- The Beguines were convents of lay women whose members lived a communal life but were not bound by perpetual vows. Founded in the 13th century, they proved popular for women who sought not only religious edification but also the security of community living. Three Beguine convents (béguinages, begijnhofs) existed in Brussels. The largest—Notre-Dame de la Vigne—was founded about 1250 and housed at times over 1,000 women. Located near the place du Béguinage, the community composed a miniature village of individual houses with a mill, laundry, and flower and vegetable garden enclosed within a wall. An infirmary and a small church—the church of Saint-Jean-Baptiste au Béguinage—were also built. The women engaged in weaving wool and, from the 16th century onward, in making lace. The Beguines were dispersed in 1797 during the French regime. The grounds were parcelled out gradually and streets laid out, including the rue de Béguinage. The infirmary was renovated and transformed into the Hospice Pacheco.The area between rue de Laeken and quai au Bois à Bruler was known as the Béguinage quarter during the Middle Ages.
Historical Dictionary of Brussels. Paul F. State.
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