Flemish Beguinages (1998)
Belgium

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Belgium 2000. World Cultural Heritage. Flemish Beguinage. Belgium.

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. 

In 1954 Belgium issued a very nice cultural series of six stamps for the benefit of the restoration of the Beguinages in Bruges. The stamps are in different formats, exactly as shown here. The stamps were valid for postage until 30th September 1955. The full set, whether mint or used, holds a considerable catalogue value. 

Belgium 1954. World Cultural Heritage. Flemish Beguinages in Bruges. Stamp #6 of six.

  • Belgium 1954. Cultural series depicting views of Beguinages in Bruges (Flandern).

Belgium 1954. World Cultural Heritage. Flemish Beguinages in Bruges. Stamp #1 of six. Belgium 1954. World Cultural Heritage. Flemish Beguinages in Bruges. Stamp #2 of six.  
Belgium 1954. World Cultural Heritage. Flemish Beguinages in Bruges. Stamp #3 of six. Belgium 1954. World Cultural Heritage. Flemish Beguinages in Bruges. Stamp #4 of six. Belgium 1954. World Cultural Heritage. Flemish Beguinages in Bruges. Stamp #5 of six.


On the first stamp (9+4,50F) is printed "Vinea Civitatis Brugensis" [The Vineyards of the City of Bruges]. This originates from the piece of land, known already in the 11th century as "The Vineyard", that was given to the Béguines, who settled there. 

The Béguinages are also found in The Netherlands.  

In a Dutch series of Protection of Monuments (European Monument Protection Year) was issued this stamp, showing a Béguinage in Amsterdam.  In front of the building (the stamp's lower left corner) is a statue of a retired woman living as a nun. 

Both the Dutch and Belgian buildings are classical architecture for their time, very harmonious and tranquil housings. 

  • The Netherlands 1975.  Béguinage in Amsterdam (Michel # 1048).

The Netherlands 1975. World Cultural Heritage. Flemish Beguinage in Amsterdam.

 

Here is what a former nun has to say about novices, that can be described as "secular nuns". .

"I was in religious life for a little over two years. I was a novice but I never made vows. A novice is someone who has entered a religious order and has been given a habit. He or she undergoes training and
religious exercises in preparation for taking vows. (There are novice monks as well as novice nuns.)

Some people have asked me why I call myself a former nun when I never made vows.

If I called myself "a former sister," it would sound like the other children in my family had died (perhaps in some terrible family tragedy). If I called myself "a former ecclesiastic" or "a former religious," most people wouldn't know what I was talking about.

I was a member of a religious order. I wore a religious habit with a veil. I lived in a convent. I was given a new name. I lived the strictly disciplined life of a nun. I looked like a nun, I acted like a nun, I was called "sister" like a nun, and I was treated like a nun.

In English, we also have lay-persons, meaning unordained persons who carry out SOME preaching duties.  They may or may not have lived in a religious community.  Most Protestants do not have convents or
monasteries, but the Church of England (Anglicans) might.

Most Roman Catholic monasteries/convents in Great Britain were destroyed after Henry VIII created the Church of England and broke with the Church of Rome. 

Suggestions for further reading: 

 

Other World Heritage Sites in Belgium (on this site). Please refer to the UNESCO-listing, Belgium section, for further information about the individual properties. 

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Revised 18 aug 2007  
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