Leuven City Hall

Leuven City Hall
Leuven City Hall

When we think of some of the most characteristic examples of Gothic architecture, we traditionally tend to associate this concept with the great French cathedrals that arose in the vicinity of the pilgrimage routes, and without a doubt these are one of the most representative examples of Gothic architecture but they are not the only ones. Gothic was a very popular style whose survival lasted a long time, sometimes taking root with the Renaissance aesthetic and giving rise to a Gothic style with overloaded decoration and much more compact architectural elements such as flamboyant Gothic.

640px-Leuven, _stadhuis

In addition, religious buildings were not the only architectures that followed this style since during the Gothic an important civil architecture was developed, influenced by the growing importance of cities. In them markets and town halls were built as a way to demonstrate the power and influence of the city, it is precisely in this context where we can locate the work that concerns us today, the Leuven Town Hall.

The city of Leuven, and in general the entire area of ​​the Netherlands, experienced a period of great splendor between the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries and as a sign of that power it was decided to build a large town hall in the city, in the vicinity of what will now be the Cathedral of Leuven and the old church of San Pedro. It is a fantastica late Gothic building, the Brabantine Gothic of the area, which was built between 1448 and 1469; In it, the influences of another nearby City Hall can be seen, that of Brussels, but finally its style was slightly unmarked from that of its predecessor by being configured as a reliquary architecture. Following the influences of the goldsmith of the time, the building rises as if it were a precious reliquary made of stone.

A building with three superimposed floors, with a rectangular floor plan and three symmetrical towers crowning the short sides of the rectangle. Topping off the building, a roof structured on four levels with attics crowns the building. Different architects were involved in its construction: on the one hand Sulpicio Van Vorst who was in charge of starting the project, then Jan Keldermans II or Matheus de Layens.

But perhaps the most outstanding feature of the construction is the extremely extensive decoration of its exterior, three of its four faces appear completely decorated with corbels that house important figures for the city of Leuven. Thus, on the first floor we find sculptures of illustrious characters such as writers or artists born in Leuven, on the second floor the sculptures are of the saints and patrons of the city and on the third floor we find representations of dukes or political figures.

The truth is that this huge number of sculptures –about two hundred and thirty-six- were not designed in the 15th century but were incorporated later and after the First and Second World WarsWorld Cup, the building had to undergo major restoration as it was severely damaged by bombing. Despite everything, today it has become one of the most representative civil Gothic architectures.

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