2021 | Imagining the Universe, Leuven, M – Museum Leuven

22.10.2021 – 16.01.2022

"The Creation" (fol. 3r), in: Hartmann Schedel, Weltchronik (Liber Chronicarum), Nürnberg, 1493, Private Collection.

In autumn 2021, the university and the city of Leuven have put together a large-scale cultural event based on the theme of the Big Bang and the creation of the universe entitled Big Bang 2021. This city-wide festival focused on the fascination Humankind holds for the cosmos, and the place we, as thinking and creative human beings, occupy within the universe.

The choice of this theme is not haphazard: The Big Bang theory was formulated in 1931 by professor Georges Lemaître (1894-1966) at the university of Leuven. The remembrance of this key date in scientific history is the motivation behind a prestigious exhibition that will be set up at museum M Leuven. The theme of the exhibition is the imagining of the universe in the visual arts and the processes of thinking from Antiquity up to the nineteenth century. Its focus is on the European Middle Ages and the early modern period.

Curator: prof. dr. Jan Van der Stock and the Illuminare team


2016 | In Search of Utopia, Leuven, M – Museum Leuven

20.10.2016 – 17.01.2017

In Search of Utopia, Leuven, M – Museum Leuven (2016) © Liza Van der Stock

In 2016 we witnessed the 500th anniversary of the first publication of Thomas More’s Utopia in Leuven. Thomas More, humanist, statesman, and ambassador of Henry VIII of England, had his book published at the renowned printing house established by Dirk Martens in the university town – Erasmus acted as go-between. Utopia is, without doubt, the most influential new book ever published not merely in Leuven but in the whole of the Low Countries. Deriving from ancient Greek originally meaning ‘not-place’ or ‘nowhereland’, it was More who coined the word ‘Utopia’ in its present-day meaning.

To honor the quincentenary anniversary of this milestone in Europe’s intellectual and cultural history, the City of Leuven and University of Leuven are mounting a major exhibition: In Search of Utopia. It takes as its starting point a concrete fact in Leuven’s history – the printing, in 1516, of the first edition of Utopia. But the exhibition ranges far beyond that to explore the European fascination with the universe, with the globe, its parts and its inhabitants, and to delve into man’s dream of an ideal world.

Jan Van der Stock (ed.), exhib. cat., In search of Utopia: Art and Science in the Era of Thomas More (Leuven, M – Museum Leuven), Leuven – Amsterdam: Davidsfonds – Amsterdam University Press, 2016. (also in Dutch)

500 years Utopia – Leuven, program.
500 years Utopia – Leuven, in the media – Part 1
500 years Utopia – Leuven, in the media – Part 2

2013 | Hieronymus Cock. The Renaissance in Print, Leuven, M – Museum and Paris, Fondation Custodia – Institut Néerlandais

LEUVEN, M – MUSEUM LEUVEN, 14-03-2013 – 09-06-2013


Hieronymus Cock. The Renaissance in print, Leuven, M – Museum and Paris, Fondation Custodia – Institut Néerlandais (2013)

Hieronymus Cock (1518–1570) was undoubtedly the greatest print publisher the Low Countries have ever known. His house ‘In the Four Winds’ in Antwerp specialized exclusively in the production of printed images, but on a scale never seen before. Cock not only managed to secure the services of the best engravers, he also had his prints – many hundreds – designed by the most ambitious and innovative artists of the day.

Cock played a crucial role in disseminating the art of the Italian Renaissance in the Low Countries and introducing new forms of ornamentation and architecture. It was Cock, too, who recognized the genius of the young Pieter Bruegel, with his art rooted in the Netherlandish tradition. Bruegel’s diabolical fantasies and his grand vision of the landscape soon became widely known throughout Europe thanks to the prints published by Cock.

The exhibition presents almost the entire range of prints a client could choose from ‘In the Four Winds’. Some rare design drawings have also been on display for this occasion. The selection was made from the collections in the Royal Library in Brussels, and complemented by loans from other European collections. The exhibition is a collaborative venture between Illuminare, the M – Museum Leuven, the Royal Library of Belgium in Brussels, and the Fondation Custodia in Paris.

