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Visiting the Main Building of Liège University, Liège, Belgium: a neo-Classical frontage by Julien-Etienne Rémont

Updated on February 4, 2012
Flag of Belgium
Flag of Belgium | Source
Main Building of the University of Liège, Belgium
Main Building of the University of Liège, Belgium | Source
University of Liège, 1914
University of Liège, 1914 | Source
Map location of the Liège area
Map location of the Liège area | Source

Founded by a Dutch king, survived German miltary oppression and frequented by Enver Hoxha

The University of Liège was founded by King William I of The Netherlands. This may seem unusual, until one remembers that until 1830 there was no independent Belgium; after the Congress of Vienna, the former Austrian Netherlands were ceded to the Kingdom of The Netherlands. However, in previous centuries, important scholarly activity was carried out at Liège at earlier institutions and by distinguished individuals; for example, Petrarch (1304-1374) is known to have studied in Liège.

In 1848-49, writer Charles-Augustin Sainte-Beuve (1804-1869) taught at the University.

The Main Building of the University of Liège was built, with a frontage in neo-Classical style, between 1885 and 1892. The architect responsible was Julien-Etienne Rémont (1800-1883)(1); his design was thus executed posthumously. Features include imposing Corithian pillars and a series of allegorical statues representing Law, Mathematics, Philosophy, Medicine, Study, and Arts and Technology, for which various sculptors were responsible.

The edifice incorporated the building of an existing Jesuit college. During the rectorate of Louis Trasenster in the late 19th century, the facilities of the University were greatly enlarged.

The public square, the address of which is used by the Main Building of the University, is Place du 20 août; this refers to repressive events undergone in 1914 at the hands of German Imperial army invaders.

From the 1960s onwards, several of the faculties moved out to the Sart-Tilman site of the University, on the outskirts of the city.

Jean Gol (1942-1995), a former Belgian Minister of Justice, and who was noted for efforts to strengthen Francophone representation in Belgium across ideological boundaries, obtained a law doctorate at the University (2). Some of the University's alumni and graduates might be regarded as very diverse. These include Enver Hoxha (the Albanian leader of Stalinist persuasion), Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat and, last, and definitely least, myself.


(1) Other works for which Architect Julien-Etienne Rémont was also responsible included: the City Hall in Luxembourg City; renovation of theatres in Liège and Namur; a theatre in Maastricht, and the Boverie Gardens, Liège.

(2) Mr Gol was business partner in my landlord's legal practice, when I lived in Liège.

Also worth seeing

In Liège itself, visitor attractions include the following distinguished structures: the former Central Post Office building, situated close to the University's main building; the Bueren Mountain; many examples of fine, ecclesiastical architecture; the former Prince-Bishops' Palace; the 'Perron' steps; the Fragnée Bridge; the Zénobe Gramme Monument; the Cointe Basilica and many others.


How to get there: Brussels Airlines flies from New York (JFK) to Brussels Airport, where car hire is available (distance from Brussels Airport to Liège : 94 kilometres). The Belgian railroad company SNCB maintains a service from Brussels to Liège . Some facilities may be withdrawn, without notice. Please check with the airline or your travel agent for up to date information. Please refer to appropriate consular sources for any special border crossing arrangements which may apply to citizens of certain nationalities.

MJFenn is an independent travel writer based in Ontario, Canada.


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