Oud Leuven: #61 Rector De Somerplein

Oud Leuven: #61 Hooimarkt

  • Name in 1649:

    Hout en Hoy Marcht

  • Other names:

    Radermarkt, Hooimarkt, Maarschalk Fochplein

  • Current name:

    Rector De Somerplein

  • SHARE:

ABOUT

Leuven’s former Hooimarkt (hay market) no longer exists. Located close to the choir of the Sint-Pieterskerk, this small market square once linked the Tiensestraat, the Diestsestraat and the Mechelsestraat. Today, it is replaced by the Rector De Somerplein a little further east.

Origin

Where the Tiensestraat and the Diestsestraat meet and outside the choir of the Sint-Pieterskerk, was Leuven’s old Hooimarkt (hay market). On the 1649 map, it included the sale of wood, which does make some sense.

Initially called the ‘Radermarkt‘, the word could refer to a medieval word ‘rade‘ for the clearing of forests. Hence the reference to the sale of wood, that was harvested by clearing forests into farmland.

The original Hooimarkt was actually located along the Vaartstraat. When that turned into ‘Patatenmarkt‘ (Potato Market), the Radermarkt became known as the Hooimarkt.

The Road to the Station

In 1837, a street was built in the direction of the small train station, and this street was christened ‘Statiestraat‘ (Station Road). By 1863, this street inched to closer to the Grote Markt.

The first extension was to the ‘Nieuwstraat‘ (modern-day L. Vanderkelenstraat). In 1867, this passage was leveled and paved, inaugurating the Leuven’s new theatre the Schouwburg.

With the construction of a new Neo-Classical train station in the years 1876-1879, the idea was to have a straight line leading from the station all the way to the Grote Markt.

For this final phase, which happened between 1869 and 1875, the city, out of the exorbitant costs of the project, passed it on to the Cordemans family, who already owned almost half of the properties here. In order to correct the straightness of the new boulevard, the 18th-century Brouwershuis (Brewers’ House) had to be demolished. The resulting kilometre-long new axis has a distinctly bourgeois character, typified by stately, Neo-Classical single-home houses and urban mansions.

With the demolition of the Brouwershuis, the Hooimarkt suffered the same fate.

The New Maarschalk Fochplein

There was much criticism from Leuven’s inhabitants about this new linear connection between the train station and the Grote Markt: It has destroyed the former enclosed nature of the square, and took away the breathtaking and surprise effect for someone to first enter the Grote Markt. This feature has been kept in the Brussels Grote Markt.

In August 1914, Leuven’s centre was laid to waste by German troops in what is now known as the Great Fire of Leuven on the night of the 25th of August, which lasted till the 28th. With the surrounding area of the Grote Markt completely flattened, this was the chance to correct the ‘mistake‘ of opening up the view of the Grote Markt, and once and for all, screen it off.

The project of the ‘screen block‘ was drawn up in 1919, to shorten the Statiestraat and build in this last section where the old Hooimarkt used to be a screen of buildings.

However, this was never realised for financial reasons. Instead, the space had to be converted into a green zone, and thus turned into a square in 1925 named after the French Marshal Ferdinand Foch (1851-1929), commander-in-chief of the Allied forces on the Western Front: the Maarschalk Fochplein, or ‘Fochplein‘ in short.

Next to the new square, the ‘old’ Brouwershuis was reconstructed in 1923-1926. Today, it houses the fastfood restaurant Burger King and student apartments above it.

In May 1944, the new Fochplein was once again destroyed, this time by Allied Forces. But this time round, the rebuilding was regulated by a strict regulation imposed by the city: all the buildings now have to harmonise with the Gothic monuments in and around the Grote Markt.

After the Second World War, the Statiestraat was renamed “Laan der Verbondenen” (Boulevard of the Allies), and more recently into a less mouthful version, the “Bondgenotenlaan”.

The Rector De Somerplein

The current layout of the square dates from 1975. Bear in mind, this was and still is the busiest crossings in the centre of Leuven, where buses and cars pass through every day to get to another part of the city. This has largely been reduced by making the Grote Markt traffic-free in the 2010s, but the need to deal with the bus and bicycle traffic was very real. Just imagine if the space had really been filled with a screening block.

In 2006, plans were made to completely renew the Fochplein, with modern bus stops and bicycle parkings.

Then in 2011, the name ‘Maarschalk Fochplein‘ was finally abandoned, and in the words of Leuven’s former longstanding mayor Louis Tobback: “This square should never have been named after a man who was responsible for millions of deaths in the First World War”.

Consensus was finally reached among all the political parties in February 2011 to name the square after Pieter De Somer, the first Rector of the Dutch-speaking Catholic University of Leuven – Katholieke Universiteit Leuven, now better known as KU Leuven. The change was accepted by the city council on 29 August the same year and the square is now known as ‘Rector De Somerplein‘.

What's so special about this place?

Fonske

In 1975, the newly laid Fochplein coincided with the 550-year anniversary of the Leuven University. A water fountain with a bronze statue was placed here as the centrepiece. Sculpted by J. Claerhout, the statue is called ‘Fons Sapientiae‘, Latin for the ‘Source of Wisdom‘. It is known affectionately as ‘Fonske‘ by the locals, and it features a student, reading an open book, with a glass that continuously pouring water into his open head. A bit of a macabre image, university students joke that the never-ending glass is actually a beer glass and is thus their source of wisdom.

Like the Manneken Pis in Brussels, Fonske gets dressed in different costumes on special occasions.

