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Between Heaven and Earth

About the project

Dive into the beautiful world of the St Peter's Church and discover Flemish masterpieces in their original context.

Somewhere in the near future the restored St Peter’s Church in Leuven will be the new hotspot for lovers of art and heritage. M Museum is ready to guide you through the fascinating story of this magnificent church – a highlight of Brabant Gothic architecture – and to help you renew your acquaintance with its art treasures: a unique collection of Flemish masterpieces still in their original location. These treasures will soon be brought to life as part of a powerful and innovative experience that you’ll be able to share thanks to unique digital tools.

Masterpieces and their stories

These outstanding works include 'The Last Supper' and 'Martyrdom of St Erasmus' by our Leuven Primitive Dirk Bouts. They are amongst the absolute masterpieces of Flemish painting and aren’t to be missed when you visit Leuven. The Edelheere Triptych, Jan Borman’s Triumphal Cross, the imposing Sacrament Tower, the monumental tomb of Duke Henry I and the Chapel of Proud Margaret (‘Fiere Margriet’) also feature in the total experience M has in store for you. Amazing worlds will be brought to life as you discover the stories behind the church, its art treasures and the vibrant city they call home.

Dirk Bouts

Dirk or Dieric Bouts (c. 1410–1475) can be named in the same breath as Jan van Eyck and Rogier van der Weyden as one of the most important Flemish Primitives. Born in what is now the Netherlands, he settled in Leuven, married here in 1448 and remained in the city until his death. He painted two of his iconic masterpieces – 'The Last Supper' and 'The Martyrdom of St Erasmus' – in Leuven, where they can still be seen in their historical setting. His fame diminished in the centuries that followed, but the art-historical importance of The Last Supper is now so great that the work has become an absolute must-see for international art-lovers.

De tot museum ingerichte kooromgang van de Sint-Pieterskerk wordt omgedoopt tot ‘M-Schatkamer van Sint-Pieter’.
2009
2009

M-Treasury of St Peter’s

The ambulatory of St Peter’s Church, which has been converted into a museum, is renamed ‘M-Treasury of St Peter’s’ and forms part of M Museum Leuven.

More info
2009
© @leuvenbyair
1999
1999

UNESCO World Heritage

St Peter’s Church and the belfry are given UNESCO World Heritage status in recognition of their immense historical and cultural value.

More info
1999
Interior of St Peter's Church
1980
1980

St Peter's church becomes museum

The imposing ambulatory of St Peter’s Church is turned into a museum for religious art.

1980
1944
1944

Destruction during WW II

Just as the Second World War is approaching its end, fate strikes again and a large part of the building is bombed, causing the loss of many precious artworks.

1944
Ruïnes van de Oude Markt en de Grote Markt te Leuven in 1914
1914
1914

First World War

The First World War breaks out. The roof and a substantial part of the interior of St Peter’s Church are reduced to ashes.

More info
1914
Het interieur van de Sint-Pieterskerk te Leuven in 1667
1667 - Barok
1667

Baroque chapels are installed

Over the years, Baroque chapels are installed in St Peter’s Church.

More info
1667
Ontwerp kerk
16de eeuw
1500

Original design is changed

The West Front still has three (unfinished) towers at this point due to repeated collapses caused by soil instability. In the end, the original design has to be changed and the towers are left permanently unfinished. The dreamed-of central tower would have been 168 metres high, making St Peter’s the tallest of all Brabant’s cathedrals. The original plans have survived and are now in M Museum Leuven.

More info
1500
© Rudi Van Beek
Tweede kwart 15de eeuw
1425

Construction of the current Gothic church

The Romanesque building is gradually dismantled and construction of the current Gothic church begins. It will take over a century to complete the building. Little remains today of the late-medieval structure. Only the crypt (the former imperial mausoleum), which was discovered during archaeological excavations shortly after the Second World War, can still be visited by the public.

More info
1425
1381
1381

West Front is crowned

The original West Front is crowned with a wooden structure that will go up in flames a few decades later and subsequently be demolished.

1381
•	Grafmonument van Hendrik I, hertog van Brabant
986
986

St Peter’s Church is built

The original building is replaced by a Romanesque church in stone with six bays and a square choir. It functions as a symbol of both political and religious power. The West Tower of the church serves as the city belfry. From now on, the Dukes of Brabant will be buried in the church’s crypt, which can still be seen today. The tomb of Duke Henry I of Brabant is now located in the choir of the church. His remains are interred in the crypt.

