The Béguines were women who dedicated their lives to God without retiring from the world. In the 13th century they founded the béguinages , enclosed communities designed to meet their spiritual and material needs. The Flemish béguinages are architectural ensembles composed of houses, churches, ancillary buildings and green spaces, with a layout of either urban or rural origin and built in styles specific to the Flemish cultural region. They are a fascinating reminder of the tradition of the Béguines that developed in north-western Europe in the Middle Ages.
Why should you visit Flemish Béguinages?
- The Flemish béguinages demonstrate outstanding physical characteristics of urban and rural planning and a combination of religious and traditional architecture in styles specific to the Flemish cultural region.
- The béguinages bear exceptional witness to the cultural tradition of independent religious women in north-western Europe in the Middle Ages.
- The béguinages constitute an outstanding example of an architectural ensemble associated with a religious movement characteristic of the Middle Ages associating both secular and conventual values.
- The austere and colistered settlement, for hundreds of years, were the homes of the Beguines: women who joined together to devote themselves to prayer and good works, to live apart from the world, but without taking vows to leave the world forever.
- These women or beguinages date back to the 12th century when due to wars and crusades the number of women far outnumbered the number of men and thus female virtue and life were treated very lightly. Wives, daughters and any woman for that matter without a male protector were considered surplus commodity and available for a little fun and trifling.
- These women then found the necessary safety in numbers and so they gravitated together to this ancient settlement to lead a simple life.
Year of Inscription: 1998
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