Who we are

In the Beguinage of Dendermonde (Termonde)


Hello. My name is Silvana Panciera and with the help of my friend Philippe Hensmans I decided to create this web site in order to share the fruits of my many years of research on the beguinal movement. This is a “open free” information, but thank you to quote the source.

My interest in the Beguines began in the exhibition The Closed Garden of the Soul (Brussels, 1994), which dealt with various forms of female spirituality. On a panel of the exhibition I read: “Would the beguinal movement perhaps be the first feminist movement? “. This question was the starting point of a research that has continued since then, which for two years has led me to visit what remains today of all the Belgian beguinages and which has pushed me more and more to want to make known and rehabilitate this feminine history. A form of posthumous justice towards the great protagonists, women fought, repressed, ignored, ignored and sometimes even derided.
Here are the steps.

In 2009, Fidélité Editions published the book Les béguines, which was very successful and was printed again in 2012.

In 2010, the four languages DVD (EN-FR-IT-NL), All om all. Discovering the Beguinal Movement in Europe, which is also found on Youtube.

In 2011 Gabrielli published the Italian version of the book, Le Beghine. Una storia di donne per la libertà, with the preface by Marco Vannini.
In 2013, two other translations appeared in English and German. The first The Beguines is available as an ebook. The German edition Die beginen (Ed.Octopus) is released in paper version in April 2014.

In 2015, in collaboration with the iconographer Martina Bugada, I published Tre Voci per l’amore (Three Voices for Love), where the icons and an anthology of texts were found of three famous Beguines: Mechthild di Magdeburg, Hadewijch and Marguerite Porete.

Since 2014, I have circulated the News Letter Beguines, information about the beguinal movement of yesterday and today.

Antwerpen Beguinage
Statue of Beguine

Since 2016, I’m preparing this website, whose realisation would involved me for a long time. It is an homage to the thousands of women who, from the end of the twelfth century to the end of the twentieth century, have lived an existential adventure that was opposed by many, ignored by too many, and even derided by some. The Beguines would instead have much to teach to us men and women of the twenty first century about deep love and sainthood in freedom.


The News Letter

The News Letter “Beguines” informs about beguinages and beguines, both traditional and modern. You can also collaborate by sending news to info@beguines.info

To suscribe is also a way to touch in contact. For that, please do it yourself by https://tinyletter.com/Beguines or send your email to info@beguines.info

Please, read below the recent News with, between brackets, the date of their sending :

New beguinal group in Switzerland (22-11-2020)

You will undoubtedly agree with me that this Newsletter also aims to promote contacts. I am therefore sending you the good news that I have just received: a new beguinal group is born in Switzerland. The text below of its presentation was discussed by the group itself and it was sent to me by Myriam and Franziska. It is important to know that new béguinale initiatives are born here and there and to help them to know each other. Many wishes of good journey to our beguines from Bern and Langenthal by the Beguines Newsletter:

“In autumn 2019, a few Swiss women (all German speakers: Myriam, Franziska, Kristina. Rosemarie and others, from Bern and Langenthal), who consider themselves “modern beguines”, met in Bern and decided to keep in touch. We had planned to meet twice a year, but unfortunately, given the corona virus, this has not been possible since. But the web helps us as we keep in touch electronically by sending us news from time to time. Our motivation is to live a modern and active Christian spirituality, while maintaining our institutional and intellectual independence. We all have a mature age – 50 years or more – and a certain taste for autonomy. Our togetherness is not Institutionalized. We support each other through our practice of prayer and daily meditation, each for herself but knowing that the others are also committed on this path. We live our Christian commitment  (for ex. in our parish, by paying particular attention to disadvantaged people in our professional meetings, by being involved in special meetings, etc.) as independent women, anchored to the earth, open to heaven, rooted in daily life, wherever we happened to live. The two Beguines of Bern are members of the German “Dachverband der Beginen e.V.”. We are happy to benefit from an international network.” The group has a website (in German): www.beginen.ch. If you want to have a contact or other information, you can write to: beginen-bern@beginen.ch

Beguinal calendar 2021 (27-10-2020)

