Zoutleeuw Tourist Attractions
The present township of Zoutleeuw (French Léau), between Tienen and Sint-Truiden in the extreme east of Brabant, came into being in the 11th C. under the name of Leeuw. It was linked by the little river Kleine Nete with Antwerp and in the 12th C. developed into an important trade center and one of the principal towns of Brabant. At the same time Leeuw was of great importance for the dukes of Brabant as a frontier fortress, so that in the 12th and 13th C. (and later also in the 17th C.) it was provided with extensive fortifications. Finally Leeuw attracted notable artists as it was a cultural and religious center with no fewer than eight monastic houses of various orders who left impressive testimony of their skill in St Leonard's Church (Sint-Leonarduskerk). French troops conquered the town in 1678 and destroyed the fortifications.
St Leonard's Church
St Leonard's Church in Zoutleeuw owes its national importance to the fact that it was one of the very few churches in Belgium which was spared both by the iconoclasts of the religious struggles in the 16th C. and by the French revolutionary troops. For this reason it enables the visitor to realize how richly the churches of the Spanish Netherlands must have been furnished before the mid-16th C.The building began around 1230 with the west facade which is flanked by two asymmetrical towers; shortly afterwards the choir and the north transept followed, and in the 14th C. the south transept and the nave. The sacristy was added in the 15th C. to plans by Mattheus de Layens; the building was completed with the side chapels and the belfry above the crossing (today a reconstruction of 1926).The tower is a UNESCO site.
On the south side of the pretty market place stands the little Renaissance town hall with a stepped gable, a side tower and a balustrade on which the arms of Charles V, Brabant and Leeuw can be seen. The building was erected between 1530 and 1539 to the design of Rombout Keldermans.
Immediately adjoining the town hall is the former Lakenhalle (cloth hall), a fine building of brick and natural stone of 1314.
Of the houses surrounding the market place the Spiegelhuis (1571) is worth mentioning. This house is constructed of brick and white stone. A curiosity is the gable formed from four ionic pillars.