Quick history lesson
What’s a “beguinage”?
In the North-West of Europe, and more specifically in Belgium and the Netherlands, a “beguinage” (“begijnhof” in Flemish) was a community of nuns, called “Beguines”, who accepted to submit to monastic rules without taking formal religious vows. A Beguinage was therefore an autonomous and secular community, although its members chose to dedicate their lives to religion.
Beguines often worked, but also survived thanks to the donations of wealthy benefactors.
The Beguine spiritual movement was founded in the 12th century and fairly soon attracted the disapprobation of the religious authorities, who did not accept the Beguines’ independence – most of them were widows or unmarried women – and accused them of hypocrisy.
In the end, the Church however granted the Beguine movement the status of “Third Order”, that is to say a religious community who did not take formal vows.
The Beguine community disappeared in 2013, with the death of the last Beguine, in Courtray, Belgium.
History of the Princely Beguinage Ten Wijngaerde Princely Beguinage Ten Wijngaerde Bruges
Bruges’ Princely Beguinage Ten Wijngaerde (“Wijngaerde” means “vineyard” in Flemish) was founded in 1225 when a group of Beguines settled by a river, just outside the city. The Beguines then made a living weaving wool for local merchants.
Twenty years later, in 1245, Margaret of Constantinople, countess of Flanders, decided to provide assistance and protection to the Beguines, thus helping their Beguinage become an independent parish.
In the centuries that followed, the Beguinage grew in wealth and number, and was ultimately integrated to the growing city of Bruges. As centuries went by, the Beguines’ social origins evolved: while the doors of the Beguinage were initially open to poorer women, the institution later selected new recruits in the ranks of local aristocracy exclusively.
The French Revolution dealt a fatal blow to the Beguinage. Though it was reopened in the early 19th century, it could never regain its former prestige. The decline of Bruges’ Princely Beguinage was inevitable and the city’s last Beguine died in 1930. Since the 1920s, the Beguinage has been inhabited by a community of Benedictine nuns.
In 2002, Bruges’ Princely Beguinage Ten Wijngaerde was added to the UNESCO World Heritage List.
Visiting Bruges’s Princely Beguinage Ten Wijngaerde
Bruges’ Princely Beguinage Ten Wijngaerde is separated from the rest of the city by a large wall and moats, making it feel like a small village within the city itself.
Behind the walls, charming white buildings are smartly arranged around a wooded park carpeted with daffodils.
Visitors can freely explore:
- The church, which dates back to the 17th century
- The house of a Beguine, dating back to the 17th century, which now houses a small museum presenting the Beguines’ daily lives.
If you wish to be accompanied by a professional guide, you can also opt for a guided tour. Captain Ulysses recommends 2 in particular:
The Princely Beguinage Ten Wijngaerde: access
Getting to Bruges’ Princely Beguinage Ten Wijngaerde
The Princely Beguinage Ten Wijngaerde is located a short walking distance from Bruges’ city centre. It is situated right by the Minnewater, the ‘Lake of Love’. The Beguinage is only a 15-minute walk away from the Markt (the Market Place).
Bruges’ city centre is a pedestrian zone. If you’re not a big fan of walking or simply to try it out, you can also go on a rickshaw tour of the city!
Hours & admission
The Beguinage is open daily from 6:30 am to 6:30 pm.
Admission is free, but you’ll have to pay 2€ to visit the small museum onsite (1,50€ for visitors over 65, 1€ for children under 12 and students).
Looking for more tips and recommendations in Flanders? Check out Captain Ulysses’ articles:
If your looking for a hotel in Bruges, Captain Ulysses highly recommends you to check out Booking.com. From cheap accommodation to luxury hotels, you’ll find a wide selection of options. If your budget is a little tight, the Captain recommends Hotel ‘t Putje: the rooms are a bit simple but the staff is lovely and the localisation is great. However, if you want to stay in a luxurious hotel, be sure to check Heritage Hotel.
If you’re looking to book visits and activities ahead of time, Captain Ulysses recommend you to have a look at Tiqets and GetYourGuide. Guided tours, cruises, skip-the-line tickets, unique activities … there’s plenty to chose from!
A lot of visitors travel to Bruges from Amsterdam or Brussels. If that’s your case, you can easily book your transfer from Amsterdam here. You can also opt for a guided day tour: from Amsterdam or from Brussels.
Bruges is a rather small city that is quite easy to explore on foot. The city centre is actually a pedestrian area. If you don’t like walking or if you’re tired of your long day wandering the city, you can also opt for a guided rickshaw tour!
If you’re planning on flying to Bruges, the Captain recommends that you check Skyscanner, an online comparator which is perfect for finding the best prices If your dates are flexible , you can even compare prices over several weeks to find the best option. Bruges is also easily accessible by train and bus. To book your tickets, we highly recommend Trainline, which integrates the offer of 207 train and bus companies in 44 countries.
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