The Beguinage (Begijnhof) of Bruges, Belgium

A little walk down Mariastraat onto Katelijnestraat and turning right into Wijngaardstraat one would come upon the Beguinage of Bruges and Wijngaardplein. The Beguinage is across the bridge over the canal. This is located just north of Minnewater. It is essentially rows of dwellings which were earlier used by the “Beguines”. There is a church, a small museum and these dwellings surround an area of grass and poplar trees.

The Beguinage of Bruges was established in  1245. It was set up by the Countess of Flanders, Margaretha of Constantinople who brought together the beguines of Bruges. “Beguines” (Beghards) were semi-monastic communities of Roman Catholic lay women.  It is said to have had its origins in Liege (in Belgium) around 1170-80 A.D. In the 12th-13th centuries there were women in the region of Netherlands, Belgium, western part of Germany, north-eastern parts of France etc. who lived alone engaged in prayers and good work. But they did not take any formal vows or renounce the world. They could return to the world and wed if they wanted to. She also could own property. The Beguines never took alms; they worked for a living. They made lace, taught children, gardened, became nurses etc. They came from all social echelons thus contributing to their diversity. They increased in number in the 13th century. This was mainly due to the crusades where a lot of men lost their lives thus leaving increased number of women alone. The Beguines gradually started grouping their dwellings together to form the Beguinage. The Beguinage would be often protected by a wall and were located away from the town centers. The Beguines were headed or “ruled” over by the “grand mistress” or “grand dame”.  In fact at the Beguinage of Bruges one can see the house originally occupied by the “grand dame”. It is the larger than the others and is the most striking one too.

The Beguinage (Begijnhof) of Bruges, Belgium

The original church here dates back to the 13th century. However it was destroyed in a fire in 1584 and rebuild in 1609. Its current baroque style was obtained after a renovation later. Most of the current houses here date back to 17th-18th centuries. Some were built in the 19th century too.

In 1937 this became a monastery for the Benedictine nuns. Today part of the dwellings is occupied by a group of Benedictine nuns. Some ordinary single women of all ages also stay here. Apart from Bruges, Beguinages can be seen in other cities in Belgium like Gent, Kortrijt, Mechelen, Leuven,  etc. and also in Amsterdam and Breda in Netherlands, Cambrai in France etc. 

Actually for the tourists there isn’t much to see here. If you have come for a short time it is better to finish with other places and then pop in here if time permits.
Location of Beguinage, Bruges: Wijngaardstraat, Brugge, Belgium
Related Article:
Bruges (Brugge), Belgium – An Introduction
How to get to Bruges (Brugge), Belgium – Transportation
Traveling within Bruges (Brugge), Belgium – Transport Information
The Markt (Market) Square-Bruges
Belfry (Belfort) of Bruges
Church of Our Lady & Statue of Madonna and the Child – Part 1 ; Part 2
Basilica of the Holy Blood (Heilige Bloed Basiliek)- Part 1 ;   Part 2