Issue two | Treasures of St Peter’s Church

Treasures of St Peter’s Church:

The lost towers

Issue two of M
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In St Peter’s Church in Leuven, you can view many unique and precious objects – some more famous than others. We take a closer look at one such object in every issue of M, starting with a very special 16th-century model.

If the plans had gone ahead, St Peter’s Church would now have a church tower of over 150 metres high – the highest in the Low Countries. Moreover, it was to be flanked by two side towers measuring some 130 metres each. That’s still more than the 123 metres of Belgium’s current number one, the Antwerp tower of Our Lady.

MASTER OF THE TOWER WORKS

MASTER OF THE TOWER WORKS

M Leuven holds a design drawing of the towers. It was made around 1505 by Joost Massys, the master of the tower works. Twenty years later, in 1524, he was commissioned to make a natural stone model of his design. It only shows the upper half of the central tower and the northern side tower – the identical southern tower is not included. Yet the model gives an overwhelming impression of what the whole thing could have looked like.

TEAR IT DOWN AGAIN?

TEAR IT DOWN AGAIN?

Could have looked like – because the immense towers never came. Construction was stopped in 1541. At that time, the south tower was already about 50 meters high. However, the swampy ground proved unable to withstand the enormous weight, and the ambitious project also weighed too heavily on the city’s coffers. After 1570, the tower began to subside, and the upper part was reduced to its current height. The rest of the towers were also partially demolished. If you stand in front of the church, you can see this clearly.

BOMBARDMENT

BOMBARDMENT

The model in St Peter’s Church is a masterpiece reminiscent of one of the great unfinished building projects of the late Gothic period. Moreover, it is made of natural stone – not wood, as was customary. That makes it unique.

The model did not stand the test of time unscathed: in the Second World War it was damaged by bombing, and in the years that followed, visitors’ grabbing hands broke off pieces of stone on several occasions. Recently, however, the model has been thoroughly cleaned and preserved. Now it can once again be admired in all its glory in St Peter’s Church.

Discover the art treasures of St Peter’s Church in the permanent exhibition ‘Between Heaven and Earth – Experience Bouts’s Last Supper’.

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The new family route in St Peter’s Church:

Art with the kids

Focus room:

The Seven Sacraments

Museum fund:

M-LIFE