PARCUM is the museum and center of expertise for religion, art, and culture in the Norbertine Park Abbey in Leuven, Belgium. Its mandate is to collect, conserve, and administer religious heritage – that is, heritage that originates from a religion or is linked to one, and that embodies the interaction between religion, art, and culture.
The collection focuses on religious experience in Flanders. It is largely composed of objects from ecclesiastical, monastery, and abbey collections, as well as private collections from Flanders and Brussels. It ranges from undisputed masterpieces to unusual items and household objects: paintings, sculptures, textiles, liturgical accessories, relics, and devotional items, as well as products of the material culture, such as utensils, cottage industry products, folk art, and kitsch. PARCUM also focuses on the great wealth of religious non-material heritage (rituals, customs, and traditions), and related stories.
PARCUM’s multi-faceted collection epitomizes the enormously rich panoply of religious heritage in Flanders. The highlights of the collection are Christ Bearing the Cross by Michiel Coxie (I), from c. 1575–1600, sculptures including a sixteenth-century wooden Virgin and Child With St. Anne from a chapel in Meise, and an important collection of altar plates. Also noteworthy are several paintings with a remarkable, rare iconography, including an early seventeenth-century Allegory of Death, a Nativity in which the three crowns above the Virgin’s head signify her virtue, and a unique Allegory of the Good Death, showing the soul of the deceased leaving the body.
Liesbet Kusters, Curator (March 2022)