Friday, February 9, 2007

The Bug Explanation

I just got an email from my friend Johan Sevenants with whom I just had dinner at a Thai restaurant in Leuven. I told him I wrote about the Leuven Library on my blog so he was not only thoughtful enough to check it out but he gave me info on the spiked bug shown in front of the Library. Here's his email:

On your blog, you wonder about what you call "the fly". Actually, it's
a beetle. This is what I know about it:

The "beetle on the needle" was given to Leuven by the KUL for the
University's 575 birthday. The artist, Jan Fabre, has always been obsessed by bugs and insects. For example, aside from the needle artwork, he also covered
the ceiling of the royal palace's "mirror room" with thousands of beetles
painted in green.

If you look closely, you'll notice it's really a 400x enlarged version
of a needle (23 m high) on which the (3 m) beetle is stuck. The needle
itself "sticks" in the blue sky.

Several explanations exist:
- It represents the insect collection the artist made in childhood.
- It is a symbol of science and knowledge, thus representing the
- "Insect collection" as in "book collection" (of the library.)
- the beetle is a species that already exists 400 million years, so its
"memory of nature" clearly outspans man's "memory through book
printing" -
the library again.

Or you can make up any meaning you like, for example; "giant fallus
stuck too deep, poor bug"

Ok, maybe I'll get on your blog now and become world famous. (you just have,
Johan! And at some point I'll find a photo of you to go with your blog donation.)


Anonymous said...

hi Christine
Found this about the beetle

De juweelkever is een geschenk van de universiteit aan de stad, naar aanleiding van haar 575-jarige bestaan

The bug is a gift for the 575 birthday of the university
The city is much older

this comes out the short history of leuven as can be found on

Although the first references to the town can be traced back as far as the 9th century and in spite of its strategic location on the river Dyle, it was not until around the 11th-12th century that Leuven began to develop as an important trading centre within the Duchy of Brabant. It was at this time that its first town wall, churches, monasteries and abbeys were built.
this comes from

De eerste geschreven teksten met vermelding Luvanium en Loven dateren uit 884 toen de Noormannen zich hier gevestigd hadden en uit 891 toen ze er door Arnulf van Carinthiƫ verslagen werden.

The first written texts with the name Luvanium and Loven dates back from 884 when the vikings came to conquer and from 891 when they where beaten by Arnulf van Carinthie


Anonymous said...

WOW! That is really amazing.

Anonymous said...

How is the Thai food in Belgium?

Anonymous said...

Hi Christine,

Geert is right. The university was founded in 1425, the city is much older. So it was the university's 575th birthday. Actually that's what I intended to say...

How did I mix up things like that?
Maybe the wine?...


Anonymous said...

So Leuven is a fairly new university? I believe that mine, a little worse for wear, was founded in 1231. Or was it 1167? The administrators are still debating the point. I can vouch for the plumbing, which is most definitely as recent as 1231 -- absolutely state of the art.
-- E.C. Chamberlain

eeekthekat said...

That is about a good explanation of it that I can think of. I wondered what it was when I was there and no one that I spoke with had any idea of the meaning behind it.

PEANUT said...

funny that you visited leuven. It is not really a huge touristy area. you must be from europe?