As usual, I made a list of all the UNESCO Sites that we could hit while on our spring break trip and there was one of the list that particularly intrigued me and became my favorite memory: The Flemish Béguinages.
The Béguinages (also called Begijnhof in Dutch) are enclosed communities of a women called Béguines. This unique living style began in the 13th century for these unmarried or widowed women to entered into a life dedicated to God, but without retiring from the world. This was an extraordinary option in the Middle Ages when you pretty much had three choices: cloistered nun, mother/wife, or whore (excuse my roughness).
Now, I am a lover of medieval history and I had learned about these communities in my Medieval History course at UCF but I was not prepared for the utter beauty, other-worldliness, and peace enveloped in these walls. We visited a few different Béguinages while in Belgium and the Netherlands, but the Béguinage in Bruges (I think you’ll see why).
Old St Elizabeth Beguinage, Ghent
Our-Lady Ter Hooyen, Ghent
You can’t see it from any of these photos but one of the four Béguines still living in Bruges was out picking daffodils in the meadow. It was like watch a scene from a movie unfold before our eyes.
P.S. Most of these doorways into a slice of heaven on earth are not marked so you will have to do some research and map reading to find these gems. Totally worth it though!