Joris Van Grieken, Ger Luijten & Jan Van der Stock (eds.), exhib. cat., Hieronymus Cock. The Renaissance in Print (Leuven, M – Museum Leuven), New Haven & London: Yale University Press, 2013. (also in Dutch and French)

2013 | Postelse Pracht. De Boekenwereld van de Abdij van Postel, Mol, Bezoekkerscentrum Abdijbibliotheek Postel

23.06.2013 ‒ 31.12.2013

Postelse Pracht. De Boekenwereld van de Abdij van Postel, Mol, Bezoekkerscentrum Abdijbibliotheek Postel (2013)

The library of the Abbey of Norbertines in Postel possesses a variety of precious items among its collections, including illuminated manuscripts, incunabula, and exceptional prints. It was abbot Rombout Colibrant who, at the beginning of the 17th century, carefully put together the collection which can still be admired today. Subsequently, through the 19th and 20th century, the collection grew. The exhibition Postelse Pracht displayed the most exceptional pieces of this vast collection. Richly decorated illuminated manuscripts, 15th century incunabula, atlases, and beautiful religious and scientific works from the 16th to the 18th century brought the vibrant history of book illustration back to life. Equally, a prominent place was given to iconic works from the history of books; the sublime Atlas Major by Johannes Blaeu, the impressive Polyglot Bible, the masterpiece of the Antwerp publisher Christoffel Plantin, the influential Palazzo di Genova by Pieter Paul Rubens, and the mysterious subterranean world of Atanasius Kirchner, who visualized the eruption of the Etna, were displayed in tandem with colorful book bindings, engravings, woodcuts, and original copper plates. These pieces indicate the wealth found at the Abbey’s library.

2013 | The Magnificent Middle Ages, Antwerp, Museum Plantin – Moretus

02.02.2013 – 05.05.2013

The Magnificent Middle Ages, Antwerp, Museum Plantin – Moretus (2013)

Christopher Plantin started collecting biblical and classical writings in the 16th century. A century later these had been joined by superb Bibles, missals and books of hours from all over Europe. From the late 18th century the Moretus family took the collection to even greater heights. Illuminated manuscripts began to be seen as exquisite works of art from a distant and exotic mediaeval past. At the same time as these manuscripts were being treasured, unwanted parchment folios were being used as endpapers or dust jackets.

The exhibition The Magnificent Middle Ages shows 40 striking and important examples of book illumination. They were selected jointly by the Plantin-Moretus Museum and Illuminare. The exhibition is based on new art historical research by Lieve Watteeuw and Catherine Reynolds.

Lieve Watteeuw and Catherine Reynolds. Catalogue of Illuminated Manuscripts of Museum Plantin-Moretus. Ed. Jan Van der Stock. Leuven: Peeters Publishers, 2013.

Magnifieke Middeleeuwen: Mediaboek

2010 | The Anjou Bible. Napels 1340. A Royal Manuscript Revealed, Leuven, M – Museum Leuven

17.09.2010 – 05.12.2010

The Anjou Bible. Napels 1340. A Royal Manuscript Revealed, Leuven, M – Museum Leuven (2010)

The Anjou Bible. Napels 1340. A Royal Manuscript Revealed, Leuven, M – Museum Leuven (2010)

The Anjou Bible – Naples 1340 – a royal manuscript revealed presented the superbly illuminated pages of a little- known manuscript created at the unruly Royal Court of Naples in the turbulent fourteenth century. Power, intrigue, gold, a couple of shadowy figures and several exceptionally talented artists made for an explosive mix.

The precious parchment folios of the Bible, which found its way to Brabant many centuries ago, had been carefully taken apart to give the public a chance to admire them. After the exhibition, this fragile gem was irrevocably re-bound and returned indefinitely to the strong room at Leuven University for safekeeping.

First half of the 14th century. Southern and Central Europe were governed by the successful dynasty of Anjou, which continued to expand its territories and boasted artists like Giotto, Boccaccio and Petrarch. In 1328, after the death of her father, Joanna of Anjou became the official heir to the prosperous house of the kings of Naples and Sicily. Several years later her grandfather, Robert I, gave Joanna and her young Hungarian fiancé Andrew a precious gift. That gift was an exceptionally valuable manuscript which became known as the Anjou Bible.

