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 : please send your email to info@beguines.info

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

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

Wishes in the Solstice 2019 (21-12-2019)

I have waited specially this day of the solstice to send to you all, members of the Beguines News Letter, my best wishes for a Merry Christmas and a peaceful  introduction to 2020. I find this astronomical deadline particularly exciting. Sunday 22 December at 04:19 am UTC the winter solstice is scheduled for our hemisphere (but it is summer solstice for the southern hemisphere). The winter solstice has the peculiarity that, starting from this moment, the light of day begins imperceptibly to increase until its maximum in the summer equinox. This thought that light substitutes more and more the darkness is included in the promise of Christmas: a light is given to us, a sun will rise. Best wishes for a bright Christmas and a shining New Year.

I point out that the Beguinage of the Croix aux boeufs  welcomes for Christmas and New Year those who want to spend it with the community. See “Rendez-vous au Béguinage“. They also sent an interesting text on the sometimes misused term of beguinage. Thank you very much.
For contact: cte.apos.monas@gmail.com et http://ecolesagesse.free.fr

Some informations sent by members, thank you to everybody (09-12-2019)

FEVERATI Lucia presented her degree thesis at the Faculty of History and Cultural Heritage of the Church, Pontifical Gregorian University, 2018-2019. The theme, really appealing to us, is: Tra successo e sospetto. Le beghine nell’Europa del duecento e trecento.(Between success and suspicion. The Beguines in Europe, in the 13th and 14th centuries). You can read her work by clicking on her name in blue. Thank you dear Lucia. You have made a valid contribution to research, even quantitative, on the beguinal history.

With a great sigh of relief (I guess), Mattia Zangari concluded his doctoral thesis, now published in printed form and ebook. He also obtained a European “Marie Curie” scholarship. Double congratulations, Mattia. The theme of the thesis is: Tre storie di santità femminile tra parole e immagini. Agiografie, memoriali e fabulae depictae fra Due e Trecento (Three stories of feminine sanctity between words and images. Hagiographies, memorials and fabulae depictae between 13th and 14th centuries).
https://elibrary.narr.digital/book/99.125005/9783823393603

Roberto Pozzo tells us that the exhibition Le projet CROMIOSS, in which  Jacques de Vitry is metionned, can be visited at the Musée d’art ancien in Namur (Belgium), see info on  https://www.province.namur.be/index.php?rub=page&page=289

Several people indicated to me the round table “Paris, 1310: les béguines, une communauté de femmes subversives et féministes, dedicated to the memory of Aline Kiner, author of The Night of the Beguines. To view it: https://www.franceculture.fr/conferences/ecole-nationale-des-chartes/paris-les-beguines-une-communaute-de-femmes-subversives-et-feministes?utm_medium=Social&utm_source=Facebookfbclid=IwAR1HTXOQXJwNzBm3yQmwsXKQnB2b9qNMat3veRfNsxtXj4uohXomKOgBu8g#Echobox=1563438159

Dorothée Janssen has reacted to my last message, by writing the following, which she took from Wikipedia: “Donald Attwater (English Catholic author, 1892-1977) dismisses what he calls the “legend” of Saint Catherine, arguing for the lack of any “positive evidence that she even existed outside the mind of some Greek writer who first composed what he intended to be simply an edifyng romance. Harold Davis writes that an accurate research has failed to identify Catherine with any historical character”.
Let us remember that hagiographies are not biographies and that a legend has a different status thant an hitorical fact. Thanks to Dorothée for inspiring this cautious precision.

Beguines in Maine (USA) (11-09-2019)
Sr. Courtney, on the right, and Michelle Aquino

Sr Courtney Haase wrote to me about the very original experience she promotes in Skowhegan, in the rural Maine, the most northeastern state of the United States. As we read in the web site “Companions of Claire ” is an experimental community”, an emerging Franciscan community for the mature women in the Beguine tradition. “We wish to create an experimental community following the Primitive Rule of St. Clare, involving older women in the Beguine tradition, Our focus group will be women over 62 either those who have left religious life ans wish to reenter, or those who wish to give the rest of their life to God.
Sr Courtney spent 16 years as a Poor Claire, then she took distance from the institution and was very involved in the rural projects until to be nominated as an Ashoka Fellow candidate for innovation in agriculture. She initiated and ran for 11 years the non-profit Small Dairy Project, to help small farmers become licence dairies. Now, with Companions of Claire project, she offers a possibility for women in vocational need. In fact, separate from the convent there is a one room cabine as a hermitage where anyone can stay for a week.

Adress : Franciscan Convent of Peace and Good – 627 Middle Rd. – Skowhegan, ME 04976, https://www.companionsofclare.org
Contact :  Sr. Courtney Haase <sr.courtney@beeline-online.net> or phone ++ 1- 207-431-2664

 

Hadewijch songs (17-7-2019)

Minnelieder einer Nonne” (Love songs of a nun). Thus the German philologist Franz Joseph Mone defined the 45 songs he had discovered in 1838 in the current Royal Library of Belgium. When he discovers these texts, no author’s name accompanies them. Only a small note on the sidelines of the manuscripts will allow 20 years later to unravel the mystery. But who is this Hadewijch, by some experts identified with the Brussels beguine Bloemardinne? We will have to wait for the studies of the Jesuit Joseph Van Mierlo for a little better understanding of her and for the research, since 1992, of the Dutch musicologist Louis Peter Grijp to associate 19 of her strophic poems with the music that accompanied them.
It is in this mystery that the precious album edited by Albin Michel (book and CD) suggests to plunge us; in “this corpus of spiritual love songs a “unicum” throughout the Western Middle Ages” as written by Mendelein Bara ocs, in the article in Italian language available at this link: http://beguines.info/wp-content/ uploads / 2017/08 / Hadewijch-by-Wendelien.pdf
Happy reading, good listening and joyful holidays.

