What's a beguinage?
Beguinages were isolated parts of town were only women (beguines) lived in tiny houses. They also worked and prayed together within this community. They could join or leave as they wished, since there was no obligation of vows like in monasteries. The only vow was chastity.
The Begijnhof is an enclosed courtyard dating from the early 14th century. Hidden behind the busy Spui and Kalverstraat shopping strip, it's a surreal oasis of peace, with tiny houses grouped around a well-kept courtyard. The Begijnhof was formerly a convent inhabited by the Beguines, a Catholic order of unmarried or widowed women from wealthy families who cared for the elderly and lived a religious life without taking monastic vows.
The Begijnhof is a lovely little enclosed green with nice gabled houses all around. It was originally built in the 1300's for a Catholic sisterhood of women who lived similarly to nuns. All of the houses have beautiful little gardens of flowers out front. I was quite amazed to learn that this spot is low-income housing for single women now.
There's also a little English Church in here, where the Pilgrims may have worshipped on their way to America, as well as a secret chapel where Catholics used to worship before religious tolerance was reinstated.
This is a series of old brick and stone gabled houses built hundreds of years ago. They used to be a sort of convent/almhouse. They were a residential sanctuary for unmarried women of good repute as put by my travel guide. Today, the inner courtyards are visited by many. The floral arrangements within are very pleasing and it seems that the inhabitants compete against each other for horticultural elaboratoin. To be honest, they do a great job!
The Beguinage is private possession and is not a public ground. It is also a place of silence. Guests are required to respect this silence. Therefore the Beguinage is closed for groups and excursions.
Is a secluded court of almshouses with a quiet innergarden and the English Reformed Church in their midst. Dating from the 14th century, the Begijnhof used to house devout lay-women who did religious work for the adjacent nunnery, mostly in education and nursing. Most of the houses were renovated during the 17th and 18th century and only one of the original medieval wooden houses remains. In these houses only live women
Es un grupo aislado de casas de beneficencia con un tranquilo jardín interior una pequeña iglesia y en cuyas casas solo viven mujeres. El Begijnhof que data del siglo XIV fue utilizado para albergar a devotos laicos-mujeres que hicieron obra religiosa para el convento adyacente, sobre todo en la educación y la enfermería. La mayoría de las casas fueron renovadas entre los siglos 17 y 18 y sigue siendo sólo una de las originales casas la de madera que es considerada la casa mas vieja de Amsterdam.
This is a great place to stop for a rest in the middle of a busy sightseeing day....This is a place put aside for older women to live out their lives in peace, dating from the 14th century---there are women living here, so treat it with respect and quiet, but enjoy this green area right off the Spui Square.
There are other Hofs throughout Amsterdam to discover as well....
The present "Engelse Kerk" dates from the end of the 14th century, replacing the Begijnhof Chapel from 1307. In 1417 the construction of a new chapel was started at the location of the present building. The great Amsterdam city fires of 1421 and 1452 damaged the Chapel that was rebuild in brick. The present building was finished in 1492 with most of the tower still originating from 1417.
At the time of the Reformation in Amsterdam in 1578 all the religious establishments were closed. The Church was used as a washing places for clothes. in 1607 the Amsterdam "Burgomasters" gave the disused church to the English-speaking Presbyterians for their use and Sunday services.
The church was enlarged with a southern aisle in the 1670's. A major restorations took place in 1912 and 1976. The oldest fittings in the church consist of a 17th century pulpit, on which is found a brass lectern donated to the congregation in 1689 by King William and Queen Mary Stuart, and an organ casing in Rococo style from 1753.
Su: Worship in English language at 10:30AM
Mo: 11AM - 4PM
Tu: 10.30AM - 3PM
We: Worship in Dutch language at 0.30PM (Alle-Dag Kerk)
Th: 11AM - 4PM
Fr: 1PM - 5PM
Sa: 11AM - 2.30PM
Free admission; gifts are welcome.