More info
986
Vorige
Volgende
February 2019
2019

Restoration of the font

Restoration of the font dating from the 15th century and attributed to Quentin Massys the Elder. The original font cover disappeared during the French Revolutionary period. Josef Van Uytvanck designed the current cover in 1954, entirely in the Gothic style.

Mural in the choir chapel
Autumn 2018
2018

Restoration of the choir

The murals in the coir chapels are uncovered and restored

Oude muurschilderingen worden opnieuw blootgelegd.
Oude muurschilderingen worden opnieuw blootgelegd.
Reocation of The Last Supper by Dieric Bouts
July 2018
2018

Relocation of the masterpieces

The final stage begins in the restoration of the church’s interior. The M-Treasury at St Peter’s is closed to allow this work. Masterpieces by several Flemish Masters that were displayed in the choir, including The Last Supper by the Leuven painter Dirk Bouts, are moved temporarily to the nave of St Peter’s Church.

Topstukken zoals 'Het Laatste Avondmaal' van de Leuvense schilder Dieric Bouts, één van de belangrijkste Vlaamse Primitieven, krijgen tijdelijk een nieuwe plaats in de Sint-Pieterskerk.
Topstukken krijgen tijdelijk een nieuwe plaats.
De M-schatkamer blijft leeg achter.
De tot museum ingerichte kooromgang van de Sint-Pieterskerk wordt omgedoopt tot ‘M-Schatkamer van Sint-Pieter’.
2009
2009

M-Treasury of St Peter’s

The ambulatory of St Peter’s Church, which has been converted into a museum, is renamed ‘M-Treasury of St Peter’s’ and forms part of M Museum Leuven.

© Rudi Van Beek

'Het Laatste Avondmaal' van Dieric Bouts in de M-Schatkamer van Sint-Pieter
© Rudi Van Beek
© @leuvenbyair
1999
1999

UNESCO World Heritage

St Peter’s Church and the belfry are given UNESCO World Heritage status in recognition of their immense historical and cultural value.

© @leuvenbyair

Ruïnes van de Oude Markt en de Grote Markt te Leuven in 1914
1914
1914

First World War

The First World War breaks out. The roof and a substantial part of the interior of St Peter’s Church are reduced to ashes.

Ruïnes van de Oude Markt en de Grote Markt te Leuven
• Ruins of the Oude Markt and the Grote Markt in Leuven in 1914: G/159/G • Head of Christ from the ‘Crooked’ or ‘Brown Cross’: C/408-a
Hoofd van Christus van het Kromme of Bruine Kruis
Anonymous, Head of Christ from the ‘Crooked’ or ‘Brown Cross’, c. 1200 M Museum Leuven © www.lukasweb.be – Art in Flanders vzw, photograph: Dominique Provost
Leuven ligt in puin
© Universiteitsarchief, Leuven. Foto: Bruno Vermeulen
Het interieur van de Sint-Pieterskerk te Leuven in 1667
1667 - Barok
1667

Baroque chapels are installed

Over the years, Baroque chapels are installed in St Peter’s Church.

Wolfgang de Smet, Interior of St Peter’s Church in Leuven in 1667, 1667
M - Museum Leuven © www.lukasweb.be – Art in Flanders vzw. Photo: Dominique Provost

Ontwerp kerk
16de eeuw
1500

Original design is changed

The West Front still has three (unfinished) towers at this point due to repeated collapses caused by soil instability. In the end, the original design has to be changed and the towers are left permanently unfinished. The dreamed-of central tower would have been 168 metres high, making St Peter’s the tallest of all Brabant’s cathedrals. The original plans have survived and are now in M Museum Leuven.

The West Front still has three (unfinished) towers at this point due to repeated collapses caused by soil instability. In the end, the original design has to be changed and the towers are left permanently unfinished. The dreamed-of central tower would have been 168 metres high, making St Peter’s the tallest of all Brabant’s cathedrals. The original plans have survived and are now in M Museum Leuven.

