its site and the orientation of the facade determined traffic flow in the town. Its positioning close to the south walls resulted in particuliarities such as the transfer of the side gates on to the north and south facades of the towers: the southern portal of Saint Catherine served the bishop’s gate and the hospital located on the left bank (the current Préfecture) and the north gate was the baptismal porch – a true parish porch with its benches and alcoves for the Apostles’ statues turned towards the town, completed by an ossuary (1514).

The west porch finds its natural place between the two towers. The entire aesthetic of these three gates springs from the Flamboyant era: trefoil, curly kale, finials, large gables which cut into the mouldings and balustrades. Pinnacles and recesses embellish the buttresses whilst an entire bestiary appears: monsters, dogs, mysterious figures, gargoyles, and with them a whole imaginary world promoting a religious and political programme. Even though most of the saints statues have disappeared an armorial survives which makes the doors of the cathedral one of the most beautiful heraldic pages imaginable: ducal ermine, the Montfort lion, Duchess Jeanne of France’s coat of arms side by side with the arms of the Cornouaille barons with their helmets and crests. One can imagine the impact of this sculpted decor with the colour and gilding which originally completed it.

At the start of the 16th century the construction of the spires was being prepared when building was interrupted, undoubtedly for financial reasons. Small conical roofs were therefore placed on top of the towers. The following centuries were essentially devoted to putting furnishings in place (funeral monuments, altars, statues, organs, pulpit). Note the fire which destroyed the spire of the transept cross in 1620 as well as the ransacking of the cathedral in 1793 when nearly all the furnishings disappeared in a « bonfire of the saints ».

The 19th century would therefore inherit an almost finished but mutilated building and would devote itself to its renovation according to the tastes and theories of the day.