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Basilica of Our Lady of Scherpenheuvel


Basilica of Our Lady of Scherpenheuvel

See larger pictures of the Basilica of Our Lady



Basilica of Our Lady of Scherpenheuvel.

Scherpenheuvel, some 25 kilometers northeast of Leuven, has been a pilgrimage site for centuries.
People visiting a statue of the Virgin Mary, have been reported dating back to 1304. Over the years many legends and miraculous events have been chronicled.

The original statue of Holy Mary disappeared in 1587, and was replaced by a similar one (or the original one, that was recovered?, the exact events are still obscure). In 1602, a wooden chapel was built. In the early 17th century Archduke Albrecht and Archduchess Isabella governed Flanders, and they travelled regularly to Scherpenheuvel. The wooden chapel was replaced by a stone one in 1604, and Scherpenheuvel was granted the priviliges of a city a year later. In 1620 a wall was build around the city, parts of which are still there today.

The Basilica was built between 1609 and 1621. The church is reportedly the first Baroque church in Flanders. Later on more buildings, including an oratory and a cloister were added.

Statue of the Virgin Mary at Basilica of Our Lady of Scherpenheuvel
Statue of the Virgin Mary at Basilica of Our Lady of Scherpenheuvel.

You may notice the many gilded stars (298) on the cupola of the basilica. They are representations of Mary (Stella Maris = Star of the Sea).

The statue of the Virgin Mary is quite small. Her body is enveloped in a somewhat oversized white clothing.

Scherpenheuvel has changed over the last few decades. We remember from our youth one had to walk a steep cobblestoned narrow road, flanked by many stalls selling souvenirs, religious artefacts, and local confectionary. Nowadays the area around the Basilica is more of an open space, with a small park, and many terraced restaurants and cafes circling the Basilica some 200 meters away. An ideal environment to take in the sight, and enjoy some local foods and beverages. At the time of our latest visit in 2011, we noticed that the Basilica of Scherpenheuvel is also a rallying point for many amateur cyclists. However, the days are long gone when visitors, in droves, came on foot from far away on pilgrimage to the site.

There is a somewhat impressive tower behind the dome of the Basilica
There is a somewhat impressive tower behind the dome of the Basilica. You can not really see it from the front entrance.



Information about Leuven :


Oude Markt (Old Market Square)

University Central Library

Park Abbey, Heverlee

Saint Peter's Church

Saint Michael's Church

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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