Echo: A Reshape Erasmus Project

Sint-Jozefskerk / Saint Joseph’s Church

1860-1871

About the site:

On the current site of the Art’s Faculty parking lot it use to stand one of Leuven’s most relevant urban landscape maker – Saint Joseph’s Church. 

Built during the half of the 19th century, but never fully completed, the church stood as a perfect example of the neo-gothic aesthetics so evidently present during those days. Alongside the Industrial Revolution and all the advances during that time, the revival of past and more distant architectural styles appears as reaction, and around European nations, with strong connections to a search of self-identifying tokens of past glory. For the matter, the gothic period stands out as a part of Leuven’s historical identity Saint Peter’s church, Saint Quentin’s church and old town hall, are a fair example of it. Even in civil architecture the neo-gothic style and elements are present in many late 19th and early 20th century buildings, not just around Leuven city centre, but all over Belgium. 

In religious (Christian) architecture the neo-gothic also intends to affirm a stand of the Catholic church against an increasing secularisation of society – not just a matter of taste of fashion, but instead, a well-organized agenda. These buildings often resort to same plan, a majestic façade, finished by an immense bell-tower at the centre and, right beneath it the main entrance of the temple, sided by two smaller ones. 

Meant to last, due to its stone structure, the story of Saint Joseph’s church was shorter than many could have anticipated. By the mid-twentieth century, the building needed a severe intervention one that seemed as impossible, since many parts of the façade started to collapse around that time. Closed since 1966, as a safety precaution, the church would dismantle four years after, in 1970. Some years after, the site and the surrounding would gain their current appearance, with the construction of the Faculty of Art’s building (Erasmushuis) and the gardens around it. 

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