Leuven is a town with a rich history and full of strange folk tales. Perhaps the strangest of these is the story of Paep Thoon, the famous city jester.
Paep, formally called Anthoon vander Phalizen, was the son of a local pastor. His nickname refers to him being the son of a priest (paep), and Thoon is short for Anthoon.
Paep was allegedly a hunchback and worked at his father’s church as an organist and carillonneur. However, Paep was certainly remarkable, and these abilities are not what made him famous. His fame was due to his wit, as he was best known for playing jokes and pranks on the townsfolk. This led to his banishment from town, and he was never allowed to set foot in Leuven.
Sometime later Paep returned from Liège riding in a cart with his feet completely covered in mud. Many people came to see the spectacle, wondering what would happen. It was then that Paep declared that his feet were covered in mud from Luik and that he was technically not setting foot on Leuven soil. The judge, possibly too busy for this kind of stuff, conceded and let Paep live in Leuven as a jester. There are many stories that follow this event, mostly about how he mocked the academics of the university.
It is also said that Paep had requested to be buried standing in the church, with his mouth underneath a gargoyle so that he would never be thirsty, but this unique burial has never been confirmed.
A statue to Paep was placed on a bridge in the Brusselsestraat in 1961, created by Peter Vanberkbergen. Here, Paep is dressed as a jester with a wicked smile, probably how he would have wanted to be remembered.
Know Before You Go
The statue is freely accessible.