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Begijnhof

Location

Amsterdam Map

Last Visited: 2010

The Begijnhof

The Begijnhof

Not to be missed (if you can find it) the Begijnhof is the oldest surviving inner court in the city, and the only one inside the Singel (the circular canal that marks the old city walls).

It was originally built to house a community of beguines, religious women whose vows were less restrictive than those taken by nuns.

The last beguine died in 1971, and it is now what we Brits would call, a set of almshouses.

The RC Chapel

The RC Chapel

The frontages of the buildings mostly date from the 17th and 18th centuries, but many are much older internally. The courtyard also houses the beguines original church. This was founded in 1390 and rebuilt in the 1490s following a disastrous fire.

At the time of the reformation in 1578 it was taken from the beguines and given to the English. It is now the English Reformed Church. Ironically, it is affiliated to the Church of Scotland.

The beguines continued to worship in various houses until in 1671, in keeping with the fine Dutch tradition of tolerance, they were given permission to build a Roman Catholic Chapel on condition that it was hidden behind two sham house facades opposite the church.

The main gate is in the narrow Gedempte Begijnensloot, just south of the Amsterdam Historical Museum. There is another entrance on to Spui. This just looks like a large front door, and is not easy to spot. There are discrete signs asking visitors to refrain from taking photos but, like most of the other tourists, I did not notice them until it was too late.