Project Oud Leuven: 1649 today

Follow me in the footsteps of a 17th-century cartographer.

Exploring Old Leuven

What I really love to do, is to explore a city using an old map. This is a project which I have embarked on, to explore my hometown – the city of Leuven, located in the Brabant region of modern-day Belgium.

What are the buildings that have remained? How do things look like today, compared to a few hundred years ago? Using Google Map and Google Earth, I superimposed the old map onto the modern day navigation map in order to find the exact location of the lost and existing sights.

Join me in my quest to explore Old Leuven!

The Map of 1649

The map I am using dates from 1649, and it comes from the Atlas van Loon, now in the possession of Het Scheepvaartmuseum in the Netherlands. The atlas is a collection of 17th century maps compiled by Joan Blaeu of the North and South Netherlands:

De Atlas van Loon bevat de Nederlandse versie van de ‘Grooten Atlas (Atlas Maior)’ van Joan Blaeu (negen delen uit 1663-1665), de twee stedenboeken van de noordelijke en de zuidelijke Nederlanden uit 1649, en de uit 1663 stammende Italiaanse stedenboeken over de Kerkelijke Staat, de stad Rome en het koninkrijk Napels en Sicilië.” (Source)

Click below if you wish to download the image file of the map in JPG or the overlay in KMZ file (for Google Earth or Open Street Map).

In eigen stilte zwijgend ingeklonken
Als steden in een donkere zee verdronken

Inscription marking the spot of Leuven's lost Castle

The List of Sites in Old Leuven

As you can see from the original map, sites are numbered and there is a Legend on the right with the names of each numbered Key. For each of the sites, I produce a page numbered accordingly as on the 1649 Map, complete with the old and current names, the precise location on Google Map, as well as photos of its current state. On top of that, I have found some really interesting sites which are drawn on the map but are unmarked, yet offer a surprisingly interesting perspective today.

The faulty attributions made by the cartographer are placed in brackets [ ].

