The Men of the Year and the statues of Leuven

Leuven Travel Blog

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The Cowshooters

Leuven is packed full of odd little statues, partly because it has been an important town for hundreds of years, a centre of learning and religion, and partly because of the Mannen van het jaar, the "Men of the Year". This is a friends' association unique to Leuven, based around men who share a birth year. Each year has it own club with its own emblem, flag and costume, which are displayed in the Town Hall. When each circle turns 40 they start to organise activities, festivals or parades, one each year until they turn 50, which they celebrate with a major event, such as the unveiling of a new statue. The circle members are then called Abrahams and have no further obligations to organise events.

With our beautiful blue sky for Valentine's Day, we walked around the city to see a sample of the statues. There is Fiere Margriet (Proud Daisy), hovering naked above a rock. There is the Kattenpomp, built in 1729 to illustrate a traditional folk song:


“Twee emmerkes water halen,

Twee emmerkes pompen,

De meisjes met hun klompen

De meisjes van de kattestraat…”

 

A crude translation doesn't seem to make any sense, but it is a folk song after all.

Proud Daisy

 

 “Two buckets of water,

Two bucket pumps,

The girls with their wooden shoes

The girls of Cat Street…”


Just outside an apartment block on Brusselstraat is a small statue "De Koeieschieter" (the Cowshooters). The citizens of different towns around Flanders all have a nickname, and for Leuven they are called "Cowshooters". This is because of an event during the siege of 1691, when the Leuven militia heard footsteps in fog and bravely set up a formation to battle the approaching French army, who just turned out to be a herd of cattle. There is a statue to Paep Thoon, a jester at the Church in the 15th century, one to Erasmus (1467-1536), the famous scholar, reformer and a lecturer at the University of Leuven, and one to Edouard Remy, a 19th century industrialist who actually cared about the condition of workers. Another statue, outside the Augustinian convent on Brusselstraat is dedicated to Jozef de Veuster, who (as Father Damiaan) went to Hawai'i to look after lepers, insisting that their carers should live among the lepers rather than keeping them at arms length. He died in 1889 from leprosy.

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The Cowshooters
The Cowshooters
Paep Thoon (1430-1487), a jester a…
Paep Thoon (1430-1487), a jester …
Proud Daisy
Proud Daisy
Stadhuis and Fons Sapientiae
Stadhuis and Fons Sapientiae
St Peters Church
St Peter's Church
Stadhuis
Stadhuis
St Huberts
St Huberts
St Huberts
St Huberts
The Old Post Office
The Old Post Office
Erasmus (1467-1536), scholar, Cath…
Erasmus (1467-1536), scholar, Cat…
Flea market
Flea market
St Peters
St Peter's
War Memorial
War Memorial
War Memorial
War Memorial
Train station
Train station
Grote Markt
Grote Markt
Stadhuis
Stadhuis
Stadhuis
Stadhuis
Stadhuis
Stadhuis
Stadhuis
Stadhuis
Old Markt
Old Markt
Father Damiaan (1840-1889), canoni…
Father Damiaan (1840-1889), canon…
Edouard Remy (1813-1896), industri…
Edouard Remy (1813-1896), industr…
University library
University library
Leuven skyline at dusk
Leuven skyline at dusk
Leuven skyline at dusk
Leuven skyline at dusk
Leuven
photo by: Chokk