The Beguines were a religious movement of single or widowed women who wanted to live in a pious way but outside the walls of a convent or monastery. So in many north Belgian and Dutch cities so called Begijnhofs were set up where these women lived and prayed. The one in Brugge is probably the most beautiful of these, but I can only compare it with the one in Amsterdam. It is still used by pious women who live in the lime-washed cottages surrounding the central green, so make sure not to disturb their way of live.
The Brugge Begijnhof dates back to the 13th century, to 1245 to be specific, and it counts as one of the best preserved. Most of its buildings are not as old, but from the 19th century, but the original layout of the Begijnhof has been kept as well. It's best visited in spring when the central green is full of daffodils. When we were there, however, the daffodils were only just showing their blossoms, but it was a nice view nonetheless.
The church is open to all from 07.00 to 12.15 and then 15.00 to 18.00. There is no charge but a donation can be made. The full name of the church is Our Lady of Consolation of Spermalie and it dates from 1605 but was given a Baroque makeover in 1700.
Services attended by the nuns can be attended by the public and include Gregorian sing offices.
In the corner to the left of entrance is a small museum which recreates the living quarters of a beguine - two simple rooms with a small cloister garden and well - there is a bedroom on the far side of the garden.
The guide told us this was not strictly how it was as the bedroom would have been upstairs but it was decided not to create an upstairs bedroom in case people with mobility issues could not see it.
The rooms have been expertly created and our visit took some time although we did enjoy a conversation with the guide.
The 2013 admission price is 2 euro.
This is one of the most magical places in Bruges - you enter the Beguinage over a small bridge and through a gatehouse dating from 1776.
The Beguinage then is a tranquil courtyard with whitewashed houses dating from the 18th century set around a grassed area , that is a carpet of flowers in the spring.
The last beguinage nun left in 1927 and since then it has been home to a community of Benedictine nuns.
There is an excellent gift shop here selling a wide range of Catholic related goods and also a church and museum ( see separate tips) that are worth seeing.
Today there is a shortage of nuns across Europe and most of the nuns here are now from Madagascar , making new lives for themselves in Belgium.
Surrounded by protective walls, these white houses are grouped around a central garden that is filled with daffodils in spring. In the early twentieth century in Belgium had about 1500 Begijnhoven (or Beguinages), built to house single women or widows. Currently there are only about 22 such communities. This dates back to the thirteenth century, is one of the best preserved. Now home to Benedictine nuns.
Rodeadas por muros de protección,estas casitas blancas se agrupan alrededor de un jardín central que se llena de narcisos en primavera. A principios del siglo XX en Belgica había unas 1500 Begijnhoven (o beguinages), construidas para alojar a mujeres solteras o viudas. En la actualidad solo quedan unas 22 comunidades de este tipo. Esta que data del siglo XIII, es una de las mejor conservada. Ahora alberga a monjas benedictinas.
“Last evening we visited the famous Beguinage, and attended service in its chapel at five o’clock. The church was dimly lighted, and the figures of seven hundred nuns kneeling, all in black and white, formed a very striking spectacle. Before the service commenced we said our silent prayers (I believe) with unction. But the service was wretched and broke the charm. A cracked organ and a few bad singers in a gallery, and a hoarse, stupid-looking priest had it all to themselves. The congregation of nuns might have been all asleep.”
— Samuel Clark, Rector of Eaton Bishop, Herefordshire, England, to his sister, 8.January.1858
While walking from the train station into Brugge you will pass the Beguinage de Wijngaard (Begijnhof of the Vineyard). Take some time to explore this peaceful place. The Beguinage is made up of a collection of houses arranged around a large, central square, planted with poplar trees and a church. For nearly 700 years the beguines of Brugge lived here. In 1937 the beguinage became a monastery for the Benedictine sisters who still live there. The Begijnhof of Brugge was founded in 1245 by Margaretha, Countess of Flanders, daughter of Baldwin, Count of Flanders, Conqueror of Constantinople. In 1299, Philip the Fair place the Beguinage under his authority.
To enter the Beguinage, you must cross a bridge over one of Brugge’s charming canals. Above the entrance gate is the date 1776. Many of the houses around the square are much older, dating from the 17th and 18th century. Some were built in the 19th century in Neo-Gothic style. The original 13th-century church was destroyed by a fire in 1584; rebuild in 1609, it was later renovated in late Baroque style.