Partners: Fund InBev-Baillet Latour, Maurits Sabbe Library – Faculty of Theology KU Leuven, Alamire Digital Lab – Alamire Foundation KU Leuven, Tabularium Centrale Bibliotheek KU Leuven, The Royal Institute for Cultural Heritage (KIK–IRPA).

Lieve Watteeuw & Jan Van der Stock (eds.), exhib. cat., The Anjou Bible. A Royal manuscript Revealed. Naples 1340 (Leuven, M – Museum Leuven), Leuven: Peeters, 2010.

Omtrent de Bijbel van Anjou: een wetenschappelijk project van Illuminare 2007-2011

2009 | Rogier Van der Weyden 1400–1464. Master of Passions, Leuven, M – Museum Leuven

20.09.2009 – 06.12.2009

Rogier Van der Weyden 1400–1464. Master of Passions, Leuven, M – Museum Leuven (2009)


Rogier van der Weyden and Jan Van Eyck were the two most important 15th century painters of the Southern Low Countries. Van der Weyden was the unrivalled master of passion and subdued emotion – for example, the sorrow of Mary and John at the foot of the cross, the deep concentration of the reading Mary Magdalene or the self-confident expression on the face of Charles the Bold, the mighty Duke of Burgundy.

Rogier van der Weyden. The Master of Passions was a prestigious exhibition on one of the greatest Flemish Primitives, boasting numerous exclusive highlights. There were more than 100 exhibited works from 58 renowned collections in Europe and North-America. The exhibition juxtaposed original works by Van der Weyden and works by his associates and contemporaries. Artworks that were dispersed over the centuries were being presented as an ensemble once more and several masterpieces had been meticulously conserved and restored for the exhibition.

Partners: Art History Research Unit, KU Leuven, Royal Institute for Cultural Heritage (KIK–IRPA), Centre for Fifteenth–Century Painting in the Southern Netherlands and the Principality of Liège – Brussels, National Gallery London.

Lorne Campbell & Jan Van der Stock (eds.), exhib. cat., Rogier van der Weyden 1400-1464. Master of passions (Leuven, M – Museum Leuven), Leuven: Davidsfonds, 2009. (also in Dutch and French)

2002 | Medieval Mastery. Book Illumination From Charlemagne to Charles The Bold. 800–1475, Leuven, Municipal Museum Vander Kelen – Mertens

21.09.2002 – 08.12.2002

The towns and cities of Flanders the Middle Ages were of immense importance in many respects, yet especially regarding the production of art. Works of art by Flemish masters enjoyed international fame and many manuscripts makers were famous for the outstanding quality of their work. The initiators of the exhibition Medieval Mastery sought to put this precious heritage on view. Medieval Mastery brought together nearly one hundred manuscripts, each of them ranking among the finest examples of western European book illumination.

Partners: Royal Library of Belgium (Brussels), The Walters Art Museum (Baltimore), Royal Institute for Cultural Heritage (KIK–IRPA), Fonds Wetenschappelijk Onderzoek – Vlaanderen.

Bert Cardon, Jan Van der Stock, Dominique Vanwijnsberghe, Brigitte Dekeyzer & Kris Callens (eds.), exhib. cat., Medieval Mastery. Book illumination from Charlemagne to Charles the Bold | 800–1475 (Leuven: Stedelijk Museum vander Kelen-Mertens), Leuven/Turnhout: Davidsfonds/Brepols, 2002. (also in Dutch)

1998 | Het stadhuis van Leuven, Leuven, City Hall

19.09.1998 – 06.12.1998

1998 marked the 550th anniversary of the laying of the first stone of the famous late Gothic Town Hall of Leuven. The City Hall is not only Leuven’s landmark but also could be described as a main witness of its eventful history. The three story high Brabantine building with its 236 statues (which were only added in the 19th century) has already “experienced” turbulent times of both crises and festive events and today is rightly held as one of to the most famous city halls in the world. This exhibition explained the history of the Stadhuis in great detail, and gave an overview through objects and documents dating from its earliest construction campaigns until the most recent repairs in 1983, as well as Christo’s performance of wrapping the Stadhuis in 1993.

