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Catholic University of Leuven (Belgium)

Last modified: 2010-01-30 by ivan sache
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[Flag of the University]

Flag of the University of Leuven - Image by Ivan Sache, 29 September 2003

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Presentation of the University of Leuven

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 town 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 became one of the largest and most renowned European universities, attracting scholars and scientists 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 (Gerard de Kremer, 1512-1594), inventor of a map-projection system still in use today; 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 France involving 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 À 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 could be 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

Flag of the University of Leuven

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.
The University of Leuven adopted the Bless Virign as its patron in the 19th century. A circular emblem with the letters "SMR", for "Sancta Maria Regina", surmonted by a crown and rays of glory, was adopted.

Ivan Sache & Jan Mertens, 12 June 2008

University of Louvain Yachting Club

[ULYC burgee]

Burgee of the ULYC - Image by Ivan Sache, 28 May 2005

The University of Louvain Yachting 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, 28 May 2005

Student's Associations at the Université Catholique de Louvain

Société Générale des Étudiants

The banner of the Students' General Association, founded in 1878, is a square flag with a border with teeth in the national colours (red-yellow-black, starting from the upper left corner), a white field with a thin white border and a blue cross also with a white border, and a representation of the Blessed Virgin. This particular representation, showing the Blessed virgin sitting with Baby Jesus on her knees, is called Sedes sapientae, lit. "the Seat of Wisdom". The Sedes sapientiae appeared in the emblematics of the University in 1909, for the celebration of the 75th anniversary of the restoration of the University. The graphic model of the Sedes sapientiae is a statue kept in the collegiate church of Leuven.

Jan Mertens & Ivan Sache, 12 June 2008

Inauguration of the academic year 2002-2003

Pictures of the start of the academic year 2002-2003 in Université Catholique de Louvain can be seen on the University website (6 albums).
Several pictures in the albums show flags, for instance:

