Historic heart, home of a Flemish master
In April 2017, M-Museum Leuven submitted an ambitious project proposal for the impulse programme Flemish Masters, in cooperation with the Leuven Tourist Office. It focuses on Saint Peter’s Church and its art treasures as a central asset for cultural tourism to Leuven. Denise Vandevoort, City Councillor for Culture in the City of Leuven and President of M-Museum Leuven: “The Grote Markt is the historic heart of Leuven, with the city hall and Saint Peter’s Church. The imposing Gothic church will be completely restored by 2019. This will enable us to exhibit the artworks in the M-Treasury of Saint Peter’s in all their glory. You will discover a unique ensemble of twelve works in their original historic setting, with two absolute masterpieces: The Last Supper by Dirk Bouts and the Edelheere Triptych. M and Leuven City Council are therefore extremely grateful for the subsidy that has been awarded by Minister Ben Weyts and Flanders Tourism. Together, we will make Saint Peter’s Church an international hotspot where you can discover the Flemish Masters.”
Director of M Peter Bary explains how M will implement these plans: “Thanks to this leverage subsidy, we can invest in a new ticket office and reception area, so that we can offer our visitors the warmest welcome. In addition, we are creating multilingual facilities with digital applications that will link the art treasures in the church to locations and stories in and around Leuven. We will thus not only develop the church’s potential, but create a total artistic experience in which The Last Supper takes pride of place. This 15th-century masterpiece has all the necessary qualities to be an international reference point for art and heritage lovers, just like The Last Judgement by Rogier van der Weyden in Beaune or the Isenheim Altarpiece in Colmar.”
12 masterpieces in one location
Saint Peter’s Church is home to twelve works by Flemish Primitives in their authentic historic setting, located in the places for which they were originally made. Only a handful of 15th-century triptychs that match the quality of The Last Supper by Dirk Bouts are still exhibited in their original settings. Moreover, the work is intimately linked to Leuven and its history. Dirk Bouts transposed an event in the life of Christ to his own age and his own city (1468). Jesus and his apostles sit at a table in a 15th-century patrician mansion, and they wear 15th-century clothing. Through the window, you can see Leuven’s Grote Markt during the building of the city hall. The church also features a second triptych by Bouts: The Martyrdom of Saint Erasmus. This work is currently undergoing restauration thanks to donations to M-Life and will again be exhibited beside The Last Supper in 2019. Other works will also be given prominent places in the new interior arrangements, such as the tomb of Henry I, the series of paintings of Proud Margaret, the design models of the church tower, the Sedes Sapientiae, the Triumphal Cross by Jan Borman and the Sacrament Tower. The Edelheere Triptych, a copy of the world-famous Deposition by Rogier van der Weyden, will also return to its own chapel in the church.