Partners: KU Leuven, Museum for Old Techniques Grimbergen, Municipal Museum Vander Kelen – Mertens.

Maurits Smeyers en Rita Van Dooren (eds.), exhib. cat., Het Leuvense Stadhuis. Pronkjuweel van de Brabantse gotiek. (Leuven, City hall), Leuven: Peeters, 1998.

1998 | Leven te Leuven in de Late Middeleeuwen, Leuven, Municipal Museum Vander Kelen – Mertens

19.09.1998 – 06.12.1998

Leuven belonged to the major cities of the Southern Netherlands during the 15th century. It earned its prestige thanks to being one of the most important centers of trade and cloth production, its active artisan life, the rising number of population and to the founding of the University of Leuven in 1425. This exhibition tried to relativize the image of the Middle Ages as a ‘dark time’ by showing the audience that for Leuven the opposite was true – it experienced its “Golden Era” in the late middle ages. Actually its decline in status and power only took place in the late 16th century, due to the black death and Spanish occupation.

Partners: KU Leuven, Royal Museum of the Armed Forces and of Military History, Municipal Herb Garden, Municipal Museum Vander Kelen – Mertens.

Maurits Smeyers, Lutgarde Bessemans, Inès Honoré, Veronique Vandekerchove & Raymond Van Uytven, exhib. cat., Leven te Leuven in de late Middeleeuwen (Leuven: Stedelijk Museum Vander Kelen–Mertens, 1998), Leuven: Peeters, 1998.

1998 | Dirk Bouts, een Vlaams primitief te Leuven, Leuven, St. Peter’s Church and Predikherenkerk

19.09.1998 – 06.12.1998

Dirk Bouts (ca. 1410–1475) was not born in Leuven, yet up until today his name remains closely connected to the city. The Dutch painter married the wealthy Catharina Van der Brugghen and moved to Leuven in 1448, where he stayed until his death. While in Leuven, he painted “The Last Supper” and “The Martyrdom of Saint Erasmus”, two of Bouts’ most important works, which can still today be admired in Leuven’s Sint-Pieterskerk. As a town painter and leading figure of the Flemish primitives, Bouts was already at his time Leuven’s most prominent painter. Nevertheless, an intensive academic study of Bouts work began at a late date. This exhibition intended to introduce Dirk Bouts, who is sometimes called “the painter of silence”, to a broader audience.

Partners: KU Leuven, Municipal Museum Vander Kelen – Mertens, VU Amsterdam, Municipal Museums Bruges, Royal Institute for Cultural Heritage, UC Leuven, Katholiek Pedagogisch Centrum ‘s-Hertogenbosch, University of New York.

Maurits Smeyers & Katrien Smeyers (eds.), exhib. cat., Dirk Bouts, een Vlaams primitief te Leuven. Arca Lovaniensis artes atque historiae reserans documenta: jaarboek 26-27(Leuven, Sint-Pieterskerk / Predikherenkerk), Leuven: Peeters, 1998.

1996-1997 | Flemish Illuminated Manuscripts 1475–1550

PETERSBURG, HERMITAGE MUSEUM, 07.03.1996 – 05.05.1996

FLORENCE, MUSEO BARDINI, 07.06.1996 – 28.07.1996

ANTWERP, ROYAL MUSEUM OF FINE ARTS, 11.04.1997 – 22.06.1997

This exhibition took place in St. Petersburg, Florence and Antwerp and offered the opportunity to discover a selection of the most impressive Flemish miniatures from the period between 1475 and 1550, the final and maybe most famous phase of Flemish manuscript illumination. In this time span, a large array of remarkable manuscripts of splendid quality was produced. These illuminated books were internationally renowned, and played a crucial role in leading Flanders’ to its status of worldwide fame in the evolving art market.

While books, woodcuts, and copper engravings become common throughout Europe during the late 15th century, many collectors still longed for opulent illuminated manuscripts. Flemish miniature painting particularly flourished because one-of-a-kind works were still potent status symbols prized by kings, princes, wealthy merchants and influential clergymen throughout the continent. Many miniaturists, especially in Ghent and Bruges, established professional, efficient workshops to meet the high demand and numerous commissions coming from all over the Western world. As seen in the exhibition and its lavish catalogue, the Flemish painters often turned every single page into a small masterpiece.

