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Louvain (lōväNˈ) [key], Du. Leuven, city (1991 pop. 85,018), Flemish Brabant prov., central Belgium, on the Dijle River. It is a commercial, industrial, and cultural center, as well as a rail junction. Mentioned in the 9th cent., Louvain was a center of the wool trade and of the cloth industry in the Middle Ages. For a time it was the capital of the duchy of Brabant, and in 1356 the Joyeuse Entrée, a charter of liberties, was granted there. In the 14th cent., strife between the nobles and the weavers was prevalent; after the nobles gained authority most of the weavers emigrated to Holland and England, and the city declined. In 1426, Duke John IV of Brabant founded a Roman Catholic university. Its library was destroyed by the Germans in World Wars I and II, but was rebuilt after each. In 1968, as a result of a long-standing dispute between Dutch- and French-speaking sectors, the university was divided into two autonomous units. The Dutch-speaking Universiteit de Leuven remained in Louvain, and the French-speaking Université Catholique de Louvain was established at Ottignies. Among the noted buildings of Louvain are the Gothic city hall (15th cent.; damaged in both world wars); the 14th-century Cloth Workers' Hall, and several medieval churches.

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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