I am happy to tell you about this gorgeous city in Belgium today. Leuven, or Louvain, is a beautiful medieval city about 25 kilometres from the Belgian capitol of Brussels.
The earliest mention of Leuven (Loven) dates from 891, when a Viking army was defeated by the Frankish king Arnulf of Carinthia. According to a legend, the city’s red and white arms depict the blood-stained shores of the river Dyle after this battle. After several excavations conclusive evidence of this legendary battle was never found, so this story is probably just a myth. A nice one, but still a myth.
Leuven became the most important centre of trade in the duchy of Brabant between the 11th and 14th centuries. A token of its former importance as a centre of cloth manufacture is shown in that ordinary linen cloth was known, in late-14th-century and 15th-century texts, as lewyn (other spellings: Leuwyn, Levyne, Lewan(e), Lovanium, Louvain).
In the 15th century, a new golden era began with the founding of what is now the largest and oldest university in the Low Countries, the Catholic University of Leuven , in 1425. The city then became a major European center for art and knowledge with humanists like Erasmus working there. This period also saw the completion of many of the city’s most grandiose monuments such as the Town Hall.
The Groot Begijnhof of Leuven is a well preserved beguinage (from the French term béguinage, is an architectural complex, created to house beguines: unmarried lay religious women who lived in community without taking vows or retiring from the world) and completely restored historical quarter containing a dozen streets in the south of downtown Leuven.
About 3 hectares (7.5 acres) in size, with some 300 apartments in almost 100 houses, it is one of the largest remaining beguinages in the Low Countries. It stretches on both sides of the river Dijle, which splits into two canals inside the beguinage, thus forming an island. Three bridges connect the parts of the beguinage.
It will not surprise you, that in 1998, the Begijnhof was officially recognised by Unesco as a World Heritage Site.