Oud Leuven: #2 Sint-Michielskerk

Oud Leuven: #2 Sint-Michielskerk

  • Name on the map:

    S. Michiels kercke

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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.


Under Godfried III, Count of Leuven, the city received its first walled fortifications around 1156. Surprisingly much of the first city walls stil 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.

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

Today it is the site of the entrance of the Sancta Maria Institut and the entry into the Sint-Donatius Park. You can see the markings on the ground that show the actual location of the city gate.


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