Country : Belgium
The oldest use of the silver bar as arms of Leuven dates from a seal from 1621. The small shield can be seen between two towers of a fortified city. The arms are identical to the historical arms of Lorraine. In the early 12th century Count Godfried of Leuven became Duke of Lower-Lorraine and his arms were later transferred to the city.
In the middle ages the city also used a motto :"Loven boven, altijd God Loven", or something like "Leuven above all, but always praise the Lord".
In the 17th century the city also used a crown above the shield, the size and shape of the crown have changed regularly during the centuries.
In 1810 the local council applied for the the old arms again formally to the French 'Conseil du Sceau' in Paris (Leuven was now part of the French Empire), because 'even cities like Diest applied for arms', so a major city like Leuven also needed an official grant. Leuven expected to receive arms and status as city of the first rank, equivalent to Brussels and Amsterdam. However when the grant of arms was received on February 25, 1813 the city was not pleased. Not only was the historical crown was not granted, but the arms were augmented with a free quarter with a crowned N. This was the symbol used by cities of the second rank within the French Empire. In addition, the city was entitled to use the other augmentations corresponding to cities of the second class; a helmet, with with as a crest a mural crown from which rose a staff of Mercury flanked by an olive and oak branch. The city council was not pleased with this 'degradation' and the arms thus were never used and the grant was placed in the city archive. The result is that nowadays the grand and the sealed metal tube in which it was send, are still in very good condition.
After the fall of the French Empire the city remained the use of the old shield, but never applied for the official use at the Dutch government. Similarly, after the Belgian independence of 1830 the city did not apply for new arms. Finally on April 29, 1845 the city was granted official arms again. These showed the historical arms, but now with a helmet and as a crest a lion holding the arms of the Dukes of Brabant (identical to the National arms). The Dukes of Brabant descended from the Counts of Leuven.
The arms from 1845
In 1924 the city was mentioned in the list of martyred cities of the French army, due to the suffering in the First World War, and thus was granted to use the French War Cross. The local council thus applied for new arms, now with the French cross. These arms were granted on March 2, 1926.
The arms from 1926
As usual in Belgium at the time, the arms were described by Royal Decree in two languages, French and Dutch. However, the small shield is described in the French text correctly as gold on black, but in the Dutch text as gold on silver... As Leuven is in the Dutch speaking part of Belgium, the Dutch text should have preference, but its description was heraldically incorrect. So the arms were drawn according to the French description...
After the mergers in 1977, the arms were augmented on April 2, 1979 with three castles, one for each of the former municipalities.
The arms from 1979
These arms remained in use until 1997 when the city returned to the arms from 1926, now described properly. .
The arms in a 16th century manuscript
The arms in a 17th century manuscript
The arms in the Wapen- en Vlaggenboek van Gerrit Hesman (1708)
The arms in the Koffie Hag/Café Hag albums +/- 1930
The arms on a police badge (source)
The arms on a Dutch Willem II cigar band
Literature: Servais, 1955; Het wapen van de stad Leuven, no year (1980 ?); information from the city archives (on the 1813 arms)
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