Looking at the religious architecture of René Van Steenbergen

Map of the newly built churches by architect René Van Steenbergen in the Antwerp province (Research seminar in architectural history, Faculty of Architecture, KU Leuven, Lieselot Lust and Renate Gerets)

Last month, we organised a small exhibition about the religious architecture of René Van Steenbergen (1911 – 1995) in Turnhout. Van Steenbergen was a very active architect in the Campine area during the post-war period. He has an oeuvre of no less than 800 buildings, covering the different programs of the Welfare state: single family houses, schools, churches, offices, industrial buildings, sport complexes and hospitals. As you can see on this map, he realized 14 new churches in the province of Antwerp, making him the most productive church-builder of the province in the post-war period.

The exhibition featured the models of most of Van Steenbergen church buildings, made by students of the KU Leuven Architecture Faculty, and research papers on the context of these buildings, made by students of the KU Leuven Arts Faculty (under supervision of Sven Sterken and Eva Weyns). This exhibition was the start of a three-year research project on Van Steenbergen by KU Leuven in collaboration with AR-TUR and Architectuur Archief van de Provincie Antwerpen (APA). To be continued!


Exhibition about Modern Churches in the Campine area


During the Open Church Days, this exhibition about the religious architecture of René Van Steenbergen will take place in the Church of the Blijde Boodschap in the Parkwijk in Turnhout. This exhibition is realized as part of a research seminar in architectural history at the Architecture Faculty of KU Leuven (under supervision of Sven Sterken and Eva Weyns) and a seminar about recent history at the Arts Faculty of KU Leuven (under supervision of Eva Weyns) .

Impressions of the DOCOMOMO excursion

Here are some of the interiors that we visited during the the DOCOMOMO Belgium excursion on April 22 on the topic of liturgical renewal and modern architecture after Vatican II. The churches included in this tour reflect each in their own way, a double paradigm shift: on the one hand the acceptance of architectural modernism as a fashionable means of expression in religious circles; on the other hand, an increasingly radical departure from traditional church typologies in response to society’s cry for renewal . Thus, these churches openly question the received image of the church as a sacred monument, proposing a more functional notion of the place for worshiping as a carefully designed piece of religious infrastructure instead.

DOCOMOMO Belgium excursion, from the top left to the bottom right: interior of the Saint Pie X church in Ottignies (Pierre Pinsart, 1961-1964), church of the Monastère de l’Alliance des Bénédictines in Rixensart (Roger Bastin, 1964-1969), interior of Onze-Lieve-Vrouw-van-Atlijddurende-Bijstand church in Haacht (Paul Felix & Jan Tanghe, 1958-1961), interior of the Sint-Carolus church in Holsbeek (Marc Dessauvage, 1964-1969), and baptismal font in the Sint-Lambertus church in Muizen (Lucien Engels, 1960-1966), (all photographs: Weyns, 2017).

Territories of Faith


As a part of my PhD project, we are planning an international workshop on 3-4 July 2017 in Leuven to address my research questions in a transnational (European) and comparative perspective.


The research group Architectural Cultures of the Recent Past (ARP) of KU Leuven and KADOC, the Documentation and Research Centre on Religion, Culture and Society of KU Leuven, are organizing an international workshop on religion, urban planning and demographic change in post-war Europe as a prelude to an edited volume on this topic, to be published by an international academic press.

For more details, please visit the webpage of the full Call for Papers: Territories of Faith Workshop.

For any inquiries, please contact eva.weyns@kuleuven.be.