LOUVAIN’S ART TREASURES.
Official Report by Superior Confidential Councilor von Falke After Inspection of Louvain, Sept. 17.
The ancient Tuchhalle, which was used for university and library purposes, was completely destroyed by fire, with the exception of the front and rear facades in Gothic and Renaissance style. The library, with its very valuable treasures of manuscripts and books, was therefore a total loss. Officials of the library who might have called attention to the saving of the imperiled treasures were not present when the adjoining houses on both sides of the hall caught fire, and no hope exists that any of the books or manuscripts, or even parts thereof, might be found in the ruins.
Apart from this—by far the worst damage—and the partial destruction by fire of the Cathedral of St. Peter no other losses of extraordinary importance took place at Louvain.
The Rathaus, or City Hall, in late Gothic style, under reconstruction for several years and on which work has not been finished yet, was saved, thanks to the orders of the commander, Major von Manteuffel, who ordered that the burning houses on the right side of the City Hall be leveled to the ground. The military removed from a cellar of the City Hall a quantity of ammunition which threatened to explode through extreme heat of the fire. Four soldiers were severely injured thereby. The Rathaus, thanks to the precautions taken by the German military, and in spite of its nearness to the conflagration, was not damaged in the interior, nor did its rich outer architecture suffer any at all.
The roof of the Cathedral of St. Peter, which was set afire by sparks from adjoining buildings, was very considerably damaged, however only to such an extent as to allow its restoration to the original condition. The roof frame is burned to the beginning of the curve of the dome. The inner ceiling has prevented the fire from spreading to the inner part of the church, containing rich art treasures. Above the choir, however, the inner ceiling gave way, thereby partially damaging the upper part of the rococo altar of stone which was without any particular artistic value.
The small sacrament house standing next to the altar—a very fine and rich stonework of late Gothic style by the builder of the City Hall, M. de Layens—has been slightly damaged by the collapse of the ceiling, which chipped off the upper phiales. These broken pieces have been collected without any substantial loss and can easily be replaced. The damage to the sacrament house can therefore be replaced. Close to the main portal of the cathedral, following the fire in the bell tower, the falling bells pierced the roof. Near the entrance in the southerly part of the church at the right side the fire did some damage to the walls and the stone balustrades in the side chapel. Notable art treasures have, however, not been damaged. Only the ventilator in the main portal, a beautiful Renaissance carving, (of wood,) was burned. An ancient glass painting of the seventeenth century remained undamaged.