Leuven Monuments and Statues, Leuven

Leuven Monuments and Statues (Self Guided), Leuven

Leuven, Belgium is a city steeped in history and culture, embellished with an assortment of monuments and statues that mirror its abundant heritage. Ranging from age-old landmarks to contemporary sculptures, each of them narrates a tale and contributes to the city's distinct allure. Whether paying tribute to historical luminaries, commemorating artistic triumphs, or simply enhancing the city's aesthetic appeal, these monuments and statues are enduring emblems of Leuven's identity and serve as focal points for residents and tourists alike.

Among these is the Friendship Balloon, symbolizing unity and camaraderie among people. The Martyrs' Monument stands as a solemn tribute to those who sacrificed their lives during war times.

Justus Lipsius, a renowned scholar, is honored with a statue commemorating his contributions to academia.

Dorre the Baker represents the city's culinary traditions and remains an enduring symbol of Leuven's cultural heritage, exemplifying the city's resilience and commitment to preserving its cherished landmarks.

The Fonske Statue, a beloved figure among students, celebrates the joy of learning and intellectual pursuit, while Paep Thoon Statue pays homage to the city's folklore, adding a touch of whimsy to the streets.

The Landlady Statue (De Kotmadam), a beloved landmark in Leuven's Old Market unveiled in 1985, charmingly portrays the traditional role of the Flemish landlady in student life.

The legend of Proud Margaret (Fiere Margriet), whose refusal to yield her virtue to robbers is immortalized in Leuven's folklore, is now also depicted in a bronze sculpture as a symbol of strength and resilience.

Pieter De Somer's Statue commemorates a prominent figure in the field of medicine, honoring his contributions to healthcare and education. Lastly, the Kangxi-Verbiest Star Globe showcases the city's connection to astronomy and scientific exploration.

Each of these monuments and statues contributes to the rich tapestry of Leuven's history and culture, inviting visitors to explore and discover its stories. As you wander through the streets of the city, take a moment to admire these sights, each with its own unique tale to tell.
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Leuven Monuments and Statues Map

Guide Name: Leuven Monuments and Statues
Guide Location: Belgium » Leuven (See other walking tours in Leuven)
Guide Type: Self-guided Walking Tour (Sightseeing)
# of Attractions: 10
Tour Duration: 2 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 2.4 Km or 1.5 Miles
Author: karenl
Sight(s) Featured in This Guide:
  • Friendship Balloon
  • Martelarenmonument (Martyrs' Monument)
  • Justus Lipsius Statue
  • Dorre, de Bakker (Dorre, the Venerable Baker)
  • Fonske Statue
  • Paep Thoon Statue
  • De Kotmadam (Landlady Statue)
  • Fiere Margriet (Proud Margaret Statue)
  • Pieter De Somer Statue
  • De Kangxi-Verbiest Hemelglobe (Kangxi-Verbiest Star Globe)
Friendship Balloon

1) Friendship Balloon

The Friendship Balloon statue stands as a striking symbol of camaraderie and companionship. Sculpted by Danny Tulkens, this monumental artwork was generously offered by a group of individuals known as the "Men of the Year." Situated prominently in front of the bus station at Martelarenplein, it commands attention with its unique design and profound message.

Despite its appearance resembling a hot air balloon with a wicker basket carrying passengers, the Friendship Balloon does not commemorate the launching of a balloon from Leuven. Instead, it is intricately linked to a local tradition dating back to 1890: the creation of age sets of male citizens turning forty, who engage in shared activities and ceremonies until reaching fifty. This tradition, recognized on the UNESCO List of Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity, underscores the importance of community and fellowship.

Originally installed in 1988 near the University Library, the monument was relocated to its current location during the square's refurbishment in 2019. The Friendship Balloon serves as a reminder that amidst the challenges of everyday life, the support of friends can provide solace and strength. While its aesthetic has evolved with the addition of a rust-colored pedestal, the essence of the Friendship Balloon endures as a cherished landmark in Leuven, offering a beacon of hope and unity in times of adversity.
Martelarenmonument (Martyrs' Monument)

2) Martelarenmonument (Martyrs' Monument)

The Martyrs' Monument stands as a solemn tribute to the tragic events that unfolded during World War I. In August 1914, the German army wrought destruction upon a significant portion of the old city center, including landmarks like the university library and the roof of Saint Peter's Church. Additionally, they carried out executions of numerous Flemish civilians. To honor the memory of those who perished in this massacre and all those who lost their lives during the war, the Peace Monument was erected in 1925.