  1. S. Pieters kercke – Sint-Pieterskerk
  2. S. Michiels kercke – Sancta Maria Leuven
  3. S. Gheertruydts kerck, Clooster, abdie – Sint-Geertruikerk
  4. S. Iacobus kercke – Sint-Jacobskerk
  5. S. Quintens kerck – Sint-Kwintenskerk
  6. [Vlierbeke abdye] – Oratoriënhof
  7. Predicheeren Coll. Oratorium – Predikherenkerk
  8. Minnebroeders Descalces – KU Leuven Research and Development
  9. [Vrauwenbroeders Boogarden > #24]Klooster der miniemen – Miniemeninstituut
  10. S. Augustinus cloost. en collegie – Augustijnenklooster
  11. Iesuiten cloost. en collegie – Sint-Michielskerk
  12. t’ Groot bagynhoff – Het Groot Begijnhof
  13. Charthreusen – Kartuizerklooster
  14. Anonciaten – Klooster van de Annunciaten
  15. Enghelsche Iesuyten
  16. t’ Kleyn Baghynhoff – Het Klein Begijnhof
  17. [Graususter huys > Extras] Priorij van de Heilige Ursula – Bruulpark
  18. Capucynen – Kruidtuin
  19. Hospitael – Sint-Pietersziekenhuis/Hertogensite
  20. [S. Cornelis gasthuys] Sint-Laurentiusgasthuis – Exotic World
  21. [Minimen clooster > #9]
  22. [Enghelshe Iesuytersen] Sint-Monicaklooster – Sint-Rafaëlziekenhuis/Hertogensite
  23. Onse Vrauwe kercke gulden – Kapel van Onze-Lieve-Vrouw-ginder-buiten
  24. [Clarissen Regulier klooster > #48] – Vrouwenbroedersklooster/ Klooster van de Geschoeide Karmelieten
  25. [Swart Susterhuys > Extras] – Abdij Onze-Lieve-Vrouw ten Wijngaert
  26. Borcht Castri – Keizersberg
  27. Collegie van Ghendt
  28. Collegium Castry – Pedagogie De Burcht
  29. Collegie van Mechelen
  30. [Collegie verdoncq] Villerscollege
  31. Collegie van Sauoyen – Museum M
  32. Collegie van S hertoghenbos – Herbert Hooverplein
  33. Collegium Valconi – College De Valk
  34. Collegium Leodiense – Jozef Vounckplein
  35. Collegium Porci – Hogeschoolplein
  36. Collegium Pont. Max. – Pauscollege
  37. Collegium pauperum – Atrechtcollege
  38. [Collegium Pont. Minomorum] – Heilige-Geestcollege
  39. Collegium Standoncq – Standonckcollege
  40. Collegium S. Mariae – Hollands College
  41. Collegium Regii Mag. – Koningscollege
  42. Collegium van Dale – Van Dalecollege
  43. Collegium Angliae Hiberniae – Irish College Leuven
  44. S. Iooris Cappelle – Sint-Joriskapel
  45. S. Anthonius Capelle – Sint-Antoniuskapel
  46. S. Barbara Capelle – Joris Helleputteplein
  47. d’Aerm Schole knechtiens huys – Armenschool voor jongens
  48. [Fiere Margriettien] Clarissenklooster – Ladeuzeplein
  49. Cellebroeders – Residentie Camilo Torres
  50. [Meyshuys arm Schole] Priorij van Sint-Maartensdal – Sint-Maartensdal
  51. Stadhuys – Stadhuis
  52. Guldenhuys taefelronde – Tafelrond
  53. Vleeschuys – Vleeshuis
  54. Halle – Lakenhalle
  55. Coorenhuys – Korenhuis
  56. Waeghe – Waag
  57. Mons Pietatis
  58. Meyers huys – Meiershuis
  59. Groote Marckt – Grote Markt
  60. Oude Marckt – Oude Markt
  61. Hout en Hoy Marcht
  62. Vischmarckt
  63. Pense marckt – Pensmarkt
  64. Veemarckt – Veemarkt
  65. Wynberghe – Wijnberg
  66. Verlooren Cost – Verloren Kost
  67. Mechelsche poort
  68. Poort na Aerschoot
  69. Poort na Diest
  70. Poort na Thienen
  71. Poort na Perck
  72. Poort na Heueren
  73. Poort naer ter Bourg
  74. Wygaert Poort


  1. College van Premonstreit
  2. Donkerstraat
  3. Grauwzustersklooster – Klaverpark
  4. Hogeheuvelcollege
  5. Huis van t’ Sestich
  6. Keizershof
  7. Noormannenstraat
  8. Redingenstraat
  9. Spui, De Grote
  10. Spui, De Kleine
  11. Stella Artois
  12. Zwartzustersklooster

