Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Pilgrimage to Beguine Complexes in Belgium

Leuven Beguinage

Church begun in 1234

My wife, Sharon, and I have read about the Beguines with fascination over the past eight years. In 2005 we had the opportunity to visit various Begijnhoven (beguinages) in Belgium for two weeks. What a privilege to wander the streets where these godly women once walked! Our day in Leuven still stands out to us!

At its peak, some 300 Beguines filled the townhomes of the Begijnhof in Leuven. They had their own church building that began construction in 1234. In fact, they were allowed to establish their own parish, separate from the town, and one of their priests eventually rose to the papacy.

While many of the women worked at spinning wool, dying cloth and pressing linen, some of the Beguines established schools, especially for poor girls of Leuven who otherwise would have no opportunity to learn to read and write. At one point the Leuven Beguine complex housed ten small schools for girls and had to refuse any more, so great was the desire for public education.

2010 © Glenn E. Myers

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