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Catholic University of Leuven (Belgium)

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by Ivan Sache

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Presentation of the University

The Catholic University of Leuven is one of the oldest European universities. It is the oldest Catholic university still in existence and the oldest university in the historical Low Countries.

Upon request of Duke of Brabant John V and the city of Leuven, Pope Martin V (1417-1431) signed on 9 December 1425 the bull enacting the foundation of the University of Leuven. The University was then composed of the three faculties of Law, Medecine and Arts. The first professors came from Paris, Cologne and Vienna. The faculty of theology was created in 1432.

The University of Leuven grew into one of the largest and most renowned European universities, and attracted scholars and scientist from all Europe.
In 1527, the Dutch humanist Erasmus (Desiderius Erasmus Roterodamus, c. 1469-1536) founded in Leuven the Collegium Trilingue, for the study of Hebrew, Latin and Greek, the first of its kind.
Cardinal Adriaan Floriszoon (1459-1523), from Utrecht, young Charles V's private tutor and later Pope as Adrian VI (1522-1523), taught theology in Leuven.
Other famous professors at the University were the Flemish physician Andreas Vesalius (Andries van Wesel, 1514/15-1564), a pioneer of human body dissection and reformer of the Galenic medicine, who is considered as the father of the modern anatomy; the Flemish geographer Gerard Mercator (Gerhahrd Kremer, 1512-1594), inventor of a map-projection system still in use; the Flemish humanist philosoph Justus Lipsius (Joost Lips, 1547-1606), inspired by the ancient Stoics; and the Dutch theologian Cornelius Jansenius (Cornelius Jansen, 1585-1638), later bishop of Ieper and author of the Augustinus (1640), condemned by Pope Urban VIII (1642) and cause of a big religious turmoil in Franceinvolving the abbeys of Port-Royal.

The University was closed during the French occupation (1797) and reopened by the bishop of Leuven in 1834, after the independence of Belgium (1830).
During the First World War, the Germans burned down the library of the University and destroyed 300,000 books, causing a big international disapprobation (aired for instance by Marcel Proust in A la recherche du temps perdu, where it is, with of course the Dreyfus affair, one of the few historical events mentioned in the novel). The library was rebuilt with the help of American philanthropists. The Germans burned again the library in 1940, and only 15,000 of its 900,000 volumes were saved.

In 1968, following the linguistical crisis between Flemish and Walloons, the University was split into two sister universities. The Dutch-speaking Katholieke Universitet Leuven (KUL) remained on the historical campus in Leuven (now in Flemish Brabant, Flanders). The French-speaking Université Catholique de Louvain (UCL) moved to a newly built campus in Louvain-la-Neuve (now in the municipality of Ottigines-Louvain-la-Neuve, Wallon Brabant, Wallonia). The faculty of Medicine was moved to Woluwe-Saint-Lambert / Sint-Lambrechts-Woluwe (Region of Brussels-Capital).

The Dutch-speaking KLU caters 25,000 students from 102 nations. The French-speaking UCL caters 20,000 students from 120 nations. In 1974, Pr. Christian de Duve, from UCL, was awarded the Nobel Prize in Medicine for his research on the components of the living cells.


Ivan Sache, 29 September 2003

Description of the flag

The KLU and the UCL use the same flag, which is the historical flag of the University of Leuven. The flag is square, vertically divided light blue-white. The light blue refers to the Blessed Virgin, who is the patron of the University.

Ivan Sache, 29 September 2003

University of Louvain Yacht Club

[ULYC burgee]by Ivan Sache

The University of Louvain Yacht Club (ULYC) was founded in 1964 in Leuven. The ULYC is now established in Louvain-la-Neuve, in the UCL.

The burgee of the ULYC is horizontally divided light blue-white with a dark blue triangle in the middle.

Source: ULYC website

Ivan Sache, 29 September 2003

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