Discovering and photographing the unknown beauty of Europe
Every year, on the first Sunday after the Easter vacation, Heritage Day is held in Flanders and Brussels. It’s a free celebration of our cultural heritage and according to the official website, it focuses on
the movable (objects) and the intangible (stories, traditional techniques and skills) and thus differs from the Open Monument Day, which concentrates on architecture and other immovable heritage. Heritage Day is one of the biggest events for heritage in Flanders and this means that plans should be ambitious. Participation in the Heritage Day implies an extra and remarkable effort to make heritage accessible. ‘Opening the doors’ should be just a starting point and certainly not a final destination.
In short, it should be an event during which everybody is encouraged to interact with their cultural heritage. Every year there is a theme and this year it was all about heroes.
The word heroes can be interpreted in many ways: there are heroes in sports, culture, politics, science and so on. But you can also find heroes in everyday life, such as doctors, firemen and policemen. And Heritage Day chose to honor all of these different kinds of heroes.
About more than 500 museums, libraries, archives and other organizations participated this year, so there was a lot to choose from. We finally decided to go to Louvain again, to visit an exhibition about intellectual heroes. How did students in the 16th – 18th experience their life at the Catholic University of Louvain?
The Catholic University is one of the oldest and biggest universities of Belgium. Nowadays, students can buy syllabi and other books and have access to the Internet, but as you can imagine, it was completely different in the 16th – 18th century. To put it briefly, students had to write their syllabi themselves. You can see a very clear evolution in the subjects; arts, metaphysics and physics were very important in the 17th century, whereas the 18th century was heavily influenced by modern science: astronomy, medicine, electricity and so on.
The Catholic University of Louvain has a unique collection of these handwritten textbooks and you can see some of these at the exhibition Ex Cathedra, which is held in the Central Library. The way these books are decorated is simply magnificent! Just have a look at some examples: