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Leuven and 'De blauwe schuit'

The fertile area surrounding Leuven has always been a magnet for people. Excavations have shown that around 130,000 BC there were already people living on the banks of the Dijle. Remains of Roman villas tell us the victory of Julius Caesar in 58 BC against the Eburones.

The name of Leuven, or rather Lovanium dates back to 884. It means ‘swift water’ and refers to a small stream south of the current city center.

It would, however, take another 200 years before Leuven would be a place to recon. This is largely the merit of a certain ‘Lambert with the beard’ who came to settle here. It would be his descendants that make Leuven the capital of the Duchy Brabant.

Around 1160, the old feudal fortress that protected the city made room for a stone boundary wall. Because of the increasing population and the growth of international trade in the 13th century it was soon accompanied by a second wall. Trade flourished because of the convenient location of the town on the banks of the Dijle, on the country road between Bruges and Cologne, a route that would play a significant role by the transit traffic from the port of Ostend to Germany.

Here the story of ‘De blauwe schuit’ unfolds.

For it was in 1236 that the Augustinians received a relatively large area of ??the magistrate and Duchess Adelaide of Leuven. To be more precise: the domain between Vaartstraat and Dijle, where the fish market is situated right now. The Augustinian order used this land in 1284 to build a large monastery and convent with all the necessary facilities.

The monastery was the heart of cultural life in Leuven and the Augustinians kept good terms with the Alma Mater of Leuven. For it was in the refectory of the monastery that Jan IV founded the University of Leuven in 1425, which still gives Leuven her international fame. In 1147 prior January Godthebsdeel fused the monastery with the university. The monastery would be primarily used as a meeting place for the administration but also as a place where canon law was taught as part of the four faculties: canon law, civil law, arts (now Faculties of Sciences and Arts) and medicine.

Only the kitchen and the refectory survived the French Revolution, everything else was closed and demolished in 1796. The domain became, during the French reign in 1798, property of Benoit Marcelis, a boatman who has played an significant role in the history of the city’s port.

On the remains of the monastery kitchen and refectory Ernest Masoin-Peyrot, a university professor of medicine, build a mansion with service buildings. To date, the original architecture is still intact. ‘De blauwe schuit’ is the only place in Leuven, where you could still find authentic remains of the Augustinian Order and its monastry.

Author: K. Renotte – Sources: Mededelingen van de Geschied- en Oudheidkundige Kring voor Leuven en omgeving (Lefever H.) – Stadsarchief Leuven, Modern Archief, doss. 32368 – Zetel van het Augustijns Historisch Instituut (AHI) – Sanderus A. Chorographia Sacra Brabantiae . . . Brussel, 1659 – Koen Van Hoof