Amsterdam travel guide

AMSTERDAM TRAVEL

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Amsterdam Travel Guide

Begijnhof

Begijnhof is one of Amsterdam’s controversial attractions. These residential buildings of the 14th century were built to house a catholic sisterhood who lived like nuns despite not having taken the monastic vows, the beguinesor “Beginjntjes” in Dutch.

These historic buildings are located right in the center of the city, close to Spui, you’ll easily reach it five minutes away from the Dam Square by foot.

Begijnhof Amsterdam The beguines were originally women who took shelter in a religious community to help the sick around the 1150, they started to be referred as Beguines sometime before the 1307 and the residence that housed them began to be known as Beghijnhuis (Beguines house) by 1346. The women did not live in seclusion or took a poverty vow and could renounce to their chastity vows and leave the shelter to get married when they wished to.

By 1417, the Beguine houses had expanded their territory to the new lands the canals provided, and on 1419, a church was edified in lieu of their chapel; however, these did not survive the fires of 1421 and 1452. Despite this, the Beguines and the church rebuilt their new home (this time in brick) and by 1511, the Beguines residence enlarged yet again.

On 1578, the city was taken over by the Protestants, who forbid the Roman Catholics to publicly profess their faith and confiscated all their properties (churches, convents and monasteries). The Beguines had then, to give their church away and started to practice their faith at home, worshipping in different houses at a time. This practice soon spread around the city, acquiring the name of “Hidden Churches.”

During the 17th and 18th century, Begijnhof lost some of its wooden gothic façades, and underwent many alterations; houses were rebuilt, demolished and enlarged. The last beguine to live there died on May 23, 1971 at 84 years old.

Begijnhof now holds the oldest house of Amsterdam, the Houten Huis, dating back to the 1420s; and the Engelse Kerk (English Church), the former Catholic Church confiscated by the Protestants. However, some parts of these historic buildings are restricted to tourists to protect the privacy of current residents.
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