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Flemish Béguinages

Flemish Béguinages

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.

Béguinages flamands

Les béguines, ces femmes qui consacraient leur vie à Dieu sans pour autant se retirer du monde, fondèrent au XIIIe siècle des béguinages, ensembles clos répondant à leurs besoins spirituels et matériels. Les béguinages flamands forment des ensembles architecturaux composés de maisons, d’églises, de dépendances et d’espaces verts organisés suivant une conception spatiale d’origine urbaine ou rurale et construits dans les styles spécifiques à la région culturelle flamande. Ils constituent un témoignage exceptionnel de la tradition des béguines qui s’est développée dans le nord-ouest de l’Europe au Moyen Âge.

أديرة المترهبات الفلمندية

في القرن الثالث عشر، أسست المترهبات اللواتي كنّ يكرّسن حياتهن لعبادة الله من دون الإنكفاء عن العالم ما يُعرف بأديرة المترهبات، وهي عبارة عن مجموعات سكنية مغلقة تلبّي الحاجات الروحية والمادية لهؤلاء المترهبات. وتشكّل هذه الأديرة الفلمندية مجمعات معمارية من المنازل، والكنائس، والأبنية الملحقة بها، والمساحات الخضراء المنظّمة وفقاً لتصوّر مكاني حضري أو ريفي والمبنية حسب الطراز الخاص بالمنطقة الثقافية الفلمندية. ولعلّ هذه الأديرة شهادة إستثنائية على التقليد المتبع لدى المترهبات والذي تطوّر في شمال غرب أوروبا خلال القرون الوسطى.

source: UNESCO/ERI

佛兰德的比津社区

“比津”(Béguines)是指献身上帝,却又不脱离世俗世界的妇女。这些妇女在13世纪建立了“比津社区”,也就是一个个封闭的社区,以满足她们的精神和物质需要。佛兰德比津社区是一处建筑群,包括民居、教堂、辅助建筑以及绿地,社区规划既有城市痕迹,也有乡村特色,反映了佛兰德地区的文化。这些建筑向我们展示了中世纪北欧和西欧形成的比津传统。

source: UNESCO/ERI

Фламандские «Бегинажи»

«Бегины» (Béguines) – так называли женщин, посвятивших свою жизнь Богу, но оставшихся в миру. В XIII в. они основали «бегинажи», замкнутые общины, в которых они могли удовлетворять свои духовные и материальные потребности. Фламандские «бегинажи» представляют собой архитектурные ансамбли, состоящие из жилых зданий, церквей, вспомогательных помещений и озелененных площадок, с планировкой городского или сельского типа, в стиле, характерном для культуры Фламандии. Они являются очаровательным напоминанием о традициях «бегин», сложившихся на северо-западе Европы в средние века.

source: UNESCO/ERI

Béguinages flamencos

Las ”béguines“ eran mujeres que consagraron su vida al servicio de Dios sin retirarse del mundo. En el siglo XIII fundaron los ”béguinages“, recintos que correspondí­an a sus necesidades espirituales y materiales. Los ”béguinages“ flamencos son conjuntos formados por casas, iglesias, dependencias y zonas verdes, que estí¡n estructurados con arreglo a un trazado de carí¡cter urbano o rural. Construidos en los estilos arquitectónicos tí­picos de Flandes, son el testimonio excepcional de una tradición religiosa nacida en el noroeste de Europa en la Edad Media.

source: UNESCO/ERI

フランドル地方のベギン会修道院

source: NFUAJ

Vlaamse begijnhoven

De Begijnen waren vrouwen die hun leven wijden aan God zonder zich terug te trekken uit de wereld. In de 13e eeuw richtten ze de begijnhoven op, omheinde gemeenschappen ontworpen om te voorzien in zowel hun geestelijke als materiële behoeften. De Vlaamse begijnhoven zijn architectonische ensembles bestaande uit huizen, kerken, bijgebouwen en groene gedeelten. De hoven hebben van oorsprong een stedelijk of landelijk karakter en zijn gebouwd in een typisch Vlaamse stijl. De Begijnhoven vormen een fascinerende herinnering aan de traditie van de Begijnen die zich gedurende de Middeleeuwen ontwikkelde in Noordwest-Europa.

Source: unesco.nl

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Flemish béginages © OUR PLACE
Justification for Inscription

Criterion (ii): 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.

Criterion (iii): The béguinages bear exceptional witness to the cultural tradition of independent religious women in north-western Europe in the Middle Ages.

Criterion (iv): 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.

Long Description

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. They bear exceptional witness to the cultural tradition of independent religious women in north-western Europe in the Middle Ages. They also 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 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.

The spontaneous emergence of the Béguine movement around 1200 reflects the current of religious renewal which swept Western Europe at the beginning of the 13th century and in which women played an important role. In addition to the many women who entered the religious life by way of the convents, others developed an original 'semi-religious' way of life in which they could dedicate themselves to God without withdrawing entirely from the world. Among these mulieres religiosæ, neither nuns nor simple laïty, of northern Europe, the Béguines began to lead an individual or community life devoted to prayer, caring for the sick and manual labour. Established for the most part in urban communities, they occupied houses near the hospitals and leper hospitals. Unmarried or widowed, they took no vows and were free to come and go in society and to withdraw from the community at will.

The Béguinage was supervised by a Béguine, commonly known as the Grande Dame, who was elected for a limited term and was in many béguinages assisted by a council. Whereas the life of the béguinages was characterized by simplicity and humility, this by no means ruled out personal possessions: wealthier Béguines built or rented their own houses, others lived in community houses, and the poorest lived in the infirmary. In all cases, each had to provide for her own keep, and many worked in the textile industry.