Oud Leuven: #24 Klooster van de Geschoeide Karmelieten The cartographer misnamed the spot #24 as the Clarissen Regulier klooster (Clarissenklooster). It was in fact the Monastery of the Carmelites (Klooster van de Geschoeide Karmelieten). Harold Tor - Oud Leuven: College De Valk Pedagogie De Valk Oud Leuven: #33 College De Valk The "Pedagogie De Valk" is the only surviving pedagogies of the old University of Leuven. It is located at Number 41, Tiensestraat. Harold Tor - Oud Leuven: Atrechtcollege Oud Leuven: #37 Atrechtcollege Located on the highest point of the Naamsestraat, the Atrechtcollege is located beside the Premonstreitcollege and diagonally opposite the Van Dalecollege. Oud Leuven: #51 Stadhuis Leuven's historic City Hall - Stadhuis - is one of the most beautiful buildings in Brabant Late Gothic style in Belgium. Located on the Grote Markt (the Great Market), this architectural jewel was enclosed by the Naamsestraat, the Muntstraat and the Boekhandelstraat, with an inner courtyard called Vrijthof. Oud Leuven: #22 Sint-Monicaklooster The Sint-Monicaklooster - Convent of St Monica - was a forgotten convent in Leuven founded by English sisters, fleeing Anglican persecution in their home country. Today, its location is on the Kapucijnenvoer opposite Biezenstraat, all the way from the former Sint-Rafaëlziekenhuis and the co-housing project BotaniCo up until opposite the entrance of the Kruidtuin,... Oud Leuven: #48 Clarissenklooster Located on today's Monseigneur Ladeuzeplein in Leuven, was the Clarissenklooster - Convent of the Poor Clares. Yet they were nothing but poor. Read here to find out about their fascinating history. Oud Leuven: #26 Keizersberg Located at the northern tip of Leuven, within the second and outer city wall and east of the city gate Mechelsepoort, the Keizersberg is a medieval fortified hill that currently houses a Benedictine monastery, a public park and an emblematic giant statue of Queen Virgin Mary with baby Jesus that overlooks the city. Keizersberg... Oud Leuven: #30 Villerscollege Located at Number 24 on the Vaartstraat, the former Villerscollege was founded by and for the student friars of the powerful Cisterian Abbey of Villers, between Gembloux and Nivelles, today laid in ruins. Oud Leuven: #19 Sint-Pietersziekenhuis Perhaps the oldest hospital in Belgium, the Sint-Pietersziekenhuis is (soon to be "was" at the time of writing) located on both East and West banks of the Dijle river on the Brusselsestraat. On the East bank, are the remains of the hospital chapel and its side buildings. On the West bank ate two contemporary... Oud Leuven: #14 Klooster van de Annunciaten The site of the Klooster van de Annunciaten is completely gone. The current location is at Numbers 1 to 5 of the Monseigneur Van Waeyenberghlaan. The convent existed from 1530 to 1784. Oud Leuven: #11 Sint-Michielskerk The "Iesuiten cloost. en collegie" (Jesuit Monastery) mentioned in the map, is no more. The exact location of this monastery is the current-day Sint-Michielskerk (St Michael's Church) located in the Naamsestraat. This former Jesuit church is now one of the Seven Wonders of Leuven still existing, and one of the most monumental Baroque churches... Harold Tor - Oud Leuven - Sint-Geertruiskerk Oud Leuven: #3 Sint-Geertruikerk The origins of the Sint-Geertruisabdij (Saint Gertrude’s Abbey) in Leuven dates back to a 12-century chapel that was transformed by Duke Henry I in 1206 to a priory for Augustinian cannons. As the name on the 1649 map suggests, this was an abbey, and the church was and is both an abbey church and... Harold Tor - Oud Leuven: Augustijnenklooster Oud Leuven: #10 Augustijnenklooster The former Augustijnenklooster (Augustinian Monastery) occupied a huge space. It is enclosed by the current-day Vissersstraat, Vismarkt, Karel van Lotharingenstraat and Vaartstraat. Oud Leuven: #46 Sint-Barbarakapel The Sint-Barbarakapel (Chapel of St Barbara) was located along the River Dijle. The site is now the housing complex called Barbarahof, around the square of Joris Helleputteplein. Oud Leuven: #50 Priorij van Sint-Maartensdal The former Priory of St Martin's Valley (Priorij van Sint-Maartensdal) of Leuven existed from 1433-1784. Today, the site is the location of the city's iconic public housing blocks known by the same name 'Sint-Maartensdal', between the Sint-Maartenstraat and the J.P. Minckelersstraat. Oud Leuven: #17 Priorij van de Heilige Ursula en de 11.000 Maagden Where the Bruulpark now stands in Leuven, there used to be a huge convent in the Middle Ages called the "Priorij van de Heilige Ursula en de 11.000 Maagden" (the Priory of Saint Ursula and 11,000 virgins). The whole area is today enclosed by Halvestraat, Pereboomstraat, Het Torentje and Brouwersstraat. Oud Leuven: #6 Oratoriënhof Oud Leuven: #6 Oratoriënhof This has to be one of the most interesting mistakes or misunderstanding I have found in the course of my research. I will explain why:
