48 Route 7.
Ghent. With the exception of those at Amsterdam and Breda, these nun¬
neries are now confined to Belgium, though at one time they were com¬
mon throughout the districts of the lower Rhine.
The members of the Beguinages are unmarried women or widows of
unblemished character, and pay a yearly board of at least 110 fr., besides
an entrance-fee of about 150 fr. for the maintenance of the dwellings and
the church. Two years of novitiate must be undergone before they can
be elected as sisters. They are subject to certain conventual regulations,
and are bound to obey their superior, the Groot Jufrouw or Grande Dame
I whom they elect themselves), but are unfettered by any monastic vow.
It is, however, a boast of the order that very few of their number avail
themselves of their liberty to return to the world. (When a member
leaves the order, her entry-money is returned to her.)
*Le Grand Beguinage, the removal of which from its former
position near the Porte de Bruges was necessitated by the con¬
struction of some new streets, was transferred in 1875 to the site
secured for it on the N.E. of the town through the influence of the
Due d'Arenberg. [To reach it take one of the tramway-cars plying
from the Church of St. Jacques to the railway-stations for Eecloo
and Antwerp (8 min. ; 20 c); about 3 min. walk from the termi¬
nus of the tramway-line the narrow Oostacker-Straat diverges to
the right, by following which for 5 min. we arrive at the entrance;
comp. PL E, 3.] The Beguinage forms a little town of itself, enclosed
by walls and moats, with streets, squares, gates, 18 convents, and
a church, the last forming the central point of the whole. The
houses, though nearly all two-storied Gothic brick buildings, pre¬
sent great variety of appearance and form a very picturesque
ensemble. The Beguinage was planned by the architect Verhaegen.
This Beguinage contains about 700 members. The younger
Sisters live together in the convents. After having been members
for six years, however, they have the option of retiring to one of
the separate dwellings, which contain rooms for two to four occu¬
pants. The doors of these houses are inscribed with a number and
the names of tutelary saints. In many cases the Be'guines have
the society of other women who are not members of the order,
such as an aged mother, or other friend or relative, whose board
forms a small addition to their funds. Lace-making is the
principal occupation of the Be'guines, beautiful specimens of whose
work (Kanten) may be obtained from the Groot Jufvrouw, opposite
the entrance of the church, at much more reasonable prices than
in the town.
The Sisters must attend divine worship twice or thrice a day,
the first service being at 5 a.m., and the last at Vespers. The
latter presents a very picturesque and impressive scene, when the
black robes (failles) and white linen head-gear of the Sisters are
dimly illuminated by the evening light and a few lamps. Novices
have a different dress, while those who have been recently admitted
to the order wear a wreath round their heads.
Le Petit Beguinage (entrance Rue des Violettes; PL E, 5) is
similarly arranged, and contains about 300 members.