  • Picture 1, showing a white flag with something red in it, apparently flamy, therefore derived from the municipal flag of Mouscron.
  • Picture 3, showing four flags.
    The closest is mostly hidden, and the only thing clealy visible is a yellow escutcheon with a red cross in it.
    The next one seems to be a horizontal tricolour of yellow, light blue and white with lots of escutcheons in it.
    The next one is almost totally hidden by the previous, and the only part that is visible (below the other one) is red and bears something white.
    The next one is the clearest of all. It is a blue-white vertical bicolour with a shield charged with a wolf, a motto starting by CUM LUPIS LATA and three dates. The first one looks like 1882, the second one seems to be 1990 and the last one 1985.
  • Picture 4, showing the same flags as picture 3. The only one that gets clear is the first one. It now seems to be a quartered flag with a diagonal green-white-red tricolour in the first quarter, white with the yellow shield mentioned above in the second, white with a white shield charged with a red lion in the third and green and black in the fourth.
  • Picture 6, with only one flag in focus, it seems to be the yellow-light blue-white mentioned above. Only the canton is visible.
  • Picture 9, showing five flags:
    - A fringed Belgian flag with unreadable inscriptions
    - A white flag with something red in it, probably the same flag as in Picture 1
    - A gyronny of black and white, with yellow crosses in the black. This is the municipal flag of Enghien
    - A red, white and blue flag of unclear design but containing a large drawing of a building and at least three escutcheons, apparently in the corners, and the inscriptions "BRABANT", "LOUVAIN" and "F.W."
    - A blue and white flag almost totally hidden behind the previous one.
  • Picture 10, with one flag visible, out of focus, with a red, white and blue hoist. This is the flag of the Binchoise, a students' association from Binche.
  • Picture 11, with four flags visible. From left to right, they are:
    - A red, yellow and white flag with unclear design but bearing a striking similarity with the banner of arms of the province of Liège
    - A horizontally divided flag, red-white-blue-white in proportions about 4-4-4-1, that includes several inescutcheons, what looks like the coat of arms of Luxembourg and a yellow inscription reading "LOUVAIN"
    - A blurred yellow flag
    - The red, white and blue flag with building described in Picture 9.
  • Picture 21, with a total of nine flags visible, in two rows. The row in the left includes:
    - A white flag with a red flamy diagonal band. This seems to be the flag seen in pictures 1 and 9
    - A Belgian flag with inscriptions and what looks like a coat of arms. This seems to be the flag seen in Picture 9
    - A flag that is probably light yellow with a red diagonal
    - A yellow flag with broad light blue border and yellow squares in the corners, charged with a light blue and orange coat of arms
    - A folded flag that seems to include the colours yellow, light blue and red.
    The row in the right includes:
    - A flag almost fully hidden, but that seems to include yellow and light blue
    - A red flag with what looks like a white castle or tower. This is probably the flag seen in Pictures 3 and 4
    - Quite certainly the reverse of the blue and white flag seen in Pictures 3 and 4
    - A red and white flag, consistent with the idea that the flag seen in Picture 11 is the baanner of arms of the province of Liège.
  • Picture 22, with at least eight flags visible, but only three are clear enough:
    - The red-white-blue-white flag seen in Picture 11
    - Again the red, white, blue with building
    - The municipal flag of Enghien flag seen in Picture 9.
  • Picture 23, with at least seven flags visible, from left to right:
    - A white flag with a red rooster holding a complex white, black, red and golden coat of arm, that is the municipal coat of arms of Charleroi, and three inscriptions. The one above seems to start with "REGIO". The middle one (above the shield) seems to be "U.C.L.". The bottom one is "ANNO 1886 - 1986"
    - Apparently the quartered flag seen in Pictures 3 and 4
    - A flag with a black hoist, probably the Belgian flag seen before
    - The yellow, blue and white flag seen before
    - The yellow flag seen before, still without any discernible details
    - A new flag, apparently horizontally divided in green and red; it is the municipal flag of Brussels, except that the archangel Saint Michael and the devil are white and that there is, at least, a star and some letters above the archangel.
    - The red flag with castle or tower seen before.
  • Picture 24. The same flags seen in the above picture, except the red one. The only novelty is that there seems to be something red in the plain yellow flag. It could be the flag of Wallonia.
  • Picture 25. The same flags as in Picture 23 with a few novelties, plus two new ones. These are: - A flag that is very folded but that might be a diagonal tricolour of white, red and yellow with black inscriptions in the white and something green in the yellow
    - Another flag that is very folded, but whose top portion is yelow and which bears a red inscription that starts with "FEDERATION WALLONNE"
    The novelties in the other flags are:
    - The fourth quarter in the quartered flag is clearly not green and black, but a tricolour of green, yellow and black. There is also a red, black and brown charge in it
    - The yellow flag now seems to include not only red but also black. It is not the flag of Wallonia.
  • Picture 27 This photo shows 4 flags:
    - The yellow flag with blue border seen in Picture 21
    - The red and green flag seen before
    - A new flag, purple, with the extremity of a blue inscription
    - The flag with red inscription seen in Picture 25. The inscription now clearly includes also the word "LOUVAIN", and the flag includes also blue and red areas
  • Picture 29 Lots of flags in this photo, two of them deserve a closer look.
    - The flag that seemed to be purple in Picture 27 is now a purple-white-yellow vertical tricolour, that is the municipal flag of Ath with a black 2-headed eagle in the center charged with a yellow inescutcheon
    - The yellow flag is charged with a black lion with red claws and tongue. There also seems to be something else, a red stripe.
  • Picture 31 Again, lots of flags, but the only noteworthy detail is the presence of the date 1884 in the purple-white-yellow flag.
  • Picture 34 Several flags visible, but the only novelty is the certainty that the black lion flag includes a diagonal red band. That means it is the banner of arms of the Namur.
  • Picture 36 Several flags visible.
    - The inscription in the purple-white-yellow flag ends with "DES ETUDIANTS DE LOUVAIN", so this is probably the flag of a student's association
    - There is a folded flag in the background that seems to be grey.

Jorge Candeias, Pascal Vagnat, & Jan Mertens, 29 April 2005