The High Street of Religious Orders
The Order of the Friars Minor were founded in 1209 by Francis of Assisi, hence the members are also known as the Franciscans. They established their first monastery here in Leuven on this spot by the Minderbroederstraat in the year 1231, which set the course for it to become the “high street” of religious orders. The Kapucijnenconvent (Capuchin Convent) was built in the 16th century, followed by the Ursuline Monastery in the 17th century.
The Link between Leuven and the Belgische Boerenbond
In 1886, the Monastery grounds were taken over by the Gilde van Ambachten en Neringen (Guild of Artisans and Commerce) – the organisation that would later develop into the Belgische Boerenbond (Belgian Farmers’ Union). This is the reason why Leuven is today the seat of the Belgische Boerenbond.
After the Belgische Boerenbond moved out, the university took over the building and made it into their Research & Development department.
The adjoining building became the Student Housing project called Residentie Monseigneur Karel Cruysberghs.
Professor Jan Emiel Vliebergh
No trace of the monastery has remained, as you can see from either the Waaistraat or the Minderbroedersstraat.
But outside the building, you will see a plaque dedicated to Professor Jan Emiel Vliebergh (Zoutleeuw, 24 January 1872 – Leuven 6 January 1925) on worked and died in the building. Vleibergh studied law in Leuven from 1891 to 1896, after which he worked as a legal adviser for the Belgische Boerenbond and at the same time, a law professor at Leuven’s university. Later in 1917, Vliebergh became the president of the Belgische Boerenbond.
Vliebergh taught in standard Dutch, which was unusually at that time, because French was the medium of education and the local oral language was Brabants (a non-standard Dutch dialect albeit very close to the standard version). Through his writing, Vliebergh was instrumental in introducing standard Dutch into education in Belgium.
He also managed to do this through his active involvement in and later being the President of the Davidsfonds, a cultural foundation that promotes Dutch-language cultural activities.
Today, the largest cultural foundation in Belgium, Davidsfonds honours Vliebergh by naming their literature award for young writers the “Vlieberghprijs“.
Today, the building standing on the exact spot are the Research & Development department of the KU Leuven (Cathholic University of Leuven) and the student housing Residentie Mgr. Karel Cruysberghs.
If you look at the back of the buildings from the Joris Helleputteplein, you can see how the silhouette of the old Minderbroedersklooster Monastery is still present in one of the buildings!