On 20 November, ULB celebrates its creation by honouring its founder, Pierre-Théodore Verhaegen. On this occasion, the university community expresses its loyalty to the spirit of the University’s founders, as well as its gratitude towards those who have served it throughout its history.

Histoire et origines

ULB, founded on 20 November

ULB was officially opened on 20 November 1834, at the initiative of Pierre-Théodore Verhaegen. From this day, it was decided that 20 November would be a holiday; in addition, starting as early as 1843 with the creation of the UAE (association of former students), a number of celebratory events were held on that day. At the time, ULB alumni would have reunions in the Brussels bars they had frequented in their youth.

1888: the first ‘Saint-V’

In 1888, the phrase ‘Saint-Verhaegen’ was used for the first time. With the country under Catholic rule at the time, students—guided by progressive professors—honoured the University’s founder on 20 November and ‘canonized’ him in honour of the University’s early days and the democratic ideal of free enquiry, which they sought to revive. Tribute was paid to Verhaegen in front of his statue, and a wreath of flowers was laid on his grave. Two years later, the academic authorities themselves started taking part in the celebrations.

Commemorations and festivities

Over the years, ‘Saint-V’ day eventually became a tradition. The morning of 20 November is dedicated to commemorations, first in front of Verhaegen’s statue and the ‘Groupe G’ monument on the Solbosch campus, then at the Evere cemetery, and finally at the Brussels Town Hall. Festivities are held in the city centre during the afternoon.

Saint-Verhaegen day included in Brussels’s cultural heritage

In 2019, Saint-Verhaegen day was included in the intangible heritage list of the Brussels-Capital Region. In doing so, Brussels acknowledges the celebration’s contribution to the city’s multifaceted, independent, and rebellious spirit, as well as to its identity. This recognition of Saint-Verhaegen day also demonstrates that the event is about much more than a parade attended by more than 7,000 every year. First and foremost, it is a celebration of freedom. Through speeches and banners, participants advocate for freedom of research, education, thought, and speech. In addition, the event is firmly established in the city’s cultural agenda.

Updated on January 11, 2021