The general assembly of the members of “Nel giardino delle Beghine” (In the Beguines’ garden) held in Mantova on Saturday 24 October reported the second year of life of this new and dynamic association. All the places authorized by the anti Covid measures, about twenty, were occupied, but to broaden the participation, the kind Alessia also made a recording now available on Youtube.
A pleasent surprise:  in this occasion the 2021 calendar of the Beguines was presented. Each month describes a beguine (traditional or contemporary) who in that month was born or reborn through death to another life. You will find below the list of the beguines mentioned for the different months with the inclusion in August of their influencer Bernard of Clairvaux. We are not sexsite, after all !
If you want to get it, please pay the sum of 7 euros (shipment within Italy) to the IBAN account IT76S0501811200000016754582 in the name of the Garden of the Beguines, via Dugoni 12 – Mantova, clearly indicating your address for the subsequent sending and as reason indicate “2021 calendar”.  For other countries, please write to nelgiardinodellebeghine@gmail.com
In the recording available on https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h9v5K3fbPOQ my speech entitled “The mysticism of the beguines” is also outlined, lasting from the 30th to 82th minutes. Note a small correction: the Concil that reaffirmed the doctrine of transubstantiation is Lateran IV in the year 1215.
Despite these difficult times, as Miss Marx would say: “Always ahead

Las Beguinas. Mujeres por la libertad (22-09-2020)

For my seventieth birthday which falls in September, I made myself a very special gift: the publication also in Spanish of my work about beguines. After a first edition in French in 2009, various translations followed with related editions: in Italian (2011), in English (2013), in German (2014). Now one also in Spanish. The presence of the Beatas in Catalonia and throughout Spain, as well as the encouragement of Sandra (translator of the text from French, thanks Sandra) and Roberto’s precious help for the cover convinced me in step … doble! The edition that you will find at this link https://www.amazon.com/Las-Beguinas-Mujeres-libertad-Spanish-ebook/dp/B08JKC4W63/ref=sr_1_1?dchild=1&keywords=silvana+panciera&qid=1600754659&s=books&sr=1-1 , however, is not the translation of the original text, but a real new edition, much richer and more thorough than the previous one, which anticipates those that will follow in Italian, French and English. The linguistic order of the editions is now chronologically different of the first  but the aim remains the same: to tell the greatest number of people, and therefore in different languages, this compelling story of women enraptured with love and with “sanctification in freedom”. Thank you for joining me in making this story known.

A very good text by Tania Stabler Miller (10-09-2020)

I warmly thank Tania Stabler Miller for reporting her contribution on the Beguinal movement published on the web site World Religions and Spirituality at the following link: https://wrldrels.org/2020/09/04/beguines/
This text offers the main chronology of the history of the beguines, also specifying what happened after the condemnation of heresy that the Council of Vienne (1311-12) imposed on them, as well as on the begards. It also summarizes the main features of their lifestyle. In the bibliography Tania points out various readings, to which I may add here my work “The Beguines“, available in English as ebook at the following address:  http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00HWFFINK .

Tanya Stabler Miller, PhD Associate Professor of History
Department of History, Loyola University Chicago
1032 W. Sheridan Road
Chicago, IL 60660

Medieval Duch mystic and literature (19-08-2020)

The book “Cultura letteraria neerlandese. Autori, testi e contesti dal Medioevo a oggi (Dutch literary culture. Authors, texts and contexts from the Middle Ages to today) “, edited by R. Dagnino and M. Prandoni, has been recently published by Hoepli. You will find information on the web site https://www.hoepli.it/cerca/libri.aspx?query=Cultura+letteraria+neerlandese.+Autori%2C+testi+e+contesti+dal+Medioevo+a+oggi&filterCategoryPathROOT= . The Dutch literature also includes works of mystics known to us for their connection with the Beguinal movement: Beatrice of Nazareth and Hadewijch. In the second chapter of the above book, entitled “Agli inizi della mistica in lingua volgare (At the beginning of mysticism in the vernacular language)”, Alessia Vallarsa wrote about them. We remind that Alessia Vallarsa, a member of our News Letter, is the author of a doctoral thesis. With the collaboration of Joris Reynaert she translated the beautiful poems of the anonymous author called Hadewijch the Second or Pseudo-Hadewijch, in a book published by Marietti Editore. Warm congratulations to Alessia and to the whole editorial team.

Marie d’Oignies (27-06-2020)

It was a very pleasant surprise to see that even the Giornale di Brescia remembered Marie d’Oignies as saint of the day at the following link that I invite you to open: https://www.giornaledibrescia.it/rubriche/santo-del-giorno/oggi- you-remember-the-blessed-maria-d-oignies-1.3488337 However, it is very surprising to see that a woman like Marie, dedicated to prolonged fasts (including one lasting 53 days shortly before her death) is represented with a beautiful plump face, when at her death at 36 years, in 23 June 1213, she weighed 33 kg . As Jacques de Vitry wrote in the Vie de Marie d’Oignies: her body “was found so thin and bent by disease and fasting that the spine touched her belly and, as under a thin linen cloth, under the the fine layer of skin on his belly showed the skeleton of the body “(p.71)
I would also like to dispel incorrect information which circulates on the web about the stigmata: Marie d’Oignies did not receive it. We can be sure of it because there is no mention of this extraordinary event in the Vita written by Jacques in view of her beatification. If there had been, he would certainly have remembered it. Finally, a rather curious news about this blessed so famous during the thirteenth century that even Francis of Assisi would have liked to know her, while today she is very unknown. The historian Chiara Frugoni in her book “Life of a man. Francis of Assisi” reports that Pope Gregory IX (1227-1241) stopped being angry only by wearing the relic of Marie d’Oignies’ finger on his neck (p.41) .

