It took ten years to restore the ancient abbey outside Leuven. But the result is simply stunning. Founded in 1129 by the Norbertine order (also known as the Premonstratensians), the Abdij van Park was largely rebuilt in the 17th century.
The sprawling complex – still occupied by a few Premonstratensians – includes a fascinating museum of religious art called Parcum. The museum occupies several historic rooms including the former refectory where the ceiling is decorated with extraordinary stucco scenes. They illustrate episodes from the Bible, all involving food. The Last Supper, of course, is up there, along with an intimate portrait of Martha and Mary in a kitchen.
And there is more to come in the library. You enter a dark room lined with bookcases and another beautiful stucco artwork above your head illustrated with biblical scenes linked to books. The three-dimensional stucco figures emerge from the ceiling like a 17th-century version of virtual reality glasses.
Derek Blyth’s hidden secret of the day: Derek Blyth is the author of the bestselling “The 500 Hidden Secrets of Belgium”. He picks out one of his favourite hidden secrets for The Brussels Times every day.