Saint Michael's Church in Leuven, Belgium.

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A Visit to Leuven : Saint Michael's Church


Facade of Saint Michael's Church in the Naamse straat, Leuven

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Facade of Saint Michael's Church in the Naamse straat, Leuven.

Saint Michael's Church is located in the Naamse straat, a few hundred meters from the city center. The church was built between 1650 and 1671 for the Jesuit College of Leuven by Jesuit architect Willem Hesius.

Initially it was built as a house of prayer for the Jesuit monastery. The Jesuit community was founded in Paris in 1540 by Ignatius de Loyola. Following the Franco-Spanish war the Spanish members of the community were ordered to leave France, and in 1542 seven Spanish Jesuits came to Leuven.

When visiting Saint Michael's Church you will often notice Spanish visitors, so I reckon the church is well known and 'promoted' by Spanish travel guides.

Confessionals and calvary stations at Saint Michael's Church, Leuven
Confessionals and calvary stations at Saint Michael's Church, Leuven.

Initially the Jesuits in Leuven lived at various locations in town. Later they built a College (1620-1622), followed by the construction of the church, now known as Saint Michael's Church (1650-1666). The church was built in what is now referred to as 'Jesuit style', inspiration being drawn from the 'Il Jesu' Baroque Church in Rome. A planned dome was never completed.

The facade of the church with its rich decorations is one of the so-called seven wonders of Leuven. The Jesuit order was abolished in 1773. When the local parish church of Saint Michael was in disrepair, the parish church of Saint Michael was transferred to the Jesuit-built church. A copper holy-water font of 1473 near the entrance, was transferred from the old church of Saint-Michael. The porch altars, communion rail and confessionals date back to the original 17th century original baroque furnishings.

Architectural Style

The church is built in white sandstone and ironstone. The frontal facade, with its Ionic pillars and pilasters, friezes decorated with angels, bunches of grapes, ears of corn, etc., has the appearance of an altar. The facade is known as "the altar outside the church'.

Saint Michael's Church is a triple-nave church with Ionic columns, Corinthian pilasters and cross-ribbed arching. lnside the porch is a nerthex.
The church was almost completely destroyed during bombardment of the city on the night of
10-11 May 1944. Luckily the frontal facade remained undamaged. Rebuilding of the church was completed in 1950.

Confessional boxes

Detail of decorations at confessional boxes, Saint Michael's Church, Leuven
Detail of decorations at confessional boxes, Saint Michael's Church, Leuven..

Along each side nave is a collection of confessional boxes (17th century, Brabant baroque) linked together to form a whole. They are decorated with carvings of angels, statues and depictions of scenes relating to the Eucharist and the confession.


The original pulpit was transferred in 1776 on the order of Empress Maria—Theresia to the cathedral in the city of Brussels (where it can still be found today). The pulpit from Brussels was brought to Leuven. It was made for the Brussels cathedral by Simon Duray in 1667. On transfer to Leuven, the original images of St. Goedele, St. Michiel and the four evangelists were removed.

In the church there are many wooden statues of Christ, Our Lady with child and various saints.
The paintings of the calvary stations date from the early and mid 19th century, by different Flemish painters.
Several valuable works of art, both statues and paintings, have been given to the Municipal Museum of Leuven for safe keeping.

Top of frontal facade of Saint Michael's Church
Top of frontal facade of Saint Michael's Church.

Source : Abbreviated from leaflets provided in the church (in various languages).


Information about Leuven :


Oude Markt (Old Market Square)

University Central Library

Park Abbey, Heverlee

Saint Peter's Church

Saint Michael's Church

New : Saint Gertrude's Abbey ; Saint Quentin's Church ; Saint Anthony's Chapel (Father Damien Crypt) ; Saint James' Church

University Buildings in Leuven

Grand Beguinage of Leuven

Outside Leuven :

Basilica of Our Lady of Scherpenheuvel

Royal Museum for Central Africa in Tervuren



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