Leuven age set ritual repertoire
Inscribed in 2011 (6.COM) on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity
- Leuven age set ritual repertoire
The Leuven age set ritual repertoire is a rite of passage in a man’s life centring on the ten years leading up to his fiftieth birthday. For men living in or around Leuven, Belgium, a journey of socio-cultural and philanthropic activities and ceremonies commences at the age of forty with the forming of an age set and culminates at the age of fifty on Abraham Day, with a celebration in the city’s central park around the statue of the prophet Abraham. Each age set chooses its own medal, flag and uniform, and is fostered by a ‘godfather’, who belongs to an age set formed ten years before. The members celebrate and embrace life throughout the decade and beyond. An age set only disappears when its last member passes away. The age sets are characterized by intergenerational values of openness, friendship, solidarity and commitment to their age set and to the city. Differences of descent, rank or social status are of no importance, neither are political, philosophical or religious convictions. The only conditions for participation are to be a man and to be born in the same year. Women however increasingly take part as godmothers and supporters. The ritual stimulates identity and a sense of continuity for both the city and the members, and has become a strong part of Leuven’s urban culture. Today, fifty-four age sets exist.
Decision 6.COM 13.2
The Committee (…) decides that [this element] satisfies the criteria for inscription on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity, as follows:
- R.1: Passed down from generation to generation, the social practices of the age sets constitute an important part of urban life and are recognized as intangible cultural heritage not only by their members but also by the rest of the community of Leuven;
- R.2: Its inscription on the Representative List could contribute to awareness of the intangible cultural heritage and enhance intercultural dialogue concerning urban social practices and age set practices elsewhere in the world;
- R.3: Ongoing and proposed safeguarding measures demonstrate the commitment of the community and the local authorities to ensure the viability of the age sets and their ritual practices;
- R.4: The nomination reflects the wide and active participation of the members of the community as well as their free, prior and informed consent;
- R.5: At the request of the community, the Leuven age set ritual repertoire was included in 2009 in the inventory of intangible cultural heritage of Flanders, Belgium, maintained by the Arts and Heritage Agency of the Flemish Community.
Inscribes Leuven age set ritual repertoire on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.
© 2009 by Heritage Cell Leuven
These videos (and many more) can also be consulted through the UNESCO Archives Multimedia website