On this location, the author of the 1649 Atlas van Loon’s map of Leuven marked it as “Vlierbeke abdye“, which is the “Abdij van Vlierbeek“. Yet the Vlierbeek Abbey is...
Oud Leuven: #13 Kartuizerklooster The Carthusian Monastery (Kartuizerklooster) of Leuven is a hidden gem that not many people know of. Concealed by rows of houses on all sides, the ruins of the monastery go back to the 15th century. Oud Leuven: #20 Sint-Laurentiusgasthuis The cartographer made two mistakes on this location: one, the guesthouse was called "Sint-Laurentiusgasthuis", not "Sint-Corneliusgasthuis". Secondly, the location was not directly in the compounds of the Sint-Jacobskerk but one block down the Brusselsestraat where the roundabout is nowadays. Harold Tor - Sint-Pieterskerk Leuven Oud Leuven: #1 Sint-Pieterskerk The Sint-Pieterskerk (St Peter's Church) is a 17th-century church located right in the heart of Leuven, on the Grote Markt. Oud Leuven: #32 College van S'Hertogenbos The College van S'Hertogenbos, from 1604-1797, was located not so much on the Tiensestraat as indicated on the map, but more on the modern-day Herbert Hooverplein (half of which was called the Grain Market (Graanmarkt) which was an extension of the Nieuwstraat to reach the old citygate of Sint-Michielspoort. Oud Leuven: #2 Sint-Michielskerk Oud Leuven: #2 Sancta Maria Leuven The Sint-Michielskerk (Saint Michael’s Church) does not exist anymore. Yet this was one of the iconic sights and sites of Leuven, one of its Seven Wonders. Its former location is on the Tiensestraat by the external façade of the Sancta Maria Leuven school, before the entrance to the city park. Oud Leuven: #44 Sint-Joriskapel In the corner between the Kapucijnenvoer and Bankstraat, there used to be a Chapel devoted to St George. Today, it is a quant 18th-century house that is privately owned. Harold Tor - Oud Leuven: Pauscollege Oud Leuven: #36 Pauscollege The Pauscollege is located on today's Hogeschoolplein, opposite the park. It is one of the world's oldest university colleges. Oud Leuven: Klooster van de Grauwzusters of Penitenten recolletinen The area of the Klooster van de Grauwzusters (Convent of the Grey Sisters) is currently enclosed by the Mechelsestraat, Klaverpark and Penitentienenstraat. Oud Leuven: #16 Het Klein Begijnhof Het Klein Begijnhof (The Small Beguinage) is one of the two beguinages in Leuven. Located north of the Sint-Geertrui-abdij (Saint Gertude Abbey), it is a small, secret picturesque spot in the city, consisting of one main and two side streets. Oud Leuven: #27 College van Gent In the corner between the Brouwersstraat and the Halvestraat, used to the College van Gent (College of Ghent). In its initial form, the College van Gent only survived from 1559 to 1592. Harold Tor - Oud Leuven: Miniemeninstituut Oud Leuven: #9 Miniemenklooster There was clearly a mistake in the naming of this spot. #9 Vrauwenbroeders Boogarden (the Carmelites Beghards) was not located on this spot, but further west on the current-day Vital Decosterstraat. In 1649, this spot was the Sint-Genovevagasthuis. Harold Tor - Oud Leuven: Minderbroedersklooster, KU Leuven Research & Development Oud Leuven: #8 Minderbroedersklooster From the 13th century to 18th century, the corner between present-day Waaistraat and Minderbroederstraat stood the Minderbroederklooster (Monastery of the Friars Minor), for which the street is named. Harold Tor - Oud Leuven: Koningscollege Oud Leuven: #41 Koningscollege The King's College (Koningscollege) is located along the Naamsestraat at the corner of the Charles de Bériotstraat in Leuven. Today, the Koningscollege houses the Zoological Institute (Zoölogisch Instituut) of the KU Leuven. Read about its rise as a Royal College of the Spanish King.