The extraordinary Art Nouveau winter garden of the Ursuline nuns

Near Mechelen, the vast complex of school and cloister buildings of the Ursuline Institute of Onze-Lieve-Vrouw-Waver, founded in 1840, reveals a remarkable combination of styles as varied as neo-classicism, neo-Gothic, neo-Romanesque and Empire style. But it was not until 1900 that the site was joined by what would become its jewel: a huge Art Nouveau winter garden, which immerses visitors in its magical atmosphere.

This enchanting place, crowned by a cupola with multi-coloured stained glass windows, was the “calling card” of the boarding school for young girls. Strangely enough, the architect of this jewel remains unknown to this day, although his work bears witness to a rare mastery.

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The magnificent glass cupola displays the main characteristics of this decorative movement, which developed at an international level: the use of glass and wrought iron, a plant and floral repertoire and the use of curved “whiplash” lines. Its colourful stained glass windows represent Morning, Day and Evening, a popular Art Nouveau theme.

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