The Begijnhof is a surprisingly quiet area in between the crowded Kalverstraat shopping street and the busy Nieuwenzijds Voorburgwal and Spui.
The first "Begijntjes" (Beguines) were a number of women who in 1150 decided to live together in a religious community, primarily to look after the sick. They were required to be unmarried, make a vow of chastity and to promise obedience to the parish priest. They were free to dispose of their own possessions.
In a document of the Bailiff of Amstelland dating from 1307 for the first time the word "Begijn"was used.
Till 1417 the Beguinage did not extend further to the South than the present "Begijnensteeg". On the Spui side, there was a marsh that was transformed into solid ground by filling it up, after which new houses were build on top.
The great Amsterdam fires of 1421 and 1452 destroyed most of the wooden houses. The church as well as the Beguinage itself were rebuilt, many houses now in brick. In 1511 the Beguinage was enlarged once more by a strip along the present "Nieuwezijds Voorburgwal", a waterway at the time.
Until 1578 there has been a Catholic church (which started as a chapel). But the Protestants took over power and the church was handed over and being called "De Engelse Kerk" (English Church) ever since.
However, from 1665 a secret Catholic chapel was constructed inside two houses.
The Begijnhof is also known for the The Miracle of Amsterdam that is remembered each year with "De Stille Omgang".
Visiting hours: Daily 9AM - 5PM
Visit the Begijnhof shop at:
Nieuwezijds Voorburgwal 371
1012 RM Amsterdam
Tu-Sa: 10AM - 4PM
It was here, at the Begijnhof that a few days before Palm Sunday on March 15, 1345 a sick man in the Kalverstraat took the Sacrament of the sick from the local priest. The man vomited up the host, which was caught in a basin and thrown on the fire where it "appeared" to "float above the flames". It was an amazing miracle. A woman then stretched out her hand into the flames to seize the host from the fire and put it in a case. She remained unburnt and unharmed from putting her hand in the fire when touching the host. The priest, who was from the Oude Kerk was sent for and took the host back to the "Old Church". The next day a woman in the house in the Kalverstraat opened the case and saw that the host had magically transported back. She sent for the priest again, and again he took the magic host back to the Old Church. The next day for a third time, the host transported back to the case in the sick man's room. The miracle of the bread that didn't burn and wouldn't leave the house became known widespread. Again, the priest took the host, but this time returning to the Old Church with a solemn procession. The next year the Bishop Jan van Arkel declared this host to be a genuine miracle. Two years later, a church was built on the very spot where the miracle took place. As people joined a procession to take the holy sacrement through the streets of Amsterdam in mid-march to celebrate the Miracle. The Holy Stead Chapel (The Ter Heylighen Stede) was consecrated by the vicar-general of Bishop Jan van Arkel, the Bishop of Utrecht in 1347. A Heiligeweg (Holy Way) was created to help the pilgrims who come to the chapel. the "holy corner" where the miracle took place is preserved in the chapel. The procession ended in 1578 since the town passed to the reformed faith and Catholics were no longer permitted to profess their faith openly. The chapel was then used as a storehouse falling into disrepair. The Prince of Orange visited the chapel in 1580 and was told about the miracle. The Prince had the church taken apart stone by stone. What was left in 1590 was used for worship by the Netherlands Reformed Church renaming it the Nieuwezijds Capel and demolished the fireplace in the "holy corner". Through the 19th century the chapel decayed even further and by 1898 was no longer needed for worship. Eventually the Catholics wanted to buy it back and loudly protested when denied and it was demolished again in 1908 in spite of their wants. The Protestant church council considered the "Host" worship a "superstition" that had to be destroyed, and the only way to do that was to destroy the church. A few elements of the church has been preserved - the entrance gate, the turret, fragments of the chapel that were relocated, and were used in its reconstruction. By 1912 a small chapel was built and surrounded by shops. After 1974 Protestant worship evacuated the premises and it became a mosque. In 2001, at the initiative of the Company of the Silent Procession, a "GedachteNis" (memorial niche) was made by Hans 't Mannetje to re-open the holy corner to honor the tradition of celebrating this miracle. A series of 9 large paintings by Schenk were created to tell of the story and placed in the chapel of the Beguinage. Today the celebrations of the "Miracle of Amsterdam" again take place every year on the wednesday following March 12th. Catholic masses are held from wednesday through saturday in the chapel.