Perched atop a column, the Martyrs' Monument serves as a poignant reminder of the sacrifices made during wartime. Restored in 2004 following the renovation of the entire square, it stands as a symbol of resilience and remembrance. At night, the monument takes on a solemn yet striking appearance, with red little windows adorning its peak, illuminated to evoke the fire that ravaged the city center.
Justus Lipsius Statue

3) Justus Lipsius Statue

The Justus Lipsius Statue stands as a striking homage to the renowned Flemish humanist, classical scholar, and moral theorist, Justus Lipsius (1547 – 1606). The statue commands attention with its imposing presence, making it an unmissable landmark for those journeying from Leuven's railway station towards the city center. Lipsius, who served as a professor of history and Latin at Leuven University, spent much of his life in Leuven and ultimately passed away there.

Crafted by sculptor Jules Jourdain (1873-1957), the bronze statue portrays Justus Lipsius as an elderly figure, adorned with a full beard and depicted in a contemplative stance. With an open book held firmly in hand, Lipsius gazes directly at the viewer, conveying a sense of solemnity and introspection. While the accuracy of Lipsius' attire depicted in the statue is uncertain, the sculpture exudes a timeless aura befitting its subject's intellectual legacy.

Perched upon a lofty neo-classical blue stone plinth, the statue bears a Latin inscription commemorating Lipsius' esteemed role as a professor at the University of Leuven. Erected in 1909 on the occasion of the 75th anniversary of the reestablishment of the university under Leopold II, King of the Belgians, the monument serves as a lasting testament to Lipsius' enduring influence and scholarly contributions.
Dorre, de Bakker (Dorre, the Venerable Baker)

4) Dorre, de Bakker (Dorre, the Venerable Baker)

Dorre, the venerable baker, stands as an enduring symbol of Leuven's rich cultural tapestry. Crafted from enduring bronze, this masterpiece of artistry was skillfully brought to life by the talented sculptor Roland Rens. It was a gesture of immense generosity that saw this cherished statue gifted to the city of Leuven by the esteemed Leuven Association of Bread and Pastry Bakers. The solemn inauguration of this remarkable monument, a tribute to the artisanal spirit of bakers, graced the cityscape on a memorable June 11th in the year 1979.

Like the narratives of many cherished landmarks, Dorre's journey through the annals of time has not been without its share of trials and tribulations. In August 2011, an unfortunate collision with a truck cast a shadow over the statue's existence, prompting an ardent effort to restore it to its former glory. The indomitable spirit of Dorre prevailed, and by June 2012, it once again found its rightful place atop its majestic pedestal, standing tall and proud as a testament to resilience.

However, fate's capricious hand had more challenges in store for this enduring symbol. In July 2022, a mishap occurred when an unwitting tourist leaned against the statue, causing it to topple from its perch. Undeterred, the city rallied to mend its beloved icon, determined to preserve its historical significance.

Yet, as if testing the city's unwavering commitment, adversity struck once more in October 2022, when a vehicular collision marred the base of the statue. Despite these setbacks, the people of Leuven have shown an unwavering dedication to the restoration and preservation of Dorre, ensuring that this emblematic baker continues to grace the city's streets with its presence, embodying the resilience and endurance of a community deeply rooted in tradition and culture.
Fonske Statue

5) Fonske Statue

Fonske, a whimsical statue nestled in the heart of Leuven, embodies the city's vibrant student culture and intellectual spirit. Known affectionately as "Fons Sapientiae," meaning "Source of Wisdom," this beloved resident of Leuven has captured the hearts of locals and visitors alike. The statue depicts a man with a book in hand, pouring water over his head in a seemingly carefree manner.

The symbolism behind Fonske is rich and multifaceted. The flowing water is said to represent the flow of knowledge into the man's mind, symbolizing the pursuit of wisdom and enlightenment. Adorning the book he holds is an intricate mathematical formula, which, when solved, forms the Dutch word for "happiness." While some interpret this symbolism earnestly, others take a more lighthearted approach, imagining the pouring water as a symbol of the city's renowned beer culture.

