Beguines are women who could not or did not want to enter a convent, but lived together as a community to support themselves. Around 1560 the beguinage outside the city walls of Mechelen was destroyed. The beguines re-established themselves inside the city walls, where the Large Beguinage (Groot Begijnhof) grew up. They bought up existing buildings and built new dwellings, which explains why the Large Beguinage is rather different in character from beguinages in other cities. Because of its typical Flemish character and unique architecture, the Large Beguinage was declared a UNESCO world heritage site.
Beguines and beguinages Beguinages were small towns within a town. They had their own bakery, brewery, nursing home, church and bleaching fields. Beguinages were founded in the time of the crusades. Many of the men who left on a crusade never returned, which resulted in a surplus of women: widows, orphans and women who failed to find a suitable husband. Going and living in a convent was one solution, but many convents only took aristocratic or well-to-do women. Women who didn't enter a convent for whatever reason, went to live together and together were able to sustain themselves. The main difference with convents was that the beguines did not take the life-long vows of poverty, obedience and chastity. So they were not tied to the beguinage for life, though most did live out their life there. Initially the church treated them as heretics, but gradually they were accepted on condition that they led a devout life. This was how beguinages in Flanders originated. A beguinage was headed up by a Grand Mistress, who was assisted in the organization and coordination of daily life by mistresses.
Rich, usually aristocratic beguines would build their own house or buy one in the beguinage. Less well-off beguines rented a room from these homeowners and took charge of the housekeeping. Beguines with no possessions were taken into small convents, usually founded by benefactors, to guarantee that prayers were said for the occupants or their deceased family member. Beguines in the convents had to work for their living, which is one reason lace-making became one of the most important activities in the seventeenth century. So the beguinage played a crucial role in Mechelen's lace industry.References:
The settlement of Trepucó is one of the largest on Menorca, covering an area of around 49,240 square metres. Today, only a small part of the site can still be seen, the two oldest buildings, the talaiots (1000-700 BCE). Other remains include parts of the wall, two square towers on the west wall, the taula enclosure and traces of dwellings from the post-Talayotic period (650-123 BCE).The taula enclosure is one of the biggest on the island, despite having been subjected to what, by today’s standards, would be considered clumsy restoration work. This is one of the sites excavated around 1930 by Margaret Murray, a British archaeologist who was a pioneer of scientific research on Prehistoric Menorca.
The houses are perfectly visible on the west side of the settlement, due to excavation work carried out several years ago. They are multi-lobed with a central patio area and several rooms arranged around the outside. Looking at the settlement, it is easy to see that there was a clear division between the communal area (between the large talaiot and the taula) and the domestic area.The houses near the smaller talaiot seem to have been abandoned at short notice, meaning that the archaeological dig uncovered exceptionally well-preserved domestic implements, now on display in the Museum of Menorca.The larger talayot and the taula stand at the centre of a star-shaped fortification built during the 18th century.