De Fiere Margriet

At the end of the Diestsestraat, on the right on the current Margarethaplein, the pub called ‘De Fiere Margriet‘ housed in a 17th-century building is extremely well-known. It offers no fewer than 280 different kinds of beer, including those by very renowned local brewers in the region such as Broeder Jacob and Hof Ter Dormael. As you know, the name, translated as ‘Proud Margaret’ refers to a well-known local saint whose chapel is housed in the Sint-Pieterskerk opposite the pub. You can imagine that the pub being a popular watering-hole for the locals by being just by the Hooimarkt.

Current situation

Although the Hooimarkt is no more, and the dream of some to render the Grote Markt an enclosed square again never came true, the current Rector De Somerplein has never ceased being a busy meeting place of the main arteries of the city of Leuven. History should never ever be forgotten, as those were the memories of the people who came before us, I wish there were a sign somewhere that mentions the site of the old sites of Leuven, like the Hooimarkt.

 

Sources:

https://inventaris.onroerenderfgoed.be/themas/15092
https://nl.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rector_De_Somerplein
https://www.woorden.org/woord/rade
https://leuven.weleer.be/hooimarkt
https://inventaris.onroerenderfgoed.be/themas/8151
https://inventaris.onroerenderfgoed.be/erfgoedobjecten/42190
Leuven Weleer: Hooimarkt, 1850 (image)
Leuven Weleer: Hooimarkt, 1860 (image)

HOW IT LOOKS LIKE TODAY

Click on the zoom icon to view the full size.

  • SHARE:

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. Harold Tor - Oud Leuven: Koningscollege Oud Leuven: #41 Koningscollege The King's College (Koningscollege) is located along the Naamsestraat at the corner of the Charles de Bériotstraat in Leuven. Today, the Koningscollege houses the Zoological Institute (Zoölogisch Instituut) of the KU Leuven. Read about its rise as a Royal College of the Spanish King. Harold Tor - Oud Leuven: Pedagogie Het Varken Hogeschoolplein Oud Leuven: #35 Pedagogie Het Varken The "Pedagogie Het Varken" existed from 1428 to 1797. It was located on today's Hogeschoolplein. Oud Leuven: #61 Hooimarkt Leuven's former Hooimarkt (hay market) no longer exists. Located close to the choir of the Sint-Pieterskerk, this small market square once linked the Tiensestraat, the Diestsestraat and the Mechelsestraat. Today, it is replaced by the Rector De Somerplein a little further east. Oud Leuven: Fiere Margriet The legend of the Fiere Margriet (Proud Margaret) is closely linked to the One of the Seven Wonders of Leuven - 'The Water that flows upstream'. The precise location of the miracle is not stated in the legends but in this article, we can try to examine the possibilities. Oud Leuven: #32 College van S'Hertogenbos The College van S'Hertogenbos, from 1604-1797, was located not so much on the Tiensestraat as indicated on the map, but more on the modern-day Herbert Hooverplein (half of which was called the Grain Market (Graanmarkt) which was an extension of the Nieuwstraat to reach the old citygate of Sint-Michielspoort. Oud Leuven: #45 Sint-Antoniuskapel The Sint-Antoniuskapel is located on the current-day Pater Damiaanplein, at the foot of the Ramberg hill at the meeting point of the two streets - Ramberg and Sint-Antoniusberg. The chapel is also the mausoleum and pilgrimage site of the world-famous Belgian priest, Pater Damiaan. Harold Tor - Oud Leuven: Miniemeninstituut Oud Leuven: #9 Miniemenklooster There was clearly a mistake in the naming of this spot. #9 Vrauwenbroeders Boogarden (the Carmelites Beghards) was not located on this spot, but further west on the current-day Vital Decosterstraat. In 1649, this spot was the Sint-Genovevagasthuis. Oud Leuven: #68 Aarschotsepoort The 'Aarschotsepoort' (Aarschot Gate) is one of the eight city gates inherited from Leuven's 14th-century outer city fortifications. While the name remains, the actual position is vaguely indicated today as the inter-junction between the elevated ringway and the road along the Leuven-Dijle Canal known as De Vaart. Oud Leuven: #26 Keizersberg Located at the northern tip of Leuven, within the second and outer city wall and east of the city gate Mechelsepoort, the Keizersberg is a medieval fortified hill that currently houses a Benedictine monastery, a public park and an emblematic giant statue of Queen Virgin Mary with baby Jesus that overlooks the city. Keizersberg is... Oud Leuven: #46 Sint-Barbarakapel The Sint-Barbarakapel (Chapel of St Barbara) was located along the River Dijle. The site is now the housing complex called Barbarahof, around the square of Joris Helleputteplein. Oud Leuven: #62 Vismarkt The oldest recorded marketplace of Leuven, the Vismarkt (Fish Market) is now an above-ground carpark that is framed by the Craenendonck, the Mechelsestraat, the Karel van Lotharingenstraat, the Visserstraat and the Augustijnenstraat. Its history as probably the first nuclear settlement of Leuven still lies hidden beneath the surface, as is an ancient arm of the... Oud Leuven: #64 Pater Damiaanplein Known today as the 'Pater Damiaanplein' after the Belgian Saint Damien of Molokai, the square used to be the site of Leuven's Veemarkt (Cattle Market) back in the Middle Ages. Oud Leuven: #42 Van Dalecollege Located on the highest point of the inner city of Leuven, the Van Dalecollege along the Naamsestraat is one of the best preserved old college from the former University of Leuven and the most charming yet quiet spot in the city. Oud Leuven: #29 College van Mechelen The Collegium Mechliniense was mistakenly placed in the Mechelsestraat by the cartographer in the 1649 map. The College van Mechelen was actually located in the Diestsestraat, at Nummers 26-28 today.
  • Share:

Leave a Reply

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