Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Belgium - Leuven

Town Hall (1448)

Sent by Marie-Paule, a postcrosser from Belgium.

This is from Wikipedia : Leuven (Dutch, pronounced [ˈløːvə(n)]); French: Louvain, pronounced [luvɛ̃], often used in English, German: Löwen) is the capital of the province of Flemish Brabant in the Flemish Region, Belgium. It is located about 30 kilometers east of Brussels, with as other neighbouring cities Mechelen, Aarschot, Tienen, and Wavre.

The township comprises the historical city of Leuven and the former municipalities of Heverlee, Kessel-Lo, a part of Korbeek-Lo, Wilsele and Wijgmaal.

It is home to Anheuser-Busch InBev, the world's largest brewer group and one of the top five largest consumer goods companies in the world; and to the Katholieke Universiteit Leuven, the largest and oldest university of the Low Countries and the oldest Catholic university still in existence.

The earliest mention of Leuven ("Loven") is from 891 when a Viking army was defeated by the Frankish king Arnulf of Carinthia (see: Battle of Leuven). According to the city legend, its red-white-red colours depict the blood-stained shores of the river Dijle after this battle.

Situated at this river and nearby the stronghold of the Dukes of Brabant, Leuven became the most important centre of trade in the duchy between the 11th and the 14th century. A token of its former importance as a centre of cloth manufacture, is nicely reflected in the typical Leuven linen cloth, known in late 14-15th century texts as lewyn (other spellings: Leuwyn, Levyne, Lewan(e), Lovanium, Louvain).

In the 15th century a new golden era began with the founding of the by now largest and oldest university in the Low Countries, the Catholic University of Leuven, in 1425.

In the 18th century Leuven became even more important as a result of the flourishing of the brewery now named AB InBev, and whose flagship beer, Stella Artois, is brewed in Leuven.

In the 20th century, both world wars inflicted major damage to the city. Upon German entry in World War I, the town was heavily damaged due to German Schrecklichkeit policy. The Germans shot the burgomaster, university rector and all the city's police officers. The university library was deliberately destroyed by the German army on August 25, 1914, using petrol and incendiary pastilles. Hundreds of thousands of irreplaceable volumes and Gothic and Renaissance manuscripts were lost. The world was outraged over this and the library was completely rebuilt after World War I with American charity funds and German war indemnities. After World War II, the burnt down building had to be restored again. It still stands as a symbol of the wars and of Allied solidarity.

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