They are not all preserved in their entirety. Many have been partially dismantled (Antwerp, Hasselt, Petit Béguinage of Leuven, Petit Béguinage of Mecheln, Herentals, Aarschot) or largely incorporated into the urban fabric of the vicinity (Grand Béguinage of Gent). Certain suffered damage during either the First or the Second World War (the Béguinage of Dixmude was rebuilt during the 1920s; Aarschot, partially rebuilt after 1944, still has four of its original houses; and the church of Hasselt was destroyed in 1944).

The Béguinages formed miniature towns, enclosed by walls or surrounded by ditches, with gates opening to the 'world' during the day. They were organized according to one of two models: one, the city type, reflecting on a smaller scale the model of a medieval city, with a plot set aside for the cemetery, or the square where the church is built; the other, the courtyard type, with a central area, varying in shape and often consisting of a lawn planted with trees, where the church is located, and around which the houses are aligned. A third or mixed type, the result of certain extensions in the 17th and 18th centuries, combines both layouts.

Source: UNESCO/CLT/WHC
Historical Description

The spontaneous emergence of the Beguine movement around 1200 reflects the current of religious renewal which swept western Europe at the beginning of the 13th century and in which women played an important role. In addition to the many women who entered the religious life by way of the convents, others developed an original "semi-religious" way of life in which they could dedicate themselves to God without withdrawing entirely from the world.

Among these mulieres religiosæ, neither nuns nor simple laity, of Northern Europe, the Beguines began to lead an individual or community life devoted to prayer, caring for the sick, and manual labour. Established for the most part in urban communities, they occupied houses near the hospitals and leper hospitals. Unmarried or widowed, they took no vows and were free to come and go in society and to withdraw from the community at will.

Although they enjoyed the protection of prelates such as Bishop Jacques of Vitry, and despite their close links to their confessors or spiritual directors (Cistercians, Franciscans, and Dominicans), they were never recognized as a conventual order or as a regular congregation. Their precise canonical status remained a matter of some debate throughout the 13th century.

In such a climate of suspicion, from 1230 onwards the Beguines began setting up their own institutions. The religious and secular authorities of the Flemish region favoured the establishment of enclosed béguinages, inside or outside cities, which were placed under surveillance. Each béguinage adopted its own rules in the matter of prayer, behaviour, work, housing, management of the infirmary, or the Table of the Holy Spirit (the Table of the Poor).

The béguinage was supervised by a Beguine, commonly known as the Grande Dame, who was elected for a limited term and was in many béguinages assisted by a council. Whilst the life of the béguinages was characterized by simplicity and humility, it by no means ruled out personal possessions: wealthier Beguines built or rented their own houses, others lived in community houses, and the poorest lived in the infirmary. In all cases, each had to provide for her own keep, and many worked in the textile industry. After a time, most of the béguinages were elevated to parish status and were assigned their own priest.

In other regions, such as along the Rhine Valley, Beguines who lacked the support of lay or religious benefactors continued to live alone or in community houses in different parts of the town.

The mistrust aroused by the strength of the Beguine movement and the development of feminine spirituality, which was also expressed in literary texts (such as the Visions of Hadewijch van Antwerpen, c 1240) and which could be seen as a threat to the authority of the Church, was made manifest at the Council of Vienna (1312) in the condemnation of the Beguines.

In the Rhine Valley regions, this and other subsequent condemnations were applied with vigour against the Beguines. In the Flemish region, however, the Beguines for the most part enjoyed the support of the religious authorities. The investigation into the orthodoxy of the béguinages carried out by the bishops at the request of Pope John XXII in 1320 was in their favour.

The religious problems and political crisis suffered by the Lowlands in the 16th and 17th centuries also had their impact on the béguinages. The institution disappeared completely in the Calvinist provinces of the north (except for Amsterdam and Breda), but was maintained in the southern parts of the Lowlands which remained Catholic. From the middle of the 16th century, bishops won over to the ideas of the Counter-Reformation and supported by the conventual orders re-established the old discipline in the béguinages, which enjoyed something of a revival in the following century, despite the damage many suffered during the Dutch Revolt (1568-1648). Construction and restoration work intensified as the number of Beguines increased.

The decline of the movement first became apparent in the 18th century and gathered pace after annexation by France in 1795. Although French legislation and anti-clerical policy was interpreted differently by the local powers, the béguinages were secularized and their possessions and management handed over to the municipal commissions of the civil hospices. Only a small number of béguinages survived.

The fate of the béguinages in the 19th century differed from one area to another and depended on the attitude of the urban authorities and the municipal commissions of the civil hospices. The Beguines retained possession of their houses on a personal basis, with the unoccupied houses taking in the poor. Occasionally, they managed to buy back some of their houses via intermediaries, and to rebuild limited communities.

Elsewhere, former béguinages were taken over by religious orders. In Gent, the Beguines enjoyed the support of the Church and of Duke Engelbert von Arenberg, who purchased the Petit Béguinage and had the Béguinage of Mont-Saint-Amand built (1873) to house the Beguines from the Grand Béguinage, which the city authorities were threatening to dismantle. In many of the béguinages, community houses and infirmaries were gradually turned into hospices, orphanages, schools, etc.

Repeated attempts by the Beguines to recover their property throughout the 19th and 20th centuries proved fruitless, and the movement withered away. Many béguinages suffered damage during World Wars I and II. Today, most béguinages are still clearly defined components of the urban fabric, and some still form an essential part of the architectural heritage of many cities. These havens of tranquillity still fulfil a function as living space and around a dozen Beguines still live there.

Source: Advisory Body Evaluation