A Beguinage is a community of men or women who follow the example set by the apostles: poverty, simplicity and preaching. These are lay orders, who do not take binding vows. They could at any time break their vows and leave the Beguine community.
The beguinages that remain can be found in northern Belgium. No longer are there any beguines alive; but the beautiful beguinages serve as museums, cultural centers or houses for the elderly. In Belgium, beguinages can be visited in the following cities: Brugge, Kortrijk, Ghent, Lier, Turnhout, Dendermonde, Hoogstraten, Leuven and Diest.
This tranquil tree filled convent is just over a small bridge from the Minnewater area with the swans. The Begijnhof was founded in 1245 and used to be a place for women to live and serve God without taking formal orders; elderly or poor women could live here with the assistance of a benefactor. Today, the Begijnhof is home to the Benedictine nuns.
It is a peaceful place; when we were there we only heard the early morning birds playing in the trees as we looked out over the green grass with yellow daffodils in the center of the Begijnhof. We could see the small white houses that surrounded the interior park like green and garden.
To enter the Begijnhof, cross over the bridge from Wijngaardplein and go through the white gate.
The Begijnhof is open for visitors daily (M-Sat 10:00 am – 5:00 pm; Sunday 2:30-5:00 pm). It is free to enter but if you want to go into the Beguine’s house, the fee is €2.
Finding the Beguinage was like finiding a little piece of solitude in busy touristy Brugge. The Beguinage is a group of houses around a little garden covered with large poplar trees. It was here that during the last seven centuries lived the beguines of Brugge. In the late 1930's the Beguinage became a monastery for the Benedictine sisters who still occupy the site. It's great to stroll among the trees and flowers of this area and just to relax without disturbing the occupants of the Beguinage.
Beguinages were established in the 13th. Century as places of sanctuary where women could retreat from the turbulent society in which they lived to follow a secure, useful and peaceful life without the need to take the vows of a Nun.. Many poor women, widows of Crusaders, and others ,would have sought refuge here as did women from wealthy families who preferred a more simple way of life.
The Bruges beguinage was founded in 1245 by Margaretha of Constantinople, the Countess of Flanders and continued in use as a refuge for women until 1937 when it was taken over by a group of Benedictine sisters and it still serves as a Convent today. Accommodation and facilities for Retreat are offered as well as for religious study.
Similar establishments can be seen in several other Belgian cities.
Our hotel was just a stones throw away from the entrance, reached by crossing a bridge over the canal and passing through the gate and porch into a different world.
Once inside, the busy streets and clatter of horses on the cobbled streets are left behind to be replaced by the peaceful view of an expansive lawn planted with poplars and surrounded by groups of houses. The entrance gate shows the date 1776 but many of the houses were built as early as the 15th and 16th century with others added from the 17th to 19th.
Other buildings skirting the garden are the simple chapel, a library and religious study centre, and a museum showing a typical Flemish home of the Beguines in Bruhges.
On the two occasions we visited a sense of hush fell as soon as you entered - something we noticed was observed by a small group of visiting teenaagers who spoke only in whispers..
I visited here early during my stay in Brugge...my guide Therese made it an earlier stop in our walking tour...I was instantly taken with the peace and beauty of the setting...
I returned here on my second last day and its just outside of here that I ran into the poor man accompanied by two friends that I had offered to photograph ...nasty experience...and such an irony that HERE of all places,in this place of beauty and peace,could be the setting for such a disdainful act...anyhow...
All of the Flemish Beguinages are listed as Heritage Sites by UNESCO..the listing itself here implies a place significance and stature.
Beguinages throughout the Low Countries...what is today Belgium and the Netherlands..began to develop...through fate or what have you...women that were left widowed by war [ The Crusades ] it is thought became the first such occupiers of these communities.The women did not take vows of poverty but devoted themselves to prayer and goodness..aiding the poor,the children, and helping each other to survive.They were not Nuns...but lived under the cloister of the "Grand Mistress"...they were free to go outside of the Beguinage and return to the outside World if they so chose...they had the Freedom to choose for themselves..
The Beguinage of Brugge was founded in 1245 by the Countess of Flanders, Margaretha of Constantinople the daughter of Count Baldwin...and has a long and interesting history that I wont go into here...its widely available here at VT and the Internet in general...
The Beguinage here is a group of houses built around a garden covered with large poplar trees.As I was visiting in the Spring there were in bloom Daffodils throughout the grounds... It is really a wonderful setting...