Images:

  • Model of the West Towers of St Peter’s Church – Joost Massys: B/VI/247
  • The tower of St Peter’s Church in Leuven after the collapse in 1604: LP/454
  • West Front of St Peter’s Church in Leuven with three towers: LP/456
Ontwerp voor de westtorens van de Sint-Pieterskerk in Leuven
Joost Massys, Ontwerp voor de westtorens van de Sint-Pieterskerk in Leuven, ca. 1505 M - Museum Leuven © www.lukasweb.be - Art in Flanders vzw, foto Dominique Provost
Model of the West Towers of St Peter’s Church
Joost Massys, Model of the West Towers of St Peter’s Church, 1524 - 1530, M - Museum Leuven © www.lukasweb.be - Art in Flanders vzw, Photo Dominique Provost
Tower of the St Peter's Church, Louvain
Henri Otto/ Lodewijk Jozef Van Peteghem, Tower of the St Peter's Church, Louvain, c. 1855 -1860 (lithograph) M – Museum Leuven © M - Museum Leuven
West Front of St Peter’s Church in Leuven with Three Towers
Minnoye/Lodewijk Jozef Van Peteghem, West Front of St Peter’s Church in Leuven with Three Towers, second half 19th century (lithograph) M Museum Leuven © M Museum Leuven
© Rudi Van Beek
Tweede kwart 15de eeuw
1425

Construction of the current Gothic church

The Romanesque building is gradually dismantled and construction of the current Gothic church begins. It will take over a century to complete the building. Little remains today of the late-medieval structure. Only the crypt (the former imperial mausoleum), which was discovered during archaeological excavations shortly after the Second World War, can still be visited by the public.

Van het laatmiddeleeuwse romaanse gebouw blijft vandaag nog weinig over. Enkel de crypte (de vroegere keizerlijke grafkerk), die werd ontdekt tijdens archeologische opgravingen vlak na de Tweede Wereldoorlog, is vandaag nog door het publiek te bezoeken. 

•	Grafmonument van Hendrik I, hertog van Brabant
986
986

St Peter’s Church is built

The original building is replaced by a Romanesque church in stone with six bays and a square choir. It functions as a symbol of both political and religious power. The West Tower of the church serves as the city belfry. From now on, the Dukes of Brabant will be buried in the church’s crypt, which can still be seen today. The tomb of Duke Henry I of Brabant is now located in the choir of the church. His remains are interred in the crypt.

The face of Adelaide (Aleidys) of Burgundy (1233–1273), Duchess of Brabant.
Anonymous, Head of Adelaide of Burgundy (1233–1273), Duchess of Brabant, final quarter 13th century M - Museum Leuven © www.lukasweb.be – Art in Flanders vzw, photograph: Dominique Provost

 Ze fungeerde als een symbool voor zowel politieke als religieuze macht. De westelijke toren van de kerk deed dienst als stadsbelfort. De crypte – die vandaag nog steeds te zien is in de kerk – zal vanaf dan dienen als grafruimte voor de hertogen van Brabant. Het grafmonument van Hertog Hendrik I van Brabant staat vandaag in het koor van de kerk. Zijn beenderen werden ingemetseld in de crypte.

Lodewijk Jozef Van Peteghem, Graf van Hendrik I, hertog van Brabant, in de Leuvense Sint-Pieterskerk, 19de eeuw © M - Museum Leuven

Who was Bouts?

Dieric Bouts (c. 1410–1475) can be named in the same breath as Jan van Eyck and Rogier van der Weyden as one of the most important Flemish Primitives. Born in what is now the Netherlands, he settled in Leuven, married here in 1448 and remained until his death. He painted two of his iconic masterpieces – 'The Last Supper' and 'The Martyrdom of St Erasmus' – in Leuven, where they can still be seen in their historical setting.

Over the centuries, other masterpieces by Bouts have found their way into major museums all over the world. Although his fame was not so widespread throughout that period, the art-historical importance of 'The Last Supper' has since grown, until the work has become an absolute must-see for international art-lovers.

The painitngs by Bouts dissolve the boundaries between heaven and earth

The religious scenes that Bouts presents in a realistic earthly setting dissolve the boundaries between heaven and earth. This might well make him the outstanding example of an artist working within the 15th-century tradition to seek a new interpretation of what it is to be human. Bouts explores the possibilities of realism and of representing the real world, so that the viewer is better able to empathize with the message the image is intended to convey.

Bouts was the official city painter during a period of immense urban renewal. It is precisely this that makes him essential to the development of Renaissance art in the humanist centre that Leuven was at the time.