Oud Leuven: #1 Sint-Pieterskerk

Oud Leuven: #1 Sint-Pieterskerk

  • Name on the map:

    S. Pieters kercke

  • Other names:

    De Collegiale Sint-Pieterskerk

  • Current name:


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The Sint-Pieterskerk (St Peter’s Church) is a 17th-century church located right in the heart of Leuven, on the Grote Markt.


The Sint-Pieterskerk was built in the Brabant Gothic style. Many well-known Late-Gothic masters were involved in its building, in the course of the 15th century, including Sulpitius van Vorst, Jan II Keldermans and Matthijs de Layens.

Until the 17th century, the church still remained unfinished; two western towers never reached their full intended height.

It was due to the patronage of the Apostle Peter, at this St Peter’s Church, that Leuven inhabitants earned the nickname of Peetermannen. (Source)

As the city’s oldest ecclesiastical institution, Sint-Pieterskerk is situated halfway on the eastern hillside of the Dijle river. The oldest archaeologically attested church on the site dates from the early 11th century, most likely built by Lambert I, Graf of Leuven. After seven Canons (clerics) were bonded to the church in 1015 under the orders of Lambert I, he raised it to the status of “collegial church” in 1054.

What's so special about this place?

It was during the reparation works of 1950 after the damages incurred during World War II, that the remains of this early Romanesque church was brought to light: the nave and the choir definitively belong to the 11th century church, while the western front with its flanking stairtowers and the eastern central walls and the crypt belong to a later date. (Source)

The church suffered heavily during the first World War, where it lost its Baroque roof due to a heavy fire. The work of the Namur roof architect Denis-Georges Bayar was thus lost forever. In the Second World War, bombardments on the church cost it all its treasures. (Source)

The Cult of the Fiere Margriet: There is a chapel in the church dedicated to the legend of a certain Margaret, who as a good Christian girl would rather drown herself in the Dijle River than be raped by a gang of bandits. Her body apparently did not decompose but was miraculously floating against the currents. You can see a bronze statue in the bank of the river near the Dirk Boutslaan, marking the spot where she was floating.

Current situation

How would the church look like if it were to be completed? “Unbelievably impressive. The church would have been the tallest in the world. What we see today is merely the “foundation” of the planned three towers. One of the towers were built, but collapsed in the 16th century. (Source)


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