The fully restored Saint Peter’s Church in Leuven forms the backdrop for a new, permanent presentation of Flemish masterpieces by M Leuven. The highlights are the two most important works by the Flemish Master Dieric Bouts: The Last Supper and The Martyrdom of Saint Erasmus. Bouts painted the works 560 years ago specifically for the church. Moreover, he was the first to paint Jesus and his apostles in the iconic composition around the table, 30 years before Leonardo da Vinci.
“Dieric Bouts is to Leuven what Jan Van Eyck is to Ghent. Bouts is one of the great Flemish Masters of the Renaissance who put Leuven on the map”, says Mayor Mohamed Ridouani. “We want to present Leuven globally as the city of Bouts. This new exhibition is something that the people of Leuven can be really proud of: we’re showing world-class masterpieces from our own city, and we’re doing it in an innovative and interactive way.”
‘Between Heaven and Earth – Experience The Last Supper by Bouts’ is part of the Toerisme Vlaanderen’s Flemish Masters project, which aims to put Flemish Masters in the international spotlight. Toerisme Vlaanderen has invested more than half a million euros in this Leuven project. “Dieric Bouts, together with Rogier Van der Weyden, Hans Memling, and the Van Eyck brothers, is one of the most famous Flemish Masters”, says Flemish Minister of Tourism Zuhal Demir. “This unique project not only acquaints the visitor with the masterpieces in Saint Peter’s Church, it also uses technology to tempt the visitor to discover the city of Leuven, the backdrop for Bouts’ life and work.”
Immerse yourself in art
To tell the story of the church’s art treasures in their historical context, M has also produced a digital experience that immerses visitors in the 12 highlights in Saint Peter’s Church. For visitors, it will feel as though they are actually part of The Last Supper and as if water is flowing under their feet at the Chapel of Proud Margaret. City councillor for culture and tourism and chairwoman of Museum M’s Board of Governors, Denise Vandevoort explains: “The project shows Leuven at its best and touches all facets of the city: the beauty of Saint Peter’s Church and the Flemish Master Dieric Bouts, who is really coming home to Leuven. Moreover, the warm reception to ‘Set an extra place’ in the run-up to the reopening of the church was a wonderful illustration of the hospitality of the people of Leuven.”
“Just like the church, Bouts’ artworks are freely accessible to the public and really come into their own thanks to the new museum exhibition”, adds Peter Bary, general director of M. “Not only because of the adapted lighting or the extensive restoration, but also because of the comprehensive information in Dutch, French, German, English, and Spanish. Visitors, young and old alike, are immersed in a total experience. For the curious, there is the digital experience; enthusiasts can delve into all the details through the visitor’s guide; and for the very youngest, there’s a tailormade family route for children from 4 to 6 years old and those from 6 to 10.”
The scaffolding comes down
The permanent exhibition is housed in one of Leuven’s most famous landmarks: Saint Peter’s Church on the Grote Markt. The Gothic church has undergone an extensive restoration. “The restoration took no less than 35 years: 25 years were spent working on the exterior, and then another 10 years on the interior”, tells Leuven’s councillor for restorations Dirk Vansina. “With good care, our Saint Peter’s Church will be restoration-free for the next 50 years. Although work on such an iconic monument is never really ‘finished’.”
The importance of Saint Peter’s Church, just like that of Dieric Bouts, is beyond question. “The church is a role model for the good preservation of our valuable urban heritage”, says councillor for immovable heritage Carl Devlies. “Especially because the church, along with the Groot Begijnhof, is the only landmark in Leuven recognized by UNESCO as world heritage sites. It is also the first project under the new Church Policy Plan – a long-term vision around the (re-)use of places of worship – to be fully rolled out.”
Beyond the church walls
‘Between Heaven and Earth – Experience The Last Supper by Bouts’ extends beyond the church walls. The digital experience and the visitor’s guide take visitors on a journey into the history and current life of Leuven and Flemish-Brabant.
“Leuven, our art city, is a top tourist destination in Flemish-Brabant and an excellent departure point for exploring the Hageland and the Groene Gordel (Green Belt) by bike. Let Dieric Bouts be your gateway to the walking province!”, said Monique Swinnen, Provincial Deputy for Toerisme Vlaams-Brabant.
On Saturday 7 and Sunday 8 March, Saint Peter’s Church and ‘Between Heaven and Earth – Experience The Last Supper of Bouts’ will open their doors. Visitors are welcome to the festive opening weekend on the Grote Markt and in Saint Peter’s Church. They will be able to get a free metaphorical foretaste of the digital experience, the guided tours, and the family route. And there will be literal tasters in the form of Bouts beer, Bouts sausage, ‘Pas de Bouts’ cheese, and dishes from the time of Bouts during the opening party on the Grote Markt on the evening of Saturday, 7 March. The food and beer, inspired by The Last Supper costs 10 euros. For more information and to register go to mleuven.be/openingsweekend.
Discover more information about ‘Between Heaven and Earth – Experience The Last Supper of Bouts’ at www.diericbouts.be.