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A Revolutionary Abbey Opens its Gates to the Future

Hello folks, 

The Park Abbey is a green enclave in the south of Leuven, frequented by locals in search of a peaceful place to go jogging in the afternoon, or just to chill and read a book. However, few people know that one of the most precious hidden gems of Leuven, the dialogue museum PARCUM, dedicated to religion, art and culture is located the inner centre of this vast complex. 

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 keep his power and prestige in the Brabantian heartlands, and he achieved it. The monastery played an important role during 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 still being used for organic farming at present day. The beautiful buildings thrived over the centuries, with formerly one of the largest collection of stained glass windows produced by Jean de Caumont in the XVII century, showing the spiritual journey of St. Norbert, and one of the most renowned carillons of the Low Lands with 40 bells.

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

Leuven is home to the most innovative university in Europe, KU Leuven, and the same spirit that inspires researchers from around the world to come to Leuven is also present at PARCUM. The new museum invites believers and non-believers, people with different ideologies and backgrounds, to a dialogue. Its new exposition, named "Religion. Healing. Dividing" encourage visitors to reflect on the duality of religion, which causes conflicts, destruction, but also unites. To create this exposition inside the heart of a 900 years old historic Abbey is a revolutionary act. In critical times where we suffer from a wave of hate speech and intolerance, places like PARCUM deserve our sincere recognition and appreciation.

The new "Religion. Healing. Dividing" exposition will be open to the public starting from the 8th November 2018 to the 10th March  2019. On the 11th November 2018 the new carillons, the original version was burned during the WWI, will be inaugurated by playing peace songs all day long. Thus, I strongly recommend you to plan your visit in this day. Last but not least, children are especially welcome at PARCUM, which prepares workshops exclusively for them. Check below the video 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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