This quiet enclave of homes surrounding a garden right off the busy Spui is known as the Begijnhof, or courtyard of the Beguines. Visit this open air museum in the heart of Amsterdam.
The Beguines were unmarried Catholic women who took vows of chastity and attended daily Mass in the courtyard church. They were not nuns, however, as they were free to leave at any time to marry or pursue other interests.
The original Begijnhof was founded in the mid 14th century. In the 15th century, two large fires swept through Amsterdam, destroying the Begijnhof and the church, but the Beguines rebuilt. The new Catholic church, dedicated to patron saints John and Ursula, was later closed during the Protestant revolt of 1578 and subsequently became a Protestant church known as the “English Church”. Two homes opposite the church were then transformed into a secret “hidden church” for Catholics.
The 47 townhomes in the Begijnhof look like typical charming Amsterdam houses, with façades dating from the 17th and 18th centuries, although some of the structures still have Gothic wooden frames. Notice the lovely gables at the top of the buildings and the interesting carved and painted stones depicting religious topics near the entrance.
Don’t miss the oldest wooden house in Amsterdam at number 34.
The last Beguine died in 1971, but 105 single women still live in the dwellings of the Begijnhof today. The courtyard is open every day from 9:00 – 17:00. Please respect the residents and remain quiet while visiting.
Begijnhof 30, Amsterdam