Partners: KU Leuven, Royal Library of Belgium, Museum Mayer van den Bergh, Antwerp.

Maurits Smeyers & Jan Van der Stock (eds.), exhib. cat., Flemish Illuminated Manuscripts 1475–1550 (Saint-Petersburg, Hermitage Museum and Firenze, Museo Bardini, 1996), Gent: Ludion, 1996. (also in Dutch, French, Italian and Russian)

1993 | Antwerp, Story of a Metropolis: 16th And 17th Century, Antwerp, Hessenhuis

25.06.1993 – 10.10.1993

This exhibition told the suspenseful story of how Antwerp became a metropolis, and took place in the Hessenhuis. During the 16th and 17th centuries, Antwerp grew from a city into a vivid metropolis of international economic importance, arrived at the peak of its financial and political power in around 1550. This development was visualized through high quality pieces of art, since Antwerp’s “Golden Age” had an immense impact on trade and economy, leading to a flourishing production of arts and crafts. The struggles between the Netherlands and Spain, Protestants and Catholics, the outbreak of the Eighty Years’ War led in 1585 eventually to the fall of Antwerp.

Jan Van der Stock (ed.), Antwerp. Story of a Metropolis: 16th–17th century (Antwerp, Hessenhuis), Ghent: Snoeck-Ducaju & Zoon, 1993. (also in Dutch)

1993 | Medieval Magic. Flemish Miniatures Before Van Eyck (Ca. 1380 – 1420), Leuven, Culture Center Romaanse Poort

07.09.1993 – 07.11.1993

The academic interest in medieval art and culture increased perceptibly during the early 1990ies. In art history it was already widely recognized that the Flanders had played a leading role in cultural and artistic production during this period. Manuscript illumination is undoubtedly a proof for this; one could describe it as one of the most essential components of Flemish art.

This exhibition showed not only valuable objects of Flemish illuminators, but also helped saving a neglected period from falling into oblivion, namely the art production in around 1400. It offered a fascinating glimpse into the talents and working methods of the artists, their workshops and the intellectual as well as economic environments in which these books were created. Key topics were Bruges and Gent as the two most important urban centers of large scale book production during that period.

Partners: KU Leuven, Royal Library of Belgium, State Archives Ghent, U.C. Louvain-la-Neuve, Centre for the Study of Flemish Illuminators.

Maurits Smeyers. Vlaamse miniaturen voor Van Eyck (ca. 1380 – ca. 1420). Leuven: Peeters Publishers, 1993.

1991 | Stad in Vlaanderen. Cultuur en maatschappij 1477–1787, Brussels, Gallery Of The Crédit Communal

Brussels, Gallery Of The Crédit Communal, 06.03.1991 – 28.04.1991

Schallaburg, Renaissanceschloss, 01.05.1991 – 27.10.1991

This exhibition dealt with the material traces of urban culture in Flanders. It was planned in the context of an invitation of the Flemish Community by the Niederösterreichische Landesregierung to organize an exposition in 1991 in the Renaissanceschloss Schallaburg in Austria. Throughout its history the image of Flanders was strongly determined by the history of its cities. Flemish culture could be in general called a typically urban one. The cities were at the heart of Flanders and as centers of commerce, politics, culture and social life, they exercised an identity-shaping influence on the whole territory. It was therefore a reasonable approach that Flanders introduced itself by focusing on its cities in the Schallaburg exposition, curated by Jan Van der Stock.

Jan Van der Stock (ed.), exhib. cat., La ville en Flandre. Culture et Société 1477–1787 (Bruxelles, Galerie du Crédit Communal), Brussels: Gemeentekrediet, 1991. (also in Dutch and German)

1990 | Bernadus en de Cisterciënzerfamilie in België 1090–1990, Leuven, Library of The Faculty of Theology

26.10.1990 – 08.12.1990

This exhibition celebrated the 9th centenary of the birth of Bernard of Clairvaux (1090 – 1153). The Bernard Memorial year was an unique opportunity to bring together a number of valuable documents, manuscripts, printed books, paintings, sculptures – mainly from Cistercian or Trappist abbeys in Belgium. In this way it gave a demonstrative impression of the rich traditions of Belgian monastics and their interactions over the centuries. Apart from explaining the formation and the development of the Cistercian order, various scholars tried to shed light upon Bernard’s own life as a historical figure as well as the impact of his sainthood.

