In the southern part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site-proclaimed Historic Center of Bruges lies another World Heritage Site, “Ten Wijngaerde” Beguinage. Its name means the vineyard.
The first thing that a visitor feels upon approaching the beguinage or begijnhof, is quietness, tranquility and peace. From the Minnewater Lake, the ambiance in the below photo greeted me. Who will not be fascinated by the swans floating by the canal? Add to that, I went early in the morning when the place was empty with tourists and even locals.
Entry to the compound was free but silence was encouraged everywhere.
This peaceful and pretty “world” greets you. Since it was spring, the garden is dotted with yellow and white daffodils, adding to the charm of this place.
There is a church and a museum which were still closed when I visited. There was also a souvenir shops which sells religious items and figurines, from what I can see from the window. I just lingered around for a bit, and regret not having the time to come back afterwards.
These whitewashed houses are almshouses or Godshuizen which were built by the rich to provide for the poor.
The Background of Beguinage
The Beguine movement around 1200 reflects the religious renewal in Western Europe when women played an important role. The Beguines were women who dedicated their lives to God without entirely withdrawing from the world. Unmarried or widowed, they committed their life outside the recognized orders with vows of poverty and fidelity.
Flemish beguinages, of which Ten Wijngaerde is one of them, are composed of houses, churches, ancillary buildings and green spaces.
Today, the Beguinage is occupied by Benedictine sisters.
World Heritage Site
According to the UNESCO website, the Beguinage of Bruges, along with 12 other Flemish beguinages, were added to the UNESCO World Heritage list on 02 December 1998 for
- demonstrating outstanding physical characteristics of urban and rural planning and a combination of religious and traditional architecture in styles specific to the Flemish cultural region
bearing exceptional witness to the cultural tradition of independent religious women in north-western Europe in the Middle Ages
constituting an outstanding example of an architectural ensemble associated with a religious movement characteristic of the Middle Ages associating both secular and conventual values.