This is a lovely courtyard in the centre of the city, it was originally built in 1346 as a sanctuary for the Begijntjes. They were a lay Catholic sisterhood - they lived like nuns but they had taken no vows. They undertook to teach the poor and look after the sick in return for lodgings in the Begijnhof. None of the orignal buildings now exsist and the houses now date from the 1700's. The city's oldest house is number 34 and next to it is a wall with a collection of plaques that were taken from the old houses. There is a "Englese Kerk" English church in the courtyard that dates from the 15th century and opposite it is the Begijnhof chapel - a clandestine cchurch where the ladies secretly practised their Catholic faith.
The Begijnhof, is a very tranquil corner nestled in the centre of Amsterdam. It is the residences of religious women who sought to serve God without retiring from the world.
It also contains one of the two remaining wooden houses in Amsterdam.
A "Begijnhof" comprises a courtyard surrounded by small dwellings. It is often encircled by a wall and secluded from the town proper by one or two gates. Poor and elderly beguines were housed here by benefactors
The Begijnhof is the only inner court in Amsterdam which was founded during the Middle Ages, and therefore lies within the Singel — the innermost canal of Amsterdam's circular canal system. The Begijnhof is at medieval street level, which means a metre below the rest of the old city centre.
It is unclear when exactly the Begijnhof (Beguines' court) was founded. In 1346, the beguines still lived in a house (a document of that time mentioned a beghynhuys). A courtyard was only first mentioned in 1389.
Originally the Begijnhof was entirely encircled by water (the Nieuwezijds Voorburgwal, the Spui and the Begijnensloot or "Beguines' Ditch"), with the sole entrance located at the Begijnensteeg ("Beguines' Alley"), which had a bridge across the Begijnensloot.
The restored wooden house ("Houten Huys", 34 Begijnhof, is famous as one of the few two wooden houses still existing in the center of Amsterdam (the other one being 1 Zeedijk); there are annexed villages like Nieuwendam (Amsterdam North) with many wooden houses and even a wooden church . This house dates from about 1470, and is probably the oldest wooden house in the Netherlands.
It is forbidden to photograph the residents here.
This place was very close to the hotel I stayed and I walked through in front of its door many times without knowing what is inside. After I realized, I walked around and find the gate. And the moment I stepped inside the courtyard, I felt how peaceful the place was.
It is forbidden to speak loud, take photos in the courtyard. Also big groups are not welcome.
The oldest and the last wooden house of Amsterdam is here and is open to visit in determined hours. Unfortunately my timing was bad, I couldn’t visit the house. But the courtyard itself is worth to see.
This is the English church, a gothic church built in 1392 used by the Beguines until the Calvanists took it away & it was eventually rented out to the local community of English and Scottish Presbyterian refugees.
In the courtyard is the Begijnhof Kapel, this is a clandestine church where the Beguines were forced to worship after they lost their Gothic church it has lovely marble columns, wooden pews and stained glass windows commemorating the Miricle of Amsterdam
Eucharist service 9am Mon - Sat Sunday10am
The One of the nicest parts of the city! A tranquil corner in the heart of the city, though well hidden from the bustle of the outside world and actually quite hard to find! Don't give up - it's worth the hunt!
The Begijnhof is a lovely courtyard of houses surrounding a raised walled grassed area. Among the buildings is the oldest house in Amsterdam - (see my next tip.) The Begijns were a 14th century order of lay sisters who founded their community here in 1346. They devoted their lives to helping the ill and the poor. The last true Begijn died in the 1970's. In the centre of the courtyard is a quaint chapel - The Begijnkerk.