Maurits Sabbe et al. Bernardus en de Cisterciënzerfamilie in België 1090–1990. Leuven: Library of the Faculty of Theology, 1990.

1989 | In beeld geprezen. Miniaturen uit Maaslandse devotieboeken 1250–1350, Sint-Truiden, Provincial Museum For Religious Art

10.08.1989 – 12.11.1989

What today is known as the Maasland region belonged largely to the County of Loon in the Middle Ages – a province of the former Holy Roman Empire, which by 1190 was controlled by the Prince-bishop of Liège. Artistically this area was strongly influenced by the Meuse region. More specifically, the so-called Mosan art flowered largely from the 9thto the 12th century. The architecture, silverware, dinanderie and book illumination are renowned worldwide.

Wrongly, the following centuries however were often regarded as a period of decline. This exhibition aimed to prove that this point of view is rather based on a lack of study and research than on historical evidence. Lavishly illustrated manuscripts from the 13th and 14th centuries were the central focus of this exhibition, yet also reliquaries, metal work and sculpture were shown. Apart from Dutch and Belgian institutions, renowned lenders contributed to this exhibition, for instance the Walters Gallery in Baltimore, the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge, the Victoria and Albert Museum and the British Library in London, as well as the Pierpont Morgan Library in New York and the Parisian BnF.

Partners: KU Leuven, Royal Library of Belgium, Provincial Museum for Religious Art (Sint-Truiden), Colgate University (New York), Museum of Religious Art and Mosan Art (Liège), Provincial Department for Cultural Heritage Rijkel.

Leo De Ren, Leon Smets, Bert Cardon & Maurits Smeyers (eds.), exhib. cat., In beeld geprezen. Miniaturen uit Maaslandse devotieboeken 1250-1350 (Sint-Truiden, Provinciaal Museum voor Religieuze Kunst – Begijnhofkerk), Leuven: Peeters, 1989.

1988 | Schatten der armen. Het artistiek en historisch bezit van het O.C.M.W.-Leuven, Leuven Municipal Museum Vander Kelen – Mertens

Commonly the art collection of the former Leuven Hospices still bears the name ‘treasures of the poor’. Therefore it seemed appropriate to use this expression as a title for the exhibition of the patrimony of the Public Centre for Social Welfare.

Luckily the treasures of the former Hospices of the city in the 16th century escaped the destruction of religious wars and the two world wars in the 20th century. Therefore this collection can be considered as one of the few heterogeneous collections dating from the 15th to the 20th century. The collection was brought together in its totality in the Museum Vander Kelen – Mertens for a temporal exhibition. Its concept was to structure the considerable collection into five overarching topics: religious art; furniture and crafts; monastic life and devotion; care for the poor, sick and the orphans; and technology.

Partners: Municipal Museum Vander Kelen – Mertens, O.C.M.W. Leuven, KU Leuven.

Maurits Smeyers, Lutgarde Bessemans, Paul-Victor Maes, Leon Van Buyten & Dirk Vande Gaer (eds.), exhib. cat., Schatten der armen: het artistiek en historisch bezit van het O.C.M.W.-Leuven. (Leuven, Stedelijk Museum Vander Kelen-Mertens), 1988.

1987 | Koning Artur en de Nederlanden, Leuven, Municipal Museum Vander Kelen – Mertens

25.07.1987 – 25.10.1987

The International Arthurian Society (IAS) was formed in the course of the second Arthurian Congress, which was held in Quimper in 1948 and which brought together scholars interested in Arthuriana from France, Britain, the Netherlands and the United States. This exhibition was realized in the context of the 15th conference of the Société Internationale Arthurienne – International Arthurian Society, organized by the Institute for Medieval Studies at Leuven in July 1987. Interdisciplinary research highlighted the development and explained the diverse influences on the Arthur-literature in the Low Countries. Moreover, the influence of Arthur-literature on various other art forms such as ballet or theatre was one of the conference’s central themes. Since the illumination of medieval manuscripts belonged to the most eye-catching achievements in medieval art, it seemed desirable to visualize the topic alongside an accompanying exhibition.

