Begijnhof, Amsterdam

Begijnhof, Amsterdam

Begijnhof, Amsterdam

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Description:
The Begijnhof is one of the oldest inner courts in the city of Amsterdam. A group of historic buildings, mostly private dwellings, centre on it. As the name suggests, it was originally a Béguinage. Today it is also the site of the English Reformed Church.

Earliest times

The Begijnhof is the only inner court in Amsterdam which was founded during the Middle Ages, and therefore lies within the Singel — the innermost canal of Amsterdam's circular canal system. The Begijnhof is at medieval street level, which means a metre below the rest of the old city centre.

It is unclear when exactly the Begijnhof (Beguines' court) was founded. In 1346, the beguines still lived in a house (a document of that time mentioned one beghynhuys). A courtyard was only first mentioned in 1389, probably after the religious status of the city rose due to the Amsterdam Eucharistic Miracle of 1345.

Originally the Begijnhof was entirely encircled by water (the Nieuwezijds Voorburgwal, the Spui and the Begijnensloot or "Beguines' Ditch"), with the sole entrance located at the Begijnensteeg ("Beguines' Alley"), which had a bridge across the Begijnensloot. The back facades were therefore water-locked. The Spui entrance only dates back to the 19th century.

Characteristics

The Begijnhof differs from the usual Amsterdam patricians' court in that this old people's home was not founded by private persons. It bore closer resemblance to a convent, although the beguines enjoyed greater...
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