Since its installation in 1975 to commemorate the 550th anniversary of the University of Leuven (KU Leuven), Fonske has become an iconic symbol of the city, often compared to Brussels' famous Manneken Pis statue. Like its counterpart, Fonske is frequently adorned with costumes and accessories, reflecting the playful and creative spirit of the city's residents. As a testament to Leuven's dynamic and lively atmosphere, Fonske continues to delight and entertain, sparking friendly rivalries with other iconic statues while symbolizing the enduring connection between knowledge, community, and joy in the city.
Paep Thoon Statue

6) Paep Thoon Statue

The Paep Thoon Statue commemorates the legendary city jester, known for his witty jests and playful antics that left a lasting impression on the town's folklore. Born Anthoon vander Phalizen, Paep Thoon earned his moniker from his father's profession as a pastor and became famous for his humorous pranks, despite initially working as an organist and carillonneur. Banished from Leuven due to his mischievous behavior, Paep Thoon returned in a memorable fashion, riding into town with mud-covered feet from Liège, cleverly circumventing his exile.

Erected in 1961 on a bridge in the Brusselsestraat, the statue captures Paep Thoon's whimsical spirit, depicting him in the garb of a traditional jester with a mischievous grin, as he is fondly remembered for his playful antics and witty jests that endeared him to the townsfolk.

While tales of Paep Thoon's escapades abound, one intriguing legend surrounds his burial request, where he purportedly wished to be interred standing in the church, with his mouth positioned under a gargoyle to satisfy his eternal thirst. Although this request remains unconfirmed, it adds to the mystique surrounding the enigmatic figure of Paep Thoon, whose legacy continues to captivate the imagination of Leuven's residents and visitors alike.
De Kotmadam (Landlady Statue)

7) De Kotmadam (Landlady Statue)

This statue, situated in the heart of Old Market, is a whimsical depiction of the traditional landlady, affectionately known as the "kotmadam" in Flemish slang. Crafted by Alfred Bellefroid and unveiled on May 16, 1985, this charming statue pays homage to the role of the landlady in student life. In Flemish culture, a "kot" refers to a student room, and the kotmadam is the caretaker of the building, responsible for preparing meals, tidying rooms, and providing assistance to students.

Originally conceived as a gift from the Tourism Office of Leuven to the city, the idea for the statue was inspired by the Marktrock committee. The inauguration ceremony, held two decades ago, was graced by Maria Swerts, the then-oldest kotmadam in Leuven and the godmother of the statue. Despite initial reservations about its portrayal, the De Kotmadam Statue quickly endeared itself to locals and visitors alike.

While the statue deviates from the traditional image of an elderly, matronly landlady, its youthful and attractive depiction adds a playful twist to the narrative. Over the years, the Landlady Statue has become a beloved landmark in Leuven, attracting countless visitors who delight in posing for photos with the whimsical figure. Its presence on Old Market adds to the vibrant atmosphere of the area, serving as a lighthearted symbol of the city's rich cultural heritage and enduring spirit of hospitality.
Fiere Margriet (Proud Margaret Statue)

8) Fiere Margriet (Proud Margaret Statue)

Proud Margaret is a prominent figure in the folklore of Leuven, closely associated with one of the city's Seven Wonders – 'The Water that Flows Upstream'. The earliest written account of her legend appears in the 'Dialogus Miraculorum' (1219-1223), a compilation of miracles by the German Cistercian monk Caesarius of Heisterbach. According to the tale, Margaretha, born in 1207 to a poor family, worked at an inn owned by a man named Amandus.

The legend unfolds tragically when, on the eve of Amandus and his wife's departure to lead a contemplative life, robbers disguised as travelers arrive at the inn. After exhausting the wine supply, Amandus sends Margaretha to fetch more. Upon her return, she discovers the gruesome murder of Amandus and his wife. In a harrowing turn of events, the robbers pursue Margaretha, eventually catching her near the River Dijle. Refusing to yield her virtue, Margaretha meets a tragic end at the hands of the assailants.

