Photo of the week: A festival of freedom


The Brussels student celebration St V has been added to the region’s inventory of intangible cultural heritage

Party time

St V, the annual party held by students of Brussels’ two free universities, VUB and ULB, in honour of their founder has been recognised as intangible cultural heritage by the capital.

The day, also known as Saint Verhaegen, is a celebration of Theodore Verhaegen, the Brussels lawyer and politician who created the Free University of Belgium in 1834. He had a vision of an establishment free from state and church control that was free to carry out independent research.

The university soon became the Free University of Brussels, and split 50 years ago into two separate French- and Dutch-speaking institutions. The two universities marked their 185th and 50th anniversaries this autumn with their first joint academic opening to launch the new year together, a ceremony that was attended by King Filip.

“We are especially proud that our years-long tradition, which is firmly interwoven with Brussels, has been added to this list that includes typically Brussels icons such as the Meyboom and fritkot culture,” said Frank Scheelings, VUB’s archivist. The Meyboom is a colourful parade held every year on 9 August, in which a tree is carried into Brussels, featuring a brass band, giants and people dressed in traditional costume. It symbolises a 13th-century victory over the city of Leuven and is also recognised by Unesco.

The region said it had bestowed the honour on the celebration because it contributed to the “multifaceted, independent and rebellious character and identity of Brussels.”

Photo: The St V celebrations this year in central Brussels
© VUB/Bas Bogaerts