III. Beatrice of Nazareth
I. Beguines and beguinages in Belgium
Two notes of caution and a confession. This is an introductory page. This means first of all that it supplies information about the beguine situation in Belgium in times more recent than the Middle Ages. For instance, all of the pictures are of the later (brick) buildings of the beguinages. Some of these (like the little house in Bruges) were built as early as the seventeenth century, but most are of a later date. So, again, the view you are getting here is not precisely of the medieval beguinages. The same goes, of course, for the photographs of the beguines themselves. For more precise information on the medieval situation of beguines and beguinages, cf. here. Secondly, a lot of information was "pilfered" off the net, and therefore, unfortunately, it is quite difficult to vouch for the "academic" reliability of a lot of the non-visual material, and the sources of many of the visuals are unknown. Still, I think it is valuable to get a less scholarly "feel" for what we will be studying, especially in cases such as these, when traces of an age-old phenomenon are still to be found in the present. Thirdly, I also confess that these introductory pages in particular are also a tribute to my home country. As I already wrote, I have some childhood memories of visiting "begijntjes" in their little houses, and of thinking what strange kind of women they were. Through my study I have come to realize that they are an exceptional, admirable kind of women, with a long and eventful history. But first I wish to make you see what we, Europeans of certain cities, see - if we care to look - when living in places like Ghent, Leuven, Bruges... (picture: cut-out from postcard of the refectory at the Small Beguinage in Ghent).
As was mentioned, the general map on the previous page is from the website of Maarten Jansen, by far the best website that I have found so far on beguinages in Belgium. You can find it at: http://www.cs.kuleuven.ac.be/~maarten/pics/Begleuhis.html. This is a site mainly about the Great Beguinage of Leuven, Belgium, of which it gives a brief history, maps and numerous beautiful pictures taken by Maarten himself . I have chose the most beautiful of his photographs for you to get the feel of the beguinage as it is today. Click here for selections from W.A. Olyslager's Het Groot Begijnhof of Leuven, also translated and made available by Maarten on his website. (Above picture from: Van Mechelen, p.40.)
This beguinage dates from 1288, but most of the houses are from the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, restored and rebuilt after the first World War (Van Mechelen, 27).
Photographs: top: the two last beguines; above: the Beguinage of Sint-Alexius (houses anno 1693); seventeenth-century interior.
Above: needlework at St. Amandsberg (source: Van Mechelen, p.16). St.Amandsberg (where by the way both my parents and my sister were born) has the Great Beguinage. As you can see below, it is still quite rural. Click here for pictures and a beautiful set of old postcards of life at the beguinage.
Above: the Great Beguines at St.Amandsberg (source: http://wwwgent.cevi.be/gent/cultuur/musea/begijn.htm)
Above: beguine at water pump, 1930 (source: http://www.ping.be/convent/pgbeghen.htm)
Aerial view of the beguinage: 1 church, 36 houses and 1 barn.
5. Brugge - Bruges
In the St. Elisabeth Church in "Ten Wijngaarde" in Bruges we find this stately 13th century statue of the "Onze-Lieve-Vrouw van Spermalie ("Our Sweet Lady of Spermalie"; source: Van Mechelen, p.25). Click here for more pictures of Bruges' beguinage.
6. Other locations
Click here for more pictures from the beguinages of Liere, Herentals, Diest, Diksmuide, Tongeren.