Saint V is the commonly used name for a holiday for university students in Brussels, Belgium, celebrating the founding of the Free University of Brussels. The day's long form (French: Saint-Verhaegen, Dutch: Sint-Verhaegen) differs in the two official languages, but both are a reference to Pierre-Théodore Verhaegen, the founder of the university, who notably is not a saint and was never canonized. The festivities take place on November 20, commemorating the anniversary of the university's official opening. It is celebrated by students of both the Université Libre de Bruxelles and the Vrije Universiteit Brussel, which officially separated in 1970.
The event dates back to November 20, 1888, when students of the university organized to protest a university reorganization that was perceived as undemocratic and against the principle of free inquiry ("libre examen" in French, "vrij onderzoek" in Dutch), on which the university was founded. That morning, 200 of the university's 1400 students, with many freemasons, (as Verhaegen was also the founder of the Grand Orient of Belgium) assembled and left a wreath of oak leaves on Verhaegen's tomb.
In following years, the students, with much fanfare and waving the flags of their respective student organizations, would form a long procession to pay homage to Verhaegen at his tomb and a monument in his honour. These celebrations continue to this day, although the students are now generally more concerned with drinking in the streets, and the honouring of Verhaegen is done largely by faculty and is more formal and official. Students get the day off for the events; no classes are scheduled that day.
Most student groups rent a large transport truck for the occasion, which they decorate in accordance with the year's theme. Each truck has a large number of kegs inside, and some students are designated to serve beer to the others all day, with an all-you-can-drink payment scheme. Many also bring large sound systems which play loud music all day. 2013's Saint-V saw 6000 students and 27 transport trucks take part in the procession.
The students first meet at the Grand Sablon Square, and after several hours, the trucks start to move towards the Brussels Stock Exchange on Boulevard Anspach. This takes several hours as well, as the trucks move only at a walking speed and are more often than not stopped due to the students surrounding them and on the road. Beer may not be served while the trucks are in motion. All roads which the procession goes on are closed to other traffic, including Boulevard Anspach, Brussels' main street.
The students then disperse and reconvene around 9 pm at ULB's Solbosch campus, where all the year's decorations are burnt semi-ceremonially. Many alumni come to the university's discothèque on that night, which is normally only open to current students.
Each year the event has a different theme, 2007's being Scientia Vincere Tenebras (Conquering darkness by science), the motto of both schools.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Student folklore in Brussels.|
- (French)ULB's agenda for the holiday, 2007.
- "Calendrier académique et agenda 2007-2008" (in French). Université Libre de Bruxelles. 2007. Archived from the original on November 16, 2007. Retrieved November 19, 2007.
- "Saint-Verhaegen calme et fraîche: moins d'interventions qu'en 2012" (in French). RTBF. November 20, 2013. Retrieved November 29, 2013.
- "Saint-V: un étudiant décède lors du cortège, autopsie prévue - RTBF Regions". Rtbf.be. 2012-11-20. Retrieved 2014-08-13.