Thanks to Tania Stabler Miller (22-03-2020)
Tania Stabler Miller

Tanya Stabler Miller, member of our Beguines News Letters, teaches history at Loyola University in Chicago. She teaches courses on the social, cultural, and religious history of medieval Europe. Among her studies, she is the author of The Beguines of Medieval Paris: Gender, Patronage, and Spiritual Authority (University of Pennsylvania Press, 2014), which explores the intersections between gender, spirituality, political power, and urban life in medieval Paris. Here the link of this publication: https://www.upenn.edu/pennpress/book/15228.html
Recently, Tania send to me (thank you very much) the link of the review of the famous novel La nuit des beguines, that she has published on her blog. I share this gift with you: https://tanyasmiller.wordpress.com/2020/03/01/review-aline-kiner-la-nuit-de-beguines-2017/
Her review is really precious because Tania have deeply studied the Paris beguinage subject and can appreciate how the Aline Kiner’s book and its personages, as the beguines Jeanne de Faut for exemple, are “a fascinating example of the relationship between historical reconstruction and imagination”. Waiting for an English translation of this historical novel who got “both critical and popular acclaim” we can read with great pleasure the Tania Stabler Miller review focused on this novel  that one reviewer called “A feminine Name of the Rose”.

Your collaboration through Google Alert (10-02-2020)

Since I signed up for the Google Alert service, I’m informed of every reference that appears on the web regarding the terms beghine and beghinaggi. It thus occurs that the term beguine is almost always used negatively. You can well see it below in three exemples of reported cases. When I have time and when I find how to reach the writer, I send a gentle and objective rectification, based on history, and I suggest the vision of the DVD The Beguines available on Youtube. If it is a comment that I can post on the blog, I have seen that it is easily received. My last intervention so far is that addressed to the journalist Flavia Fratello following her article appeared on Alganews on 11 January, see https://www.alganews.it/2020/01/11/sul-gesto-di -stizza-the-pope-francis.
I am writing to you because I would like invite those of you who feel offended or embittered by this pejorative use of the term “beguine” to help me to rectify it. How ? By kindly writing to those who have made an improper use of the term “beguine”  in order to rehabilitate the beguinal movement. I particularly insist with those of you who are not native Italian, since I only receive from Google Alert notifications that appear in Italian. But for French, English, Duch, German, Spanish … there is no vigilance. Who among you can do it? But even for the Italian netwotk, it would be great if more people would write, because the effect would be enhanced. To those wishing to accept this proposal, here’s how to sign up for Google Alert: https://support.google.com/websearch/answer/4815696?hl=en
Thanks for letting me know  about your collaboration. Now and always: Resistance!

Eileen and her videos (19-01-2020)
Hadewijch, by Christine Daine, Poor Clare monastic order, Bruxelles

A few days ago I received from  Eileen Engel – unknown to me until now – the announcement of a short four-minutes video “Beguine voices” made by her and available on https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_U7JNLN6DMA&t=31s. A nice surprises from the web! In this video some quotes of Hadewijch and Mechthild of Magdeburg are presented. Touched by this delicate “home-made” production, I wrote to Eileen. So I lerned something more about her that I want to share with you. Eileen is retired and lives outside of New Orleans, in Louisiana. Last October, during her trip in Europe, she visited seven beguinages and became fond of beguines. Thus, she decided to produce several videos on this topic so that the voice of these wonderful women could be appreciated and may come out of oblivion. What a nice idea, Eileen. We encourage you to produce more of these videos and to collect them in a Youtube channel “Beguines voices”. Words bring life and also restore it.
Speaking of videos, I point out one other in French that greatly interested me. Good vision.
Les béguines, des femmes libres au Moyen Age, débat avec Aline Kiner sur son roman “La nuit des béguines“, 7 octobre 2017. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lyHdWKEYSlU

Reading the News Letters of the year 2019
Reading the News Letters of the year 2018
Reading the News Letters of the year 2017