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Unlocking the Past: How Park Abbey Merges History with Future Dialogues

Hello folks,

Park Abbey, a peaceful green spot south of Leuven, is popular among locals for jogging or relaxing with a book. However, many are unaware that it also houses PARCUM, a museum focused on religion, art, and culture, right in its centre.

The Park Abbey was founded in 1129 when Geoffrey I, Duke of Brabant, donated this area of his hunting grounds around Leuven to the Premonstratensians, an order founded by St. Norbert of Xanten. The Duke was keen on improving the religious and social infrastructure of the area to maintain his power and prestige in the Brabantian heartlands, and he succeeded. The monastery played an important role from the late Middle Ages until the XVII century, producing and protecting manuscripts and books, including the famous Park Abbey Illuminated Bible, dated **from** 1148, today displayed at the British Library in London. The canons also worked hard to establish the economic base of the abbey, which includes, besides four large fish ponds, a watermill and many gardens **that are** still being used for organic farming today. The beautiful buildings thrived over the centuries, with formerly one of the largest collections of stained glass windows produced by Jean de Caumont in the XVII century, depicting the spiritual journey of St. Norbert, and one of the most renowned carillons of the Low Lands with 40 bells.

Unfortunately, to survive the severe periods of political and financial crisis during the XVIII and XIX centuries, a myriad of relics, art pieces, and books of the Abbey were sold. Many of them are spread around the world. However, to our joy, much progress **has been made** in recovering the objects during the last decades. Thanks to a dedicated team of volunteers, art buffs, and friends of the Park Abbey, valuable items **have been returned** to their original home, including most of the wonderful stained glass windows. Furthermore, the Abbey **has been** restored and lovely surprises **are being revealed**, such as medieval frescoes that were hidden behind paintings from the XVI century in the chapter hall.

Leuven is home to the oldest university in Belgium, KU Leuven. The same spirit that inspires students from all over the world to come to this city throughout centuries, is also present at PARCUM. The new museum invites believers and non-believers, people with different ideologies and backgrounds, to a dialogue. Its new exhibition, named "Religion. Healing. Dividing," encourages visitors to reflect on the duality of religion, which causes conflicts, and destruction, but also unites. To create this exhibition inside the heart of a 900-year-old historic Abbey is a revolutionary act. In critical times when we suffer from a wave of hate speech and intolerance, places like PARCUM deserve our sincere recognition and appreciation.

The new "Religion. Healing. Dividing" exhibition will be open to the public from the 8th November 2018 until the 10th March 2019. On the 11th of November 2018, the new carillons, replacing the original version that was burned during WWI, will be inaugurated by playing peace songs all day long. Thus, I deeply recommend you plan your visit on this day. Furthermore, children are especially welcome at PARCUM, which offers workshops exclusively for the little ones. 

 Check the video below for more details. 

visiting the PARCUM museum in Leuven

Practical Information

Abdij van Park 7
3001 Leuven

Telephone: T +32 16 40 01 51

Opening Hours:
Tuesday - Sunday from 10h to 17h
Mondays & public holidays

You can see more photos of my trips on Instagram and videos on Youtube

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