Begijnhof, Amsterdam

The Begijnhof (Beguine Court) is an enclosed courtyard in Amsterdam dating from the early 14th century. It includes several interesting religious buildings and provides an serene oasis just a block from the bustling Spui square.

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History of Begijnhof

The Begijnhof was built in the 14th century as a residence for the Begijntes (Beguines), a Catholic order of unmarried or widowed women who wished to live a pious life of service without becoming nuns. The Beguines received free lodging in return for caring for the sick and the educating the poor of Amsterdam.

One resident, Cornelia Arens, so loved the Begijnhof that she humbly asked to be buried in the gutter in 1654. She lies under the slab of red granite on the walkway on the left side of De Engelse Kerk. The last Beguine here died in the 1970s.

As part of the "Alteration" of 1578, the main church in the courtyard was confiscated from the Catholic Begijns for Protestant use. It was given to the Pilgrim Fathers during their brief stay in Amsterdam in 1607.

The Beguines went without a church for a century, but in 1671 began construction on their own Catholic chapel in the Begijnhof. The "secret" chapel was actually authorized by the Protestant authorities, but its exterior had to be hidden from public view.

What to See at Begijnhof

The Begijnhof consists of tiny houses grouped around a well-kept courtyard. No. 34 is the oldest house in Amsterdam, dating from 1465, and one of only two remaining wooden houses in the city center. The rest were destroyed by a series of fires, which led to the passing of a law against all-timber buildings.

On the building's left side are biblical plaques, with scripture quotes and illustrations. Furniture from the Begijnhof can be seen in house No. 38.

The small Engelse Kerk (English Church), across the courtyard at No. 48, dates from 1400 and belonged to the Beguines until it was confiscated in 1578. Despite its name (which may simply refer to the language spoken there), it is a Scottish Presbyterian church.

The Mirakel-Kapel or Begijnhof-Kapel, close to the English Church at No. 29, was built by Catholic architect Philips Vingboons in 1671. It once contained the communion wafer from the Miracle of Amsterdam (1345), whose story is told in the stained-glass windows.

Quick Facts on Begijnhof

Site Information
Names:Begijnhof · Beguine Court
Country:Netherlands
Categories:churches; monasteries
Status: active
Visitor and Contact Information
Coordinates:52.369449° N, 4.890118° E
Address:Begijnhof 30
Amsterdam, Netherlands
Phone:020-6221918
Email:info@begijnhofamsterdam.nl
Website:www.begijnhofamsterdam.nl
Hours:Begijnhof: daily 9am-5pm
Begijnhof-Kapel: Mon 1-6:30pm, Tue-Fri 9-6:30, Sat-Sun 9-6
Lodging:View hotels near Begijnhof
Note: This information was accurate when first published and we do our best to keep it updated, but details such as opening hours and prices can change without notice. To avoid disappointment, please check with the site directly before making a special trip.

References

  1. Personal visit (November 2006).
  2. Begijnhof - Lonely Planet
  3. Begijnhof - Fodors.com
  4. Historic Buildings and Monuments in Amsterdam - Frommers.com

More Information

© Holly Hayes
© Nicholas Thompson
© Holly Hayes
© Holly Hayes
© Holly Hayes
© Holly Hayes

Map of Begijnhof, Amsterdam

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