The amazing Beguines or How we happened upon the Begijnhof


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July 17th 2019
Published: July 19th 2019
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July 17
We now interrupt this blog transmission for a moment of history in our world.

Okay who among you reading this blog learned that in the year 1620 the Pilgrims left Plymouth England and headed out to the new world? Well I'm here to tell you there was sooooo much more to the story! Every trip I take I discover astonishing facts about history that didn't make it into our school books, for instance:
Most students don’t learn about the time the Pilgrims spent in Holland. They weren't called Pilgrims then, they were called Separatist because they were "separating" from their church and they arrived in Holland from England in about 1609. Seems they quickly learned that they needed more than Holland had to offer and thought their children may be becoming "too Dutch" which was a little too frivolous from the parents view point.
So to escape the Dutch lifestyle, the Separatists bought a boat called the Speedwell and left from Delfthaven Holland, headed to Southampton England to meet with other Separatists getting ready to leave for the new world on the Mayflower.
There were 2 ships that left for the new world in August of 1620 BUT the Speedwell was leaking badly so both ships turned around to go back to England. In September of 1620 the Mayflower left England again carrying all its original passengers plus the group from the ill fated Speedwell.

This little known true story is brought to you via a very nice lady I met at Begijnhof a little jewel hidden in plain sight right in the middle of Old Town Amsterdam, the docent I spoke with is originally from Kentucky now living in Amsterdam. Which brings up my next history subject for the day......

Tom and I are meandering around old town Amsterdam and we see an old doorway with beautiful carvings around it. the door was open and we could see a long covered hallway that led to what looked like a garden. We watched people going in and out and wondered for a while what was on the other side of the hallway. As people seemed seemed to be freely going in and out without trouble I told Tom I was going to run in and see what was on the other side.

The hallway ended and some amazing gardens came into view with houses encircling them. Right in the middle was a church. Not like a cathedral, it was very modest in size. This area was in fact open to the public and Tom and I entered surprised this space even existed within the very busy Old Town of Amsterdam. You couldn't couldn't hear any of the outside commotion going on in the heart of Amsterdam. It was quiet and peaceful.
We walked into the church and a lady standing at the side looked at us and said "So where in the U.S. are you from?" Well we had quite a conversation and she told me about the women who built the houses and church and also the separatists who ultimately became the Pilgrims who left for the new world (pictured at the back of the church is a stained glass window depicting the Pilgrims while in Amsterdam.

The story of Beguines women and Begijnhof sort of goes like this...............
There were group of unmarried religious women who lived together in a close community under the vows of chastity of in the 1300's in Amsterdam. They were like nuns in the way they led their lives, but these women were independent of the church. They lived chaste and unmarried, because they were not affiliated with any religious order they did not vow a life of poverty and they could leave whenever they wanted, if they wanted to get married for instance. These women used their own money to purchase this land and build their houses. (These houses were originally built in the middle ages and this land is a little lower and the outside street in the center of Old Town Amsterdam. The actual land the houses and church sit on was originally surrounded by water and when first built the only entrance was located at the Begijnensteeg (“Beguines’ Alley”) with a small bridge across the ditch, the canals and ditches were eventually filled in a long time later the beautiful carved doorway entrance was added on Spui Certurum which is a bustling square.
When Catholicism was banned in the 16th century. The Begijnhof was the only Catholic church that continued to exist because the houses and church were on private property and the women were not actually part of a religious order. They did ultimately have to give up the church in the center but a . A new"hidden chapel" was later built inside two of the residences. The church in the center still says "English Reformed Church of Amsterdam."
You really had to be here and see this little hidden jewel in Amsterdam, I had never heard of this before and certainly learned a lot about the Pilgrims and the Begijnhof women.
Okay history Lesson is over for the day and it isn't lost on me that perhaps I just wasn't paying enough attention while in school, oh to go back and start again.............I hope you enjoy the pictures.


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