Groot Begijnhof

Founded in around 1230, the Groot Gegijnhof was one one of the largest beguinages in Belgium and home to several hundred beguines. The complex of 72 charming red-brick cottages, dating mostly from the 17th century, is set around grassy squares and cobbled streets near the River Dijle. The university in Leuven bought it in 1962 and converted the cottages into student accommodation.*

Groot Begijnhof

Groot Begijnhof

Flanders is famous for the number of its surviving enclosed residences for Beguines, unmarried or widowed women who adopted a life of religious devotion but without taking the full vows of a nun.**

Beguines were initially solitary women who worked helping the poor and preaching. Progressively, and in the face of growing suspicion on the part of male religious authorities, they grouped together to live in a walled residential community know as a Beguinage (French) or Begijnhof (Dutch). The first Beguinage in Belgium appeared in Mechelen in 1207.

Beguinages were formed across the southern Netherlands from the 12th century onwards. Of the 100 that existed in the 14th century, around 25 remain.**

Beguines lived in solitude in separate small houses. They divided their time between prayer, manual work (sewing or lace-making) and taking part in collective Beguinage events, such as religious services and processions. Some Beguinages selected their members on the basis of social status; others were open to all, and numbered their inhabitants in thousands.

Beguines have been described as the earliest women’s movement in Christian history, a community of financially independent women who existed outside the church and the home, the only acceptable domains for women at the time.

The male counterparts of Beguines were known as Begharads, and were usually of humble origin. Similar to Beguines in that they were not bound by vows and did not follow a uniform rule of life, they differed in that they had no private property, lived together in a cloister and ate at the same table.**

Groot Begijnhof

Saint John the Baptist Church

*Belgium & Luxembourg Eyewitness Guide

**Bruges Smart Guide, Insight Guides

12 Comments CherryPie on Jul 16th 2015

12 Responses to “Groot Begijnhof”

  1. Sigrun says:

    Very intersting, so silent, Cherie.


  2. lisl says:

    Thank you for the interesting background information, Cherie. I am not aware of anything similar here – are you?

  3. Ginnie says:

    I am a HUGE fan of these Beguines, Cherry, and make a special point to see them whenever I am aware of them in the vicinity. There are several throughout the Netherlands!

  4. Astrid says:

    I haven’t be in Leuven yet, it looks like a very nice city and like Ginnie said we have some Beguines all over the country. What I like it the quiet and peace around those places.

  5. rusty duck says:

    It looks like a beautifully tranquil place. Perhaps less so these days as student accommodation, but certainly in its time. The garden is lovely.

  6. Alan says:

    Very impressive. I like the view down the moat(?) very much.