Leuven history starts in 884 AC as Luvanium. It was the capital of this shire and got this position due to its perfect location on the old road from Koln to Boulogne.
The first earl was Lambert 1 from Leuven who gave Leuven a new appearance. The castle was moved to another location and a church was built. Trade is encouraged and the area flourishes.
In 1080 a city hospital is founded by Heryward. The poor could get food, a roof and medical attention.
In 1150 the wall around the city is fortified with stones and Leuven became a wealthy important city. In 1216 Leuven got a fish house, a bread house and a cloth hall. The cloth hall still exists and is part of the current university. A must to visit!
Around 1300 Leuven looses its important position to Brussels and also the competition with Antwerp becomes difficult. But in the 1400s new possibilities reach the city. Wine and beer making become very important. Major construction projects are started as the Saint Pieter church, the city hall and the founding of the university. All these buildings can still be visited.
The Leuven history is a story of ups and downs. After 1600 Leuven lost its importance. The population declined and trade was down.
Things changed after 1750. The industrial revolution reached the city and new roads were built. The old roads and fortifications disappeared and by 1780 the first road lights were installed. But by the end of this century it went down hill again. The French closed the university, closed the abbeys and the guilds.
It is only from the visit of Napoleon in 1803 that the situation improved.
The 20th century
The 20th century was not different then the other centuries. The Leuven history is filled with drama. The beginning of world war one didn’t damage the city but at the end the Germans burned down the city. More then 1000 houses were destroyed, the church lost all its treasures and horror happened in the famous university library that was burned to the ground with 300.000 irreplaceable manuscripts dating from the middle ages to the 20th century.
Until today this act is controversial and Germany never admitted it.
'They (Belgians) shot first' was the explanation. Other German officers suggested that the Belgians them selves burned the library in order to blame Germany.
The americans built a new library and the city was completely recreated following the old styles.
During the Second World War, the library was again destroyed by German bombings and this time 800.000 books were destroyed. The old town was heavily damaged again. It took until 1982 that the town hall that was also heavily damaged was only renovated.
During the sixties the city was the scene of student revolts and protest actions. It ended in the split of the university into a Flemish and Wallonian part. The library, not being destroyed this time, was split into two parts. The separation was done in such a stupid way that main works were split and also this was again a big loss of knowledge for the university.
Today, the city is flourishing more than ever. The city is famous for its night life, cultural heritage and … beer.
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