Béguinages became popular in and around the Flemish Kingdom and parts of Germany in the 13th and 14th centuries. These were dwellings housing women in semi-monastic conditions. Much of the way of life was similar to that of a convent or a monastery, but the women never took a formal oath.
The Béguinage of Bruges is a serene and tranquil area. Its two entrances are adjacent to two bridges over a beautiful canal and the whole area is laid out around a lush green garden. The majority of the perimeter is surrounded by white houses which used to house these women and the side facing the river houses a church.
Signs dotted around the grounds promote silence as over 20 nuns of the Order of St Benedict currently reside in the grounds. The church is fully functioning, so if you arrive at the right time, you will have an opportunity to hear some beautiful singing during a service.
One of the houses has become a museum showing the way of life that these women have led for centuries and what the interior decoration of these modest buildings are. For a modest fee you will be able to browse a complete set of medieval furniture from the 15th century and some very fine lace.