The Flemish Béguinages are a cloistered community in Belgium. Also known as Begijnhof in Dutch, the Béguinages was founded in the 13th century by Roman Catholic women who have dedicated their lives to serving God, without retiring from the world. Their living quarters, including their abodes, churches, work buildings and open spaces have been carefully preserved, and are now recognised as a UNESCO World Heritage Site during the 22th session of the World Heritage Committee meeting in Kyoto, Japan on 30 November to 5 December, 1991.
The outstanding physical characteristics of the Béguinages architecture that is specific to the Flemish cultural region was one of the justifications for placing the Flemish Béguinages on the World Heritage List. Additionally, the béguinages showcase the cultural tradition of independent religious women in that part of Europe during the Middle Ages, and that the béguinages stand as an outstanding example of buildings that exhibit both secular and conventual values.
Photos of Flemish Béguinages
Beguinage in Antwerp
Author: frank wouters (Creative Commons Attribution 2.0)
Beguinage in Diest
Author: Athenchen (Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike 3.0)
Entrance to Beguinage in Oudenaarde
Author: LimoWreck (Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike 3.0)
What to See in Flemish Béguinages
You can visit Béguinages in many of the towns in Belgium including Antwerp, Bruges, Dendermonde, Diest, Ghent, Hasselt, Hoogstraten, Lier, Leuven, Mechelen, Kortrijk, Sint-Truiden, Turnhout and Tongeren. These Béguinages came about because of a surplus of unmarried women during the Middle Ages - men died off from all forms of violence related to wars. These women banded, also called béguinages, together and created dwellings for themselves, often through the help from rich benefactors.
The Béguinages community comprises a courtyard surrounded by abodes. For protection, it is often surrounded by a wall, and separated from the rest of the town by a gate or two.
World Heritage Site Inscription Details
Location: N 51 1 51.5 E 4 28 25.5
Inscription Year: 1998
Type of Site: Cultural
Inscription Criteria: II, III, IV
Map below is only approximate, as there are many Béguinages all over Belgium.
View Flemish Beguinages, Belgium in a larger map
Visiting Flemish Béguinages
Your base for visiting this World Heritage Site is the city of Brussels. Find your accommodation from a selection of hotels in Brussels. Then you can make your arrangements to visit the Béguinages, either on your own, or through a travel agent in Brussels. As listed above, there are Béguinages in many Belgian towns, you take your pick.
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