Oud Brussel: #1 Leuvensepoort

  • SHARE:
  • Name on the map:

    Lovensche poorte

  • Original name in Dutch:


  • Other names:

    Nuwerpoerte, Buitenste Leuvensepoort

  • 19th century name in French:

    Porte de Louvain

  • Current name:

    Place Surlet de Chokie, Madou


The Leuvensepoort (Leuven Gate) was part of Brussels’ second and outer defence wall. Today, the former city gate would have been located at the junction between Hertogstraat (Rue Ducale) and Leuvenseweg (Rue de Louvain), and not on the Surlet de Chokierplein and the Madouplein.


The War of the Brabantian Succession (15 June 1356 – 4 June 1357)

When he died in 1355, Jan III Duke of Brabant and of Limburg left behind three daughters and no son. This created a succession problem for the Duchy. His second son-in-law, Louis II, Count of Flanders, alias Louis of Male, attacked the Duchy in an attempt to seize power, aided by Jan’s third son-in-law Reginald III, Duke of Guelders.

In fact, Duke Jan III had intended for his oldest daughter Joanna to succeed him, according to “ius Brabantinum” law.

In order to exert her power, Joanna and her husband performed the “Joyous Entry of 1356” in Leuven on 3 January 1356. This is known in Dutch as the “Blijde Inkomst” and the street in which they entered Leuven is still known today as the “Blijde Inkomststraat“.

The Joyous Entry of 1356 is of vital significance.

It was not just a spectacle, witnessed by citizens, nobles and officials from all Brabantian cities. It was the Magna Carta of Brabant, where she granted a charter of liberties granted to the burghers in return for their loyalty to her as their Duchess.

Nevertheless, a few months later, Flanders attacked Brabant. The Flemish occupied Brussels (18 August 1356), Mechelen (20 August 1356), Leuven and Vilvoorde (22 August 1356), Antwerpen and Grimbergen (23 August 1356), Tienen and Nijvel (24 August 1356).

It was only when Joanna’s husband, Wenceslaus I, Duke of Luxembourg, approached his half-brother, Charles IV, Holy Roman Emperor for help that the war ended. The Flemish were driven out of Brabant and Joanna was finally recognised as the Duchess of Brabant by her neighbours.


400 years of Brussels’ Outer City Wall (1357-1783)

It was likely the result of this war that Brussels started building its second (outer) city walls.

Records show that the constructions started in 1357, a year after Leuven. By 1379, the names for the new city gates started appearing in documents with different variations.

First it was the city gates that were built, and the walls linking the gates were then erected. In total, there were seven city gates:

(Nieuwe) Koudenbergpoort (later Naamsepoort)
Obbrusselpoort (later Hallepoort)
Keulsepoort (later Schaarbeeksepoort)

But with the decision by Habsburg Emperor Jozef II to demolish all city defense throughout his realm, Brussels’ city wall was gradually torn down since 1783.

In the place of the city gates, twin pavilions were placed at fourteen entry points. The walls gave way to broad green boulevards designed by Jean-Baptiste Vifquain, from 1818 to 1840. But because of Brussels was already being Brussels, due to the taxation differences between Brussels inhabitants and those of the satellite towns, a patent wall had to be built 2.5m high with a 3m-wide ditch (basically a small city wall) to demarcate the city boundaries.

During this time, a ring road following the pentagonal shape of the old city was built over the moat. Today, the circle metro line follows the trajectory and so does the modern inner ring road.

What's so special about this place?

The First Outer City Gate

The first outer city gate mentioned in the records was Nuwerpoerte” (New Gate) in 1357. We are able to identify this as the Leuvensepoort because of its association with the inner city gate Sint-Goedelepoort” (St. Gudula Gate) by the Leuvenseweg (the road to Leuven). The name Leuvensepoort was only mentioned in 1422, after which further distinction was made between the inner Leuven Gate – the old St. Gudula Gate – and the new outer Leuven Gate.

With the second defense wall up, worshippers who used to belong to the parish of the Sint-Goedelekerk were shut out as now the city gates were closed every evening. This led to the erection of a new parish church in the farming village of Sint-Joost-ten-Node (St. Judoc at needs) just outside the city gate.

The task of guarding the Leuvensepoort was entrusted to the Steenweeghs, one of the seven patrician families of Brussels. This task was assisted by the Sint-Jansnatie (St John’s Nation) one of the Nine Nations of Brussels after 1421.


How did the Leuvensepoort look like?

The Leuvensepoort had an impressive main tower with two lower advanced towers on the extra-muros side. A ravelin was constructed in the 16th century with an extensive hornwork performed in 1672-1702. Its wooden drawbridge was replaced in 1702 by a stone bridge.

Following the decree by Emperor Jozef II to demolish all city fortifications, the Leuvense Gate was sold in 1783 for 1550 florins. The demolition was completed the following year.

Current situation

The former imposing Leuvensepoort is no more.

Today, one would assume that the Place Surlet de Chokie square and the Madou square stand where the Leuvensepoort once stood.

But the trajectory had clearly shifted, as attested by the direction of the intra-muros Leuvenseweg (Rue de Louvain) and the extra-muros Leuvense Steenweg (Chausée de Louvain), separated by the ring road which was built on top of the moat.

The city gate would thus have been located at the junction of the Leuvenseweg and the Hertogstraat (Rue Ducale).



Vannieuwenhuyze, B. (2011) “Brussel, de Ontwikkeling van een middeleeuwse stedelijke ruimte.” Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press.
https://collections.heritage.brussels/fr/objects/51980 (image)
Vitzhumb, P. (1783) “Porte de Louvain, seconde enceinte de Bruxelles” (image)
Borremans, H. (1825-1860) “Briefkaart met afbeelding van een 19de eeuws schilderij van de Leuvense poort” (image)


Click on the zoom icon to view the full size.

  • SHARE:

  • Share:

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *