by David Salazar Marcano
This holiday period is often associated with bright displays of lights with fairy-lights decorating trees, streets and houses. Candle lights also recently lit up the streets of the Begijnhof (Beguinage) and filled the local Sint Jan-de-Doper church with their warm glow.
Candles on the streets of the Groot Begijnhof and inside Sint Jan-de-Doper church on Saturday 14th of December
However, Leuven's Wintertijd (Winter time) programme also offers a slightly more unusual experience aptly titled "Light trail (UN)HOLY LIGHT". This experience consists of mesmerizing light & sound shows that, despite their location within 3 of Leuven's churches, are very abstract and removed from the usual symbolism that this period of the year entails. The setting, rather than being used to provide any sort of religious significance, serves an entirely different purpose: it endows the shows with a sense of grandeur as the piercing bright lights dominate the darkness of the church halls and the music resounds powerfully in the background.
There is no particular order in which they need to be visited as they are separate shows and how long you spend at each is entirely up to you. All the shows are repeated continuously in a loop so that you can admire them as many times as you want.
Entrance to all of the shows is free from 6pm until 10pm every day from Saturday 14th of December until Saturday 21st of December.
Sint-Michielskerk - Ephemeral Club
Location: Naamsestraat 57A, 3000 Leuven (near the University Hall & Oude Markt)
This light & sound show is as impressive as it is simple. A single, fine thread of bright white light emanating from high above in the vaults of the church pierces through the darkness that submerges it. Moreover, it is almost impossible not to follow this thin ray of light with your eyes as it gracefully circles across the church's floor. This artwork is the result of a collaboration between visual artists Arnaud De Wolf and Maarten Vanermen, with the support of Cas-co.
Kapel Zwartzusters-Klooster - The Fifth Element
Art-Light & Sacred Places
Location: Zwartzustersstraat 2, 3000 Leuven (near the Groot Begijnhof & the Dijlepark)
Named after Luc Besson's 1997 film of the same name, this light & sound show has a very similar feel to the film with the beautiful voice of Noémie Schellens in the background as bright lights flash in every direction of the small chapel, reminiscent of a futuristic metropolis. Although fairly short (only 4 min) there is a lot more to take in than with Ephemeral Club as the light bounces off multiple disco balls placed strategically across the room to produce a panoply of light rays.
Sint-Antonius Kapel - Diapositive
Children of the Light
Location: Pater Damiaanplein, 3000 Leuven (near the Irish College)
Within this more modern church the light is captured within a disk which seems to magically float and rotate in front of the altar as if enchanted. A truly (un)holy experience as the light appears to open a portal into another world. The light flickers and dances around the ring seemingly trying to escape from its circular prison. This artwork is from the artist duo Children of the Light and was curated by Julietter Bibasse.