Saint Peter’s Church

Triptiek met de marteling van de heilige Erasmus - Dieric Bouts

Discover how the masterful hands of Dieric Bouts transformed religious narratives into vivid scenes in Saint Peter’s Church in Leuven, creating art of the highest order. If the torture of Saint Erasmus becomes too much for you, it only requires a small step to look at another masterpiece.


Saint Peter’s Church

A Romanesque church once stood at this location. Construction of the present Gothic church began in the 15th century, involving the renowned architects Sulpitius van Vorst and Jan Keldermans II. This religious institution played a crucial role in the history of the city of Leuven. Ambitious plans to enhance the church with three towers were never completed due to financial and construction problems. In fact, a (partial) collapse occurred in 1570 and the great west tower was never finished after that. In 1980 the church’s imposing ambulatory was converted into a museum and in 2009 it was named the M-Treasury of Saint Peter.


Sint-Pieterskerk in Leuven
Triptiek met de marteling van de heilige Erasmus - Dieric Bouts

Triptych of the Martyrdom of Saint Erasmus, Dieric Bouts

Dieric Bouts completed the Triptych of the Martyrdom of Saint Erasmus around 1460. It focuses on Erasmus, the third century bishop of Antioch, who became a victim of the persecution of Christians and was tortured to death by the Romans. According to legend, an angel managed to free him and he travelled to Italy in a boat. During the trip he ran into a storm and the ship caught fire with blue flames. Erasmus was able to contain the flames and was declared the patron saint of sailors. In effigies, he was shown with a windlass wrapped in ship's rope as an attribute. Although this was meant to symbolize his sea voyage, people interpreted it as a torture device. Bouts painted the windlass as a torture device to remove the intestines from the stomach of Erasmus whilst he was still alive. Not a single drop of blood is spilled. The executioners, judges, saints and the victim look on unfazed. The richly coloured landscapes in the background momentarily distract from the horrors taking place.

Triptiek met de marteling van de heilige Erasmus
Triptiek met de marteling van de heilige Erasmus - Dieric Bouts
Triptiek met het Laatste Avondmaal - Dieric Bouts

Altarpiece of the Holy Sacrament, Dieric Bouts

The Altarpiece of the Holy Sacrament, better known as The Last Supper, is considered a landmark painting of the Low Countries. The triptych remains in Saint Peter’s Church to this day, the location Dieric Bouts originally painted it for. After being commissioned by the Brotherhood of the Holy Sacrament in 1464 he worked on this masterpiece for four years. The central panel depicts the Last Supper with Jesus and his apostles. The four side panels show stories from the Old Testament. Bouts was the first painter to depict the Last Supper on such a monumental scale. The work is testimony to his impressive knowledge and mastery of the rules of perspective. A true Masterpiece!

Triptiek met het Laatste Avondmaal - Dieric Bouts
Triptiek met het Laatste Avondmaal - Dieric Bouts
Triptiek met het Laatste Avondmaal - Dieric Bouts
Triptiek met het Laatste Avondmaal - Dieric Bouts
Triptiek met het Laatste Avondmaal - Dieric Bouts

Nobleman triptych, follower of Rogier van der Weyden

Around 1435, Rogier van der Weyden painted his world famous Descent from the Cross for the chapel of Our Lady of Ginderbuyten, located near what is Tiensepoort today. Nowadays it can be admired at the Prado in Madrid. Van der Weyden painted ten figures imbued with a subdued but powerful sadness set against a background of gold. The bodies of Mary and Jesus seem like mirror images. The profound influence of the Descent from the Cross is demonstrated by the many copies that quickly followed. One of the oldest known copies is the Nobleman’s Triptych dating back to 1443. It was probably created when a Leuven painter was commissioned by Willem Edelheere, a patrician based in Leuven. The work was meant for the altar of his family’s burial chapel in Saint Peter's Church, where it can be admired today.

Edelheeretriptiek, navolger van Rogier van der Weyden

Triumphal Cross Ensemble, Atelier of Jan Borman II

This oak triumphal cross is a Brabant late Gothic masterpiece originating from the Brussels atelier of the famous woodcarver Jan Borman II (circa 1460-1520). It dates back to post 1488, the year the rood screen on which the cross rests was installed. This location is typical for triumphal crosses, which mark the boundary between the chancel with the main altar and the nave where the faithful sit. The ensemble attracts attention because of its imposing appearance. The images of the crucified Christ, John and Mary are highly expressive and realistically rendered, with an eye for minute detail. The composition is symmetrical and balanced. The work had a major influence on Brabant sculpture around 1500.

Atelier van Jan II Borman (ca. 1460-1520), Triomfkruisensemble
Reliekbeelden door Jan Wynants

Relic sculptures, Jan Wynants

Stunning examples of precious metal art can be admired in the two chapels of the south aisle. It is only a small part of the many hundreds of liturgical and devotional objects the church once possessed. These eight masterful relic statues date back to between the early 16th and early 18th centuries. They were made by silversmiths from Leuven and Brussels. Relics are located in the image or in an attribute. The origin of the images is not always known. We know that the sculpture pair of Peter and Paul was made by the Leuven silversmith Jan Wynants in 1618.


Practical information


Grote Markt 1
3000 Leuven
View directions

Opening hours

•    Between the 1th of October and the 31th of March, the church is closed on Wednesdays.
•    Open Monday to Saturday from 10.00 to 16.30 hrs.
•    Open Sundays and public holidays from 11.00 to 16.30 hrs.


  • Easy access for people with disabilities

Good to know

  • Admission: free

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