The Begijnhof (Beguinage) is a peaceful, hidden courtyard tucked away between the Nieuwezijds Voorburgwal, Spui and the Gedempte Begijnensloot. It is one of the oldest inner courts in Amsterdam, although it is not known how old it is exactly. The Begijnhof consists of a group of houses built around a secluded courtyard and garden which provided modest homes for the Beguines. These were a group of unmarried religious women, who lived together in a close community under vows of chastity. The Begijnhof is a paradise of peacefulness, where the fast moving city seems to be far away.
You can enter the Begijnhof from either the Spui or from the Gedempte Begijnensloot, close to Kalverstraat. When you enter, you still know that you are in Amsterdam, but still it looks like another world. The garden-like courtyard is surrounded with typical Amsterdam style houses, but then in a unique setting. In the middle of the circle of houses, is the Begijnhofkerk (Beguines Church), which nowadays belongs to the English Reformed Church of Amsterdam. I have never been able to go inside, although they note that they are open at set times.
The Begijnhofkapel (Beguinage Chapel) is situated in two joint houses. It was built as a hidden church during the Reformation – like the hidden church, Ons’ Lieve Heer op Solder – when the Roman catholic Beguines had to surrender their original church to the Reformed protestants. In the Begijnhofkapel you will see a nine panes large painting and stained glass windows, telling the story of The Miracle of Amsterdam. In 1345 a Eucharistic Miracle happened in the Kalverstraat, not far from the Begijnhof.
A short history of the Begijnhof in Amsterdam
In about 1150, a group of women came together to live in a religious community, primarily to look after the sick. These were, in effect, the first ‘Beguines’ although the name was not yet used. In later centuries, various alterations were made to the houses in the Beguinage, not in the last place because of two destructive fires. In the 17th and 18th centuries the wooden façades were replaced by brick façades; though 18 houses do still have their Gothic wooden frame. Overtime, the residents of the houses changed as well. On 23 May 1971, Sister Antonia, the last Beguine, died, 84 years old. Meaning that since 1971, the Begijnhof is no longer a beguinage, in the strictest sense of the word.
Respect that this is private property!
The Begijnhof is not a public space, but private property. Even though you are very welcome to visit the garden. It is also a place of silence and visitors are requested to respect this silence.
Begijnhof & Begijnhofkapel
Address: Begijnhof 30, 1012 WT Amsterdam
Website: Begijnhof & Begijnhofkapel