Begijnhof, the Beguine Courtyard

The Begijnhof is an oasis of tranquillity in the centre of Amsterdam. The Begijnhof consists of 164 dwellings dating back to the 14th century.

The Begijnhof in Amsterdam is an old beghinage, consisting of an enclosed courtyard dating back to the early 14th century, although there is no exact date of its foundation. It is located near the lively Kalverstraat in the centre of Amsterdam and will catapult you back in time.

Behind a rather anonymous door in Spuistraat hides a picturesque and enchanting inner courtyard embellished with manicured gardens and a central church overlooked by picturesque fairytale houses typical of Dutch architecture.

In medieval times, the courtyard was completely surrounded by canals, with only one entrance, accessed via a bridge. Today, the entrance gate, the Begijnesloot, is still visible thanks to the 1907 restoration. The stone door bears on its tympanum the figure of St. Ursula, the patron saint of Amsterdam’s beghines.

The entrance on the Spuistraat, dating from later times, was completely replaced in the 19th century.

Guided tours of the Begijnhof

There is free access to the Begijnhof in Amsterdam, which is open daily from 8 am to 5 pm. There is no entrance fee, but to discover the full history of this space, we recommend that you take part in a guided tour of the city.

Who were the Beguines

Around the Begijnhof there were houses where the beguines lived. They were women who did not belong to a church order, but had decided to dedicate their lives to helping the needy.

The beghine renounced their private lives by taking a vow of chastity and joining this kind of community, but could still renounce their beghinage at any time. The air that one still breathes today when wandering around the courtyard is that of a peaceful atmosphere, far removed from the chaos of the city.

The Begijnhof and the Catholic Church

During the Protestant Reformation period, when Amsterdam fell under Calvinist rule, the Begijnhof was the only Roman Catholic institution in the city. Its maintenance was made possible by the fact that the houses of the Beguines were owned by them.

Inside the Begijnhof, a Catholic church was built in great secrecy, the Church of St. John and St. Ursula, the patron saints of the Begijnhof, which could not, however, be visited by outsiders, and in which the Beghine prayed in hiding following the Calvinist confiscation of their houses of worship.

Begijnhof today

Today, only a few remnants of the original beghine dwellings remain, such as the Het Houten Huis, which by the way is the oldest house in Amsterdam, a wooden house dating from around 1420.

However, the Begijnhof is still inhabited by single women, whose privacy and tranquillity the visitor must respect. The centre of the courtyard is dominated by the Engelse Kerk, a church dating back to the 15th century, which today is nothing more than the centre of the English Reformed Church.

Since the last beguine passed away in 1971, this order in Amsterdam was lost. It was only a few years later that, in order to favour the preservation of the historically important place, the government approved a renovation plan, which, however, saw the original structure of the court partly disappear.

Useful information

Address

Begijnhof 1, 1012 WS Amsterdam, Netherlands

Contacts

TEL: +31 20 622 1918

Timetables

  • Monday: 09:30 - 18:00
  • Tuesday: 09:30 - 18:00
  • Wednesday: 09:30 - 18:00
  • Thursday: 09:30 - 18:00
  • Friday: 09:30 - 18:00
  • Saturday: 09:30 - 18:00
  • Sunday: 09:30 - 18:00

Transports

Metro stops

  • Rokin (136 mt)

Where is located Begijnhof, the Beguine Courtyard

The courtyard is located right in the centre, within the Singel, not far from Dam Square and other major attractions, in the western part of the Dutch capital.

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