Miraculously, Margaretha's body is discovered by fishermen days later, still clutching the ear of her pitcher. Her grave becomes a site of pilgrimage, with tales of lights emanating from her burial place and miracles occurring nearby. Her remains are later interred in a wooden chapel in the cemetery of Sint-Pieterskerk in Leuven.

In 2013, artist Willy Meysmans immortalized Fiere Margriet in a bronze sculpture, depicting her as a floating naked woman. The statue was relocated from Tiensestraat to the green bank of the Dijle, known as the Dijleterrassen. During periods of high water levels, the sculpture appears to float on the river, captivating onlookers with its poignant portrayal of the legendary figure. While the statue's placement effectively brings the legend to life, it has led some to mistakenly believe it marks the exact spot where Margaretha's body was found, further enshrining her tale in the lore of Leuven.
Pieter De Somer Statue

9) Pieter De Somer Statue

The Pieter De Somer Statue stands as a tribute to the esteemed biologist and physician Pieter De Somer (1917-1985), erected in 1989 by artist Vic Gentils. De Somer's legacy is deeply intertwined with the history of the University of Leuven, making him a fitting subject for commemoration.

Crafted from bronze, the modern sculpture presents an abstract and contemporary interpretation of De Somer's likeness. Composed of bronze pieces assembled in a distinctive manner, the statue exudes a sense of innovation and progressiveness, mirroring De Somer's pioneering spirit.

Notably, Pieter De Somer holds the distinction of being the first lay rector of the University of Leuven and was instrumental in the establishment of the Dutch-language university following the split in 1968. His leadership and vision left an indelible mark on university policy and administration, making him a revered figure in academia.

The inauguration of the statue coincided with the opening of the grand auditorium named after De Somer. Situated on the forecourt of the Charles Deberiotstraat aula, the Pieter De Somer Statue serves as a tangible reminder of his contributions to education, research, and the advancement of knowledge, inspiring future generations to follow in his footsteps of excellence and innovation.
De Kangxi-Verbiest Hemelglobe (Kangxi-Verbiest Star Globe)

10) De Kangxi-Verbiest Hemelglobe (Kangxi-Verbiest Star Globe)

In the peaceful courtyard of the Catholic University of Leuven, stands an intriguing relic – the Kangxi-Verbiest Star Globe, a faithful replica of a 17th-century celestial map once revered in the Chinese imperial court.

During the 17th century, China witnessed a thriving culture of astronomy, where celestial knowledge held both scientific allure and immense political power. The emperor's authority was tied to precise astronomical predictions, especially concerning eclipses. An error in these forecasts could challenge the emperor's legitimacy, leading to substantial investments in astronomy, including the state-of-the-art Beijing Observatory.

The arrival of Ferdinand Verbiest, a Flemish Jesuit missionary, transformed this celestial landscape. While his Christian mission found limited success, his expertise in European astronomy gained wide acceptance. Verbiest's identification of inaccuracies in the Chinese calendar, confirmed by imperial observatory instruments, earned him the prestigious position of Director of the Beijing Imperial Observatory in 1669. Among his many innovations, he created a remarkable celestial globe.

Verbiest's enduring connection with China culminated in a state funeral upon his death in 1688, fostering a lasting bond between Leuven and China. The replica globe, a gift from the Chinese government three centuries later, showcases 1,888 stars and heavenly bodies, reflecting the zenith of celestial knowledge from that era.

This celestial relic captivates amateur astronomers, tourists, and Chinese students alike. It also witnessed history when inaugurated on June 2, 1989, just before the Tian'anmen Square tragedy, becoming an unwitting backdrop for student protests.

Walking Tours in Leuven, Belgium

Create Your Own Walk in Leuven

Create Your Own Walk in Leuven

Creating your own self-guided walk in Leuven is easy and fun. Choose the city attractions that you want to see and a walk route map will be created just for you. You can even set your hotel as the start point of the walk.
Leuven Introduction Walking Tour

Leuven Introduction Walking Tour

Nestled in the heart of Belgium, the picturesque town of Leuven has no shortage of historic and cultural attractions. Its name is thought to originate from the Old Germanic word "Loven," meaning “to love or praise”, an explanation of which may be found in the Leuven slogan, “Always praise God.”

Leuven's roots date back to 891 when it was first mentioned after a Viking...  view more

Tour Duration: 1 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 1.6 Km or 1 Miles