Partners: KU Leuven, Municipal Museum Vander Kelen – Mertens.

Werner Verbeke, Jef Janssens & Maurits Smeyers (eds.), exhib. cat., Arturus rex: Volume I. Koning Artur en de Nederlanden (Leuven, Stedelijk Museum Vander Kelen–Mertens), Leuven: Leuven University Press, 1987.

1986 | Handschriften uit de Abdij van Sint-Truiden, Sint-Truiden, Provincial Museum for Religious Art

28.06.1986 – 05.10.1986

Founded in the 7th century in the province of Limburg, the Romanesque abbey of Sint-Truiden was one of the oldest and most significant abbeys in the Low Countries. In the 1970ies, archaeological findings gave a better insight on the historical evolution of the 1300 years old Benedictine abbey, dedicated to Saint Remaclus and Saint Quintin. Sint-Truiden underwent several stages of further building and extensions to enlarge its space, meeting the demands of a growing community and the ascending number of pilgrims. The popularity as pilgrimage destination also provided the town emerging around the abbey with a certain economic wealth trough the creation of shops and inns.

By showing handwritten codices like liturgical manuscripts, life of saints, chronicles, as well as examples of profane literature the exhibition tried to reconstruct the medieval monastery library and the central role it played in the spiritual vitality of the Benedictine community.

Partners: Provincial Museum for Religious Art (Sint-Truiden), KU Leuven.

Els Deconinck, Leon Smets, Bert Cardon, Dirk Pauwels, Maurits Smeyers, Patrick Valvekens & Jan Van der Stock, exhib. cat., Handschriften uit de abdij van Sint-Truiden (Sint-Truiden, Provinciaal Museum voor Religieuze Kunst – Begijnhofkerk), Leuven: Peeters, 1986.

1985 | Werken van barmhartigheid – 650 Jaar Alexianen in de Zuidelijke Nederlanden, Leuven, Municipal Museum Vander Kelen – Mertens

24.11.1985 – 22.12.1985

In 1985, the Congregation of Alexian Brothers, also called Cellites, had been existing for 650 years. The Alexians, following the Augustinian rule, are especially devoted to fostering the sick. During the outbreaks of the black death in the 14th century, they buried the dead and took care of the plague-stricken which had been expelled by the church and their families, and hence were regarded as social outcasts. Soon, the Alexians attracted more and more members who wanted to trade their secular lives for one serving the needs of the poor within this community. Eventually this order spread within Europe, especially in Germany. This exhibition tried to visualize a complete image of these 650 years of devoted service by focusing on the history of the Alexians, their convents, their patron saint Alexius as well as describing their actual deeds under the maxim of charity.

Partners: Municipal Museum Vander Kelen – Mertens, O.C.M.W. Leuven, KU Leuven.

Annemie Adriaenssens & Maurits Smeyers (eds.), exhib. cat., Werken van barmhartigheid: 650 jaar Alexianen in de Zuidelijke Nederlanden (Leuven, Stedelijk Museum Vander Kelen-Mertens), 1985.

1984 | Korsendonk en de Moderne Devotie, Turnhout, Municipal Museum of Turnhout

01.12.1984 – 06.01.1985

600 years ago, the Devotio Moderna arose in the Low Countries as a lay movement. This change in spiritual attitude rapidly was based on pious practices such as humility, obedience and private devotion developed into a movement of ‘Renewed Inwardness’. This renewal of spiritual life, to a large extent initiated by deacon Gerard Groote (1340–1384), was an early Dutch contribution to European culture. Originating in Deventer, liturgy, science, education, pastoral care and sometimes education played an important role in the austere lives of the followers. The Windesheimer monks for example practiced devotion, spiritual reading and work through copying of manuscripts. Especially the example of the Korsendonk monastery, a part of the chapter of Windesheim from 1412 on, witnessed this development. Hence, by examining the case of Korsendonk this exhibition aimed to provide an overview of the modern devotion’s external (dates, people, places) and internal history (lifestyle, mindset, spirituality), as well as to present recent research results.

