We thought the 31st of May was just a Saturday like any other. We drove our bikes to the center of Leuven to go buy a portable mini music box that we could plug into our tablet our computer for when we’re traveling. It was busy in the city, but that’s not unusual on a Saturday. Then we saw that something else was going on: there were giants!
That’s rights. There were giants all over the Hoover Square. They had come from all over Europe to celebrate the baptism of Fiere Margriet (“Proud Margaret”), Leuven’s own giant who’d been “born” last year. She’s the third giant of the city and now walks alongside giant Jan Van den Graetmolen and Kobe Koeieschieter.
I couldn’t find Kobe, but this is Jan during the parade (yes, there was a parade!):
“Proud Margaret” of Leuven
Everyone in Leuven knows about Fiere Margriet. There’s a statue of her that used to be located in the Tiensestraat, but has been moved to the Dijle river, where it belongs.
You see, there are two legends about Fiere Margriet and one of the stories told ends at this river.
According to the first one, which goes back to the 13th century, claims that a couple was attacked and murdered in their home in Leuven. Margaret, who lived with them, was abducted by the attackers and killed when they were outside the city. Her body was found a couple of days later by some fishermen. People said that miracles had happened the day she was killed.
In the 16th century a man named Joannes Molanus wrote down another version of this legend. He claimed that Margaret had also been raped by the attackers, who had thrown her corpse into the Dijle river. Margaret didn’t flow away from the city though; fish carried her body upstream back to Leuven, where it was discovered by the Duke of Brabant.
Fiere Margriet was declared beatific in 1902. Now, as a giant, she’s 3,8 meters high and weighs 38 kilograms.
I was lucky enough to get a photo with her:
The giants of Europe
Giants have been built in Europe since the Middle Ages. Their original purpose was to scare away thieves and attackers. During the Enlightenment a lot of giants were destroyed, but there are still about 1,500 giants in Belgium, some of them being centuries old.
That day in Leuven they weren’t only on display, they also took part in a giant parade. How that goes? The giants are hollow inside and placed on wheels so that giant carriers can get inside them and make them walk.
Where to stay in Leuven
If you’re looking for an apartment rather than a hotel, I would recommend checking airbnb. Sign up through my link and get a discount on your first stay!
Free walking route for Leuven
I’ve put together a walking route for Leuven, including sights and delicious spaces to take a break at.