A Beguinage is a complex of houses where the Beguines used to live in a community a few centuries ago. The beguines were devoted women living together without taking religious vows, so they were not considered nuns. In Flandres (Flemish region in the north of Belgium), where Antwerp is located, is possible to find many well-preserved beguinages. The beguine movement has ended, but several of the complexes are still there, and open to the public.
The first Beguinage in Antwerp (called Het Hof Sion) was situated far from the city walls, and it was destroyed in 1542. The one we know today was built in 1545, placed in the student’s neighborhood (well, not a student area back then), and has a residential function nowadays.
The area is like a peaceful oasis in the middle of a bunch of students going to their classes every day. Entering the official gates (the place is walled) is like going back to another era. I don’t say that considering the architecture, even because the surrounds look as old as everything else, but because of the vibe. It feels sacred! I had the feeling when I entered the gate, that time stopped in the last century in there, and the only thing left was the silence.
The beguinage is open to the public, but I have to confess that I hesitated when I took my camera out of my purse and started exploring everything. It was very quiet and empty – if it wasn’t for a couple that asked me to take a picture, and a black cat walking around like a boss -, so I felt a little bit like an intruder in the first minutes. Well, the feeling disappeared when I started walking on the cobbled streets.
The structure of the complex consists of a square surrounded by houses, but there’s also an additional alley result of the growing number of Beguines – according to the official information that I found in the entrance. I didn’t see the alley right away. First I walked around the square. Since I was completely alone in the most of my visit, I thought the alley had such a mysterious feeling. No one else was there, the only sound I could hear was from my steps, the click of my camera, and a raven making a spooky noise somewhere (no kidding!).
How much? Free
Where? Rodestraat, 39 – Antwerp, Belgium