Partners: State Archives Belgium, KU Leuven.

  1. Persoons & Harry De Kok. Korsendonk en de Moderne Devotie. Turnhout: Municipal Museum of Turnhout, 1984.

1984 | Sint-Arnoldus en de Sint-Pietersabdij te Oudenburg 1084–1984

18.08.1984 – 30.09.1984

Already in the 4th century AD the Romans built one of the oldest settlements of our country: Oudenburg. Several centuries later, in 1084 , the Saint Arnoldus of Soissons founded the Benedictine abbey of St. Peter at Oudenburg, which included a library and a famous brewery. Saint Arnoldus, born in Brabant and abbot of Oudenburg, is today mostly known as the patron saint of hop-pickers and Belgian brewers. So apart from a general outline of the history of the former St. Peter’s abbey, this exhibition aimed to provide a detailed explanation of the iconography of Saint Arnoldus. Several miniatures, sculptures, paintings, precious metal ware, and prints created an extensive perspective on the life in the convent on the one hand and of the figure of the Flemish saint on the other hand.

Partners: Ghent University, KU Leuven, Municipal Museum Ghent.

M. Baelde. Sint-Arnoldus en de Sint-Pietersabdij te Oudenburg 1084–1984. Oudenburg: Municipality of Oudenburg, 1984.

1984 | De Kartuizers en hun kloosters te Zelem, Diest, Municipal Museum

30.06.1984 – 30.09.1984

The Carthusian order was founded in 1084 by St. Bruno, hence 1984 marked the 9th centenary of the Carthusian Order. This occasion was celebrated by an exhibition at the Stedelijk Museum in Diest, which was on display from 30 June to 30 September 1984. St. Brunos solitary life was influential in the Low Countries in the 14th century, so the Carthusian community gradually grew into a prominent order that sought a devout life through contemplation and study. Therefore the Carthusians did not preach with the spoken word, but with the written one.

Since the establishment of the Carthusians more than 300 monastic foundations have been founded worldwide. The former Carthusian monastery in Zelem, existing from 1328 until 1796 and now inhabited by Dominican Sisters, was one of the four most important monasteries that had order in the medieval Southern Netherlands and thus its history an essential part of this exhibition.

Partners: Friends of the Municipal Museum – Diest.

Frans Hendrickx. De Kartuizers en hun kloosters te Zelem, Diestsche Cronycke, 7. Diest: Friends of the Municipal Museum and the Archives of Diest, 1984.

1983 | Handschriften uit Diestse kerken en kloosters, Diest, Municipal Museum

25.06.1983 – 25.09.1983

This exhibition gave an overview of manuscripts that originated in the area of Diest. The local aristocracy sometimes spent fortunes on the artistic production of manuscripts. Churches and monasteries were responsible for the emergence of many examples of fine writing, intended for worship or study and meeting the taste of their clients. The underlying ambition of this exhibition was to introduce relevant examples of manuscript production in all churches and monasteries of Diest and its immediate environment, as well as reflecting on their production process. In this context, also the broad variety of medieval manuscript “genres” was showcased – ranging from richly illuminated folios of graduals, Heiligenlegenden, Les grandes chroniques de France, the tale of Cléomadès, the Roman de Godefroi de Bouillon, the Roman de Fauvel, and a Bible historiale. Non- or partly illuminated pieces exhibited contained folios a sacramentarium, an obituarium, an oath book, the regula ad servos Dei or a copy of Vitruvs De acrhitectura libri decem. So the motto “claustrum sine armario quasi castrum sine armamentario” most certainly applied to the case of Diest.

Partners: Royal Library of Belgium, State Archives Brussels, KU Leuven, Society of Ruusbroec, State Archives of Hasselt, City Archives of Diest.

Bert Cardon, R. Van de Ven & Maurits Smeyers (eds.), exhib. cat., Handschriften uit Diestse kerken en kloosters, Diestsche Cronycke, 6 (Diest, Stedelijk Museum), Diest: Vrienden van het Stedelijk Museum en Archief Diest, 1983.

For questions on our exhibitions, do not hesitate to contact us via illuminare@kuleuven.be.