As far as population goes, Sint-Pieters-Leeuw is one of the largest municipalities in Flemish Brabant. Located along ancient important connection roads and in the shadow of cities such as Brussels and Halle, this rural settlement grew into a major residential and professional community.
The municipality has a lengthy history behind it. The oldest written sources date back to the 9th, 12th and 13th centuries; the oldest document is a deed of donation by 'dame Angela', a noblewoman from Brabant, in which reference is made to a 'domain or a "vrij goed" 7 miles in length and 1 mile in width with a parent church and 9 subsidiary churches', donated to the chapter of Saint Peter in Deutz near Cologne.
At the time the domain was bordered by Sint-Pieters-Leeuw, Oudenaken, Elingen, Sint-Laureins-Berchem, Vlezenbeek, Pede, Itterbeek, Dilbeek and parts of Anderlecht on the left bank of the Zenne and on the right bank by Buizingen, Eizingen, Huizingen, Dworp, Beersel, Ruisbroek, Linkebeek, Alsemberg, Sint-Genesius-Rode up to the river Lasne in Genval.
Before the year 1,000 Leeuw was already a well-organized domain, with a main centre and at least nine neighbourhoods, evidenced by the nine churches or chapels which were dependent on the parish church of Leeuw.
Mention is made in 1130 of Lewe which in all likelihood is derived from Hlaiw, a hillock. Later on the name changed to Leuve (1179), Leuves (1141), Lewis (1217) and Leeuwes (1270). In 1137 Leeuw was donated to the abbey of the Holy Sepulchre in Kamerijk.
From 1236 onwards it belonged to the Land of Gaasbeek. In 1284 Henry I, lord of Gaasbeek and count of Leuven, granted a copy of the local penal code to the populace, which led our municipality to long remain the principal seat of a 'meierij' (district over which a mayor has jurisdiction) and a 'schepenbank' (college of Aldermen. In 1687 the fiefdom of Gaasbeek was publicly sold in various parts. By marriage or inheritance both the water castle of Coloma, currently the Municipal Cultural Centre, and the rights of the fiefdom as well as all manner of provisions (among others mills) became the possession of important nobles and courtiers such as Jan Karel Roose, member of the Great Council of Mechelen and Vital-Alex de Coloma, chamberlain of empress Maria-Theresia.
In 1690 the fiefdom was elevated to the status of barony. It was in this period that Vlezenbeek, Sint-Laureins-Berchem, Oudenaken and Elingen become detached from Sint-Pieters-Leeuw.
By the Royal Decree of 17 September 1975 the new municipality was given the name of the main municipality of Sint-Pieters-Leeuw. Since 1 January 1977 the former municipalities of Oudenaken, Sint-Laureins-Berchem, Ruisbroek, Sint-Pieters-Leeuw and Vlezenbeek have been joined to form a new administrative residential community.
The town centre of Leeuw is situated atop a 56.5m high hill. The location for the settlement, taking into account its position along the brooks Zuun and Leeuwbeek as well as a busy road network, was chosen for its strategic advantages.
Since 1305 Vlezenbeek is an autonomous parish, while before it was a subsidiary church of Sint-Pieters-Leeuw. After the Second World War the population increased dramatically, particularly due to its excellent geographical location.
Sint-Laureins-Berchem was an independent parish from the 13th until the 17th century; in the times prior to that and afterwards it was dependent on Oudenaken. Up until the merger it was the smallest municipality in the Pajottenland, built along a single road.
The origins of Oudenaken can be found in the 7th-8th centuries. It is a well-preserved rural area with meadows in the valleys and crop fields in the more elevated areas.
Contrary to the other municipal districts Ruisbroek was never part of the Land of Gaasbeek. Until the middle of the 19th century it was composed almost exclusively of farming lands, but then underwent the consequences of industrialization and its favourable location near the capital. This caused the population to increase rapidly, and the construction of residential areas led to the definitive disappearance of crop fields.
Information: tourist office.