Oud Leuven: #2 Sancta Maria Leuven

Oud Leuven: #2 Sancta Maria Leuven

  • Name on the map:

    S. Michiels kercke

  • Other names:


  • Current name:

    Sancta Maria Leuven

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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.


Part of Leuven’s first city fortifications

Under Godfried III, Count of Leuven, the city received its first walled fortifications around 1156. Surprisingly much of the first city walls still exist. You can see a large section of the wall and a remaining tower in the Sint-Donatius Park in the centre of Leuven.

If you wonder why the wall is higher than the ground, it’s because you are walking in the ditch outside the citywall.

Between the entrance of the Sint-Donatius Park and the Sancta Maria School was the spot where the Sint-Michielspoort (Saint Michael’s Gate) – one of the first city gates of Leuven (Source). Outside the gate was the Tiensestraat, then known as the Hoelstraat.


Both a church and a city gate

On top of the city gate, stood the Sint-Michielskerk (Saint Michael’s Church). What we do know, was that it was a Romanesque church. The present Herbert Hooverplein (Source), apart from housing some of the city wall, was also the graveyard (Source).

What's so special about this place?

Why was the Sint-Michielskerk (Saint Michael’s Church) one of the Seven Wonders of Leuven?

This is because it was the place where “the living walked under the dead” (De levenden lopen onder de doden). (Source)

Unfortunately the church had to be dismantled. By 1770, the church was in such a bad state that wooden planks were used to prop up the walls of the old city gate and the church on it.

Between 1778 and 1781, this Leuven wonder was broken down and flattened to the ground.

The church community was moved to the now empty Jesuit College on the Naamsestraat, as the Society of the Jesuits were banned in 1773. This is the present-day Sint-Michielskerk (Saint Michael’s Church), a Baroque church.

Current situation

Markings on the ground

Today, it is the site of the back entrance of the Sancta Maria Leuven school on the Tiensestraat and the entrance of the Sint-Donatius Park. You can see the markings on the ground that show the actual location of the city gate.


Click on the zoom icon to view the full size.

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