Along Naamsestraat, Leuven
To the right of the town hall is Naamsestraat where many university buildings are to be found either in this street or nearby, in particular the college buildings funded by various patrons in the 15th-18th C. to accommodate students and institutes.
Along Naamsestraat Map
Typical Visit: 1 hour 30 minutes
On Naamsestraat are the main buildings of the Catholic University, formerly the Lakenhalle (Cloth Hall) built in 1317-1345, which became the seat of the university following the decline of the cloth industry. An upper story was added in the 18th C. and it housed the university library until it was set on fire by the German occupying forces in 1914 destroying the most valuable books. Today it serves as the administrative center of the university. Items from the university's art collection are exhibited in the Jubilee Hall.
Not far to the west of Naamsestraat is the Oude Markt, the bustling center of Leuven, especially on summer evenings. Although its historic brick gabled houses were almost completely burnt down in 1914, they have been beautifully rebuilt and now accommodate many pubs and restaurants. A bronze sculpture commemorates the "Kottmadams" of Leuven, the landladies of the student rooms. On the narrow south side of the square is the Collegium Vauxianum (Heilig Drievuldigheidscollege; Holy Trinity College) with a Baroque facade of 1657.
Where Naamsestraat widens, diagonally opposite the Heilig Geest College (founded 1442, 18th C. building), stands Sint-Michielskerk, built 1650-1666 by Willem Hesius. It has a splendid Baroque facade, one of the finest of its kind in Belgium. The lane in front of the church off to the left leads to Hogescholplein with the Pauscollege (Papal College), founded by Pope Adrian IV in 1523 and rebuilt in the 18th C.
Beyond Sint-Michielskerk more colleges line both sides of Naamsestraat, many of which were built in the 18th C.: Koningcolleg (King's College, No. 59) founded by Philipp II of Spain in 1579; the College van Promonstreit (Premonstratensian College, No. 61), founded in 1571; Arras College (No. 63) founded in 1508 by the future Bishop of Arras; the Huis Van 't Sestich (No. 69, Gothic) with the adjacent College van de Hoge Heuvel; the College van Dale (No. 80), founded in 1579 and the oldest, since wonderfully restored, Renaissance building in Leuven; finally the American College (No. 100), founded in 1659 for Cistercians and occupied by American students since 1857.
From Naamsestraat head west through the Karmelietenberg and left into Schapenstraat to the picturesque Groot Begijnhof. This romantic complex, traversed by a tributary of the Dijle, was founded in the 13th C. and today comprises over 1,000 houses and a church; earlier it encompassed a hospital and a farmhouse. In the 18th C., when 300 béguines were still living in the béguinage, the houses were renovated with stepped gables, mullions and transoms, but the French Revolution brought a temporary halt. Only a few béguines returned afterwards. In 1962 the site was bought by the university and underwent extensive restoration to create student residences and lecture halls. Only the second cottage on the right past the entrance is still furnished as it was when the last béguine died in 1988. The early Gothic béguinage church Sint-Jan-de-Doper, built in the 13/14th C., serves the university community as a place of worship.
At the end of Naamsestraat is Sint-Kwintenkerk, its towers begun around 1200 and only completed in the 16th C. The choir - possibly by de Layens - and transept were added in the 15th C. The interior houses some notable paintings of the Rubens School.