Ladeuzeplein - University Library

University Library

See also: Catholic University of Leuven (1834–1968)#Library and Katholieke_Universiteit_Leuven#Library

The square is dominated visually by the monumental library of the University. Even though the neo-Renaissance exterior implies otherwise, the building is relatively recent, dating from 1921. The library was a gift from the American people to the city of Leuven, after the original 17th century library near the Grote Markt was burned down by the German occupying forces in August 1914. The fire destroyed not only a large part of the cultural patrimony of the medieval city, but it also caused the loss of countless and irreplaceable historical manuscripts and books, many dating back centuries.

This act of violence caused uproar throughout the world and several, mostly American, charities were established to compensate the loss, so in 1921 work was begun to build a new library, on the square now known as Ladeuzeplein. The new building also contains one of the largest carillons in Europe, it was created and offered as a gift in 1928, by US engineers as a monument of remembrance for all colleagues who lost their lives during World War I. The carillon originally contained 48 bells, that being the number of states in the Union at the time of the gift. The main bell, which rings every hour on the hour, is named the Liberty Bell of Louvain and the fourth largest bell contains an inscription calling for world peace.

In May 1940, in the first year of World War II, the German occupiers again destroyed, almost completely, the (new) University Library. After the war the building was reconstructed almost completely along the original plans. After a substantial renovation from 1999 to 2003 the exterior, carillon and roof structure are once again restored to their former beauty and dominate views of the square.

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