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:


  • SHARE:


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


Leuven’s oldest ecclesiastical institution

The current 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.


Why Leuven’s inhabitants are called Peetermannen

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 (the year 1000), most likely built by Lambert I, Grave of Leuven to be close to his castle at the ‘s Hertogeneiland (currently the old hospital at Sint-Pietersziekenhuis along the Brusselsestraat).

After seven Canons (clerics) were bonded to the church in 1015 under the orders of his son, Lambert II, the church was raised to the status of “collegial church” in 1054.

The appearance of this most likely Romanesque church is not known, apart from on some city seals. The foundations however, were discovered by archeologists in 1950.

For centuries, the original Romanesque Sint-Pieterskerk and its churchyard was separated from the nearby houses by a narrow alley called ‘steenweg‘. By the 15th century, the prestigious new City Hall (stadhuis) was built and at the same time, the graveyard was turned into the city square called “de plaetse“. It is known as the “Grote Markt” today, and the former city square became known as the “Oude Markt” (old market).

What's so special about this place?

Heavily damaged by the wars

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.

Leuven has been lobbying the Vatican for centuries to have her declared a saint, to no avail.

Current situation

35 years of restoration

The Sint-Pieterskerk was partially closed for 35 years for a thorough restoration and renovation work. It recently opened on 7 March 2020, which unveiled the church in its former glory.

Despite the damages during the world wars, some of the church furniture and interior from the 13th to the 19th centuries escaped unharmed. Among which are:

  • The 13th century Tomb Monument of Henry I, first Duke of Brabant (1165-1235)
  • 12m-high Late Gothic sacrament tower
  • A part of the Late Gothic choir
  • 15th-century Sedes Sapientiae (“Seat of Wisdom”, the medieval title of the Virgin Mary) carved by Nicolaas De Bruyne in 1442
  • Triptych by Dutch painter Dieric Bouts, featuring the Last Supper “Het Laatste Avondmaal” from 1464–1468

However, all of the stained glass windows were lost forever.


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)


Click on the zoom icon to view the full size.

  • SHARE:

Oud Leuven: #66 Verloren Kosttoren The 'Verloren Kosttoren' (Tower of Lost Cost) is one of the three surviving fragments of Leuven's second city wall. Once the defensive lookout post of Leuven and one of its highest points, the Verloren Kosttoren was a prominent landmark featured in every major painting of the city. Today, neglected by the authorities and covered by... Oud Leuven: #25 Abdij Onze-Lieve-Vrouw ten Wijngaert The cartographer misnamed the spot #25 as the "Swart Susterhuys" (Zwartzustersklooster) - Convent of the Augustinian "Black" Sisters. It was in fact the site of the Abbey of the Our Lady of the Vineyard (Abdij Onze-Lieve-Vrouw ten Wijngaert) that belonged to the Cistercian Sisters. Also, the spot was misplaced between modern-day Ridderstraat and de Voer... Oud Leuven: #18 Kapucijnenklooster There is nothing left of Leuven's original Capuchin Monastery (Kapucijnenklooster) which was founded in 1591 and destroyed by the French Revolution in 1796. Today, the spot houses the "Hortus Botanicus Lovaniensis", popularly known was the "Kruidtuin" - Leuven's own Botanical Garden. It is one of the most beautiful and tranquil places in the city. Harold Tor - Oud Leuven - Sint-Kwintenskerk Oud Leuven: #5 Sint-Kwintenskerk The Sint-Kwintenskerk (Saint Quentin's Church) in Leuven was built in the Brabant High-Gothic style in 1450. Located on the Naamsestraat it was close to the Naamsepoort city gate of the second city wall of the city. Oud Leuven: #12 Het Groot Begijnhof The "Groot Begijnhof" is a "town-within-the-town" in the south of Leuven, on two arms of the River Dijle. Founded in the 13th century, this enclosed living quarters served religious women who lived in piety and chastity. The Groot Begijnhof is one of the best preserved, the largest and the most beautiful in the Low Countries.... Oud Leuven: #58 Maria-Theresia- en Veteranencollege The former 'Meiershuis' (Mayor's House) was located on the site of the current Maria-Theresia- en Veteranencollege on the Sint-Michielsstraat. 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: #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). Oud Leuven: #28 Pedagogie De Burcht The "Pedagogie De Burcht" existed from 1427 to 1797. Named after the Castle of Leuven (De Burcht/Borcht), the college was one of the four Arts colleges that belonged to the University of Leuven. Oud Leuven: #71 Parkpoort Located between the Tiensepoort and the Naamsepoort, the Parkpoort is one of the highest points of the ring road of Leuven that surrounds the city. During the Middle Ages, the defensive walls that linked these three city gates must have looked really high and impressive. Today, the Parkpoort is a road junction like all the... Oud Leuven: #23 Kapel van Onze-Lieve-Vrouw-ginder-buiten The Kapel van Onze-Lieve-Vrouw-ginder-buiten (Chapel of Our Lady Without the Walls) was the house chapel of the Greater Guild of Crossbowmen of Leuven from 1364 until 1798. Located just before the Tiensepoort Gate of the second city wall, the chapel was completely destroyed by the French invaders during the French Revolution. 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: #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: #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. 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.
  • Share:

Leave a Reply

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