The church on this site is not the original one [ destroyed by fire in 1584 ] but is in fact a renovated structure rebuilt again in 1609...I sat here for ten or fifteen minutes during Services on both of my visits...its a MUST to experience this wonderful chapel...
Visitors can enter the place via a bridge over a canal. The entrance gate bears the date 1776. A lot of houses, however, are much older than that. Most date from the 17th and 18th century.
One can access the Beguinage Monday to Saturday from 0930 AM to 1200 PM and again from 1345 PM until 1700 PM...On Sundays there is no break mid day cand can be accessed from 1045 AM until 1700 PM...
Access is FREE....no charge but there are donation boxes if you wish to contribute...
Another nice and calm sight in Brugge is the Beguinage/Begijnhof. The Beguines are a catholic community for women which exists since the 13th century. Today, there are only few Beguines left. They were living in a such Beguinage, which mostly has several little houses grouped around a central courtyard, as you can see in Brugge. Now, sisters of the St Benedict Order live here.
The beguinage is nicely located at the Minnewater, a lovely lake. The courtyard is very nice, too, with grass and trees. Of course there's also a chapel that you can visit. And if you want to learn more about the Beguinage you can visit the museum.
Begijnhoven are groups of houses surrounded by a protective wall, built around a central church with gardens. They were built in the 12th century by Beguines (a Catholic order of unmarried & widowed women). The Bengijnhof in Brugges was built in 13th century and are still home to about 50 single women.
To the back of the Begijnhof there is a convent which is still inhabited by Benedictine nuns.
It's all very tranquil and serene and this continues if you walk across the little bridge and down to Minnewater (Lake of Love) where there are swans elegantly swimming about.
The lake has a bridge with a lock-house and if you keep following it along there is Gunpowder Tower. Apparently there used to be 2 towers but I think one was destroyed in WWII.
If tou cross the little bridge you can go into Minnewater park to have an aimless stroll.
(a mooch in the park + feeding the swans = contecnt children on a city tour!)
If you go on a horse-carriage you will have a stop here.
You approach the Begijnhof by walking through some of the quaintest but busiest streets in Bruges. Every school trip, walking tour and horse and carriage seems to be heading there. I had read that the Begijnhof was a place of real peace and serenity and wondered if this could possibly be true given the sheer number of people - but it was. As you step through the gate into the courtyard silence descends and it is as though you are in another world.
The Begijnhof was founded in the 13th century by women who wished to lead the life of nuns without being removed from society (there are Beguinages throughout the country). Today, a small number of Carmelite nuns still live there.
There is a small museum on the site where you can find out more about the life of the women who lived there (I think entry was three euros).
If you are in Bruges in early April, do make a point of going to the Begijnhof, as the lawns will be covered in daffodils. We were a little too late to see this, but it must have been a magnificent sight.
Begijnhof Ten Wijngaarde translates as Beguinage of the Vinyard in English. This noble institution was commenced in the 13th century under the auspices of Margaret of Constantinople. Now you know when you begin the beguine (sorry, couldn't help myself).
I vividly remember going through there because I was on my way out of Brugge. Now, there are distinct signs asking for you to be quiet; ones I would normally obey.
However, when your luggage is wheeled and you're dragging it over cobblestones, it tends to make a noise. A loud, clackety-clack type noise and, not wishing to upset anyone, I looked for the quickest way out while trying to hide my embarrassed expression.
The beguines led an industrious life, initially earning their income with looms. No vows were taken but they kept to a strict regime under a mistress who guarded the independence of the establishment.
The beguines eventually died out and the Benedictine Sisters moved in, continuing with their meditative prayer ritual.
One of the houses is open for visitors. It dates from the 17th century and there's also a small gift shop to lighten the load in your wallet even further.
One of the items to look for is an impressive collection (though small) of old laces.
The gardens are free to visit and are open everyday from 9.30 - 17.30. The museum costs 2 euros and is open from April - September from 9.30 - 17.30; closed 12.00 - 13.45, also closed on Sundays.
Though austere in its whitewashed simplicity, the 13th century Bergijnhof is a picturesque example of a sanctuary of the day for Begines. With the male population declining due partially to the Crusades, large bands of single women formed alliances similar to nuns though not necessarily eschewing poverty due to their general wealthy status. These sanctuaries, not unlike convents, were formed with a small grouping of houses protected by an outer wall. Flanders was home to many and Bruges’ Bergijnhof is considered the most beautiful of all. It now is home to an order of Benedictine nuns and is a great place to get away from the throngs of tourists.