Monday, 13 July 2015
Impressions of Bruges #8
The historic centre of Bruges is a World Heritage Site, just like Saltaire. Also on the UNESCO World Heritage Site list are the Flemish Béguinages. The Béguines were lay women (often quite well-to-do) who devoted their lives to God without retiring from the world and without taking lifetime vows as a nun would do. They occupied themselves by helping the poor, teaching and preaching. They lived in sheltered, walled communities which provided these single women with protection in a world that was often hostile to women outside the family or church. The Bruges Béguinage was established in 1245 with cloistered houses (originally timber) and a church clustered around a large, central courtyard. The existing whitewashed houses were built in the 18th century and part of it is now occupied by a community of Benedictine nuns. One of the houses is open as a museum so that you can easily imagine what it might have been like in days gone by. It is still a very peaceful place, despite the masses of tourists walking through.