A future beguinage in Halle (Belgium) (o9-06-2019)
From the left: sisters Maria Maddalena end Angela. In the back the wafer’s laboratory.

It is trough the press that we learned about the project of a future beguinage in Halle, a city of nearly 35,000 inhabitants located in Flanders, about thirty km south of Brussels. Halle is well known in Belgium for its shrine dedicated to the Black Madonna and for the annual pilgrimage on May the first.
The project of a future beguinage is born in the heart of the Monastery of the Sacramentine Sisters, which even has a website: https://monasteriumhallefr.wordpress.com/overons
Founded in the 17th century by the Dominican father Antoine Lequieu, the Order of the Holy Sacrament was approved in 1693. This religious family is dedicated to perpetual adoration, also during the night, to reaffirm the presence of Christ in the  Eucharist and “to remedy the growing disinterest among believers“.
The community of Sacramentines of Halle has gradually decreased and today it has only three nuns, interspersed with 30 years of age difference: Sister Imelda (90 years), Angela (60 years) and Marie Madeleine (30 years). To meet the requirements of their continuity and their presence in the community of the faithfuls who attend their church, they envisage the creation of an ex-novo beguinage, starting from the bricks. The amateurs who would be interested and would like to make contact (preferably in Dutch) can write to kloosterhalle@telenet.be
We wish good luck to these enterprising religious, perhaps also future beguines.

Historical rehabilitation (13-05-2019)

Thanks to the informations available with Internet, I stumbled upon the photo on the left: it is a commemorative plate that the Municipal Administration of Nave placed in June 2018 on the birth place of Benvegnuda Pincinella (+1518). The plate reads: “In memory of Benvegnuda Pincinella, a medical herbalist , in the 500th anniversary of her burning at the stake. Here she lived and provided relief. The Municipal Administration against prejudice, discrimination, injustice“. What a thrill to find about only forty kilometers from where I live (Gargnano and Nave are both localities in the province of Brescia) this plate. Nave, a community of about 11,000 inhabitants, felt the duty to rehabilitate one of those “witches” against whom, especially during the 16th and 17th centuries, public and religious powers raged. I really want to go in person to put a flower in memory of Benvegnuda and to compliment the Mayor and his Administration. But even more I would like to address with you a request to Anne Idalgo, mayor of Paris, so that such a plate is placed in the Place of the Hôtel de Ville to remember the unjust burning to which Marguerite Porete was condemned for writing a book dictated by freedom of Love. Who among you could help me in this initiative, by contacting the Mayor of Paris or by indicating to me an association that could do it? Thank you and we hope that Marguerite can also have her right rehabilitation in the place of that despicable execution.

A Beguine in Australia (03-05-2019)
Lee-Ann’s hermitage

It was a real surprise to receive the beautiful message from Lee-Ann Wein from such a distant country like Australia . Lee-Ann, on May 31, 2018, feast of the Visitation, made her choice of beguinal life in the Benedictine Abbey of Jamberloo, a village of just under 2000 inhabitants in New South Wales, south of Sydney. Lee-Ann calls herself a Beguine, a choice she has matured over a period of five years. She makes candles, wears a dress made of natural canvas, lives in a small hermitage in the Abbey’s property, and has chosen a life style of contemplation, simplicity with a particular attention to prayer for people who are victims of sexual abuse and for the dignity of every woman. Among her community services is the accompaniment of funerals.
Lee-Ann would be very interested in an exchange of mails. To those wishing to write to her, this is the address: Lee-Ann Wein <lwein3@gmail.com>.
I also hope to be able to meet her as soon as possible, when I get the chance. Dear Lee-Ann, welcome with us.

“La croix aux bœufs” (06-04-2019)
A view of the beguinage

Thanks to Lina Kortobi, I recently discovered the beguinage La Croix aux boeufs which is located in St Martin du Lac (Burgundy-Franche Comté). It is a beguinage based on a strong Christian spiritual inspiration, with initially an apostolic and monastic community. Oblates and couples are also part of it without living under the same roof. Because the initial community have lived in Belgium for 5 years, they well knew the beguines and wanted to be inspired by them. With their high vocation of proclaiming the God’s word and thanks to their school of evangelization, “the Community offers retreats, seminars, teachings and training, in various forms according to the places, the needs, the groups and the persons requesting; during the day, in the evening or at the weekend, they organize occasional gatherings (summer campus) or undertake itinerant missions “. In short, a very apostolic vocation.
The first motivation of those who would like to be part of this project must be the spiritual pursuit, but the three vows – poverty, chastity, obedience – are not required to be admitted to the Beguinage. Many other information can be found on their website.
This is a determined and well-defined experience that enriches the multiform array of modern expressions inspired by the beguinal movement. For contacts: Béguinage, Communauté apostolique et monastique
71110 St Martin du lac
06 66 73 08 96 ou 09 78 23 31 86
cte.apos.monas@gmail.com
http://ecolesagesse.free.fr

The Beguines of Medieval Paris (28-03-2019)
I warmly thank Tanya Stabler Miller for introducing me to her wonderful book The Beguines of Medieval Paris. Gender, Patronage, and Spiritual Authority, University of Pennsylvania Press, 304 pages, 2014 (Kindle ebook), 2017 (paper) and I invite those wishing to read a certain number of pages (including summary and map of medieval Paris) to click on https : //www.amazon.fr/Beguines-Medieval-Paris-Patronage-3-Apr-2014/dp/B013RP2U8O/ref=sr_1_1? ie = UTF8 & qid = 1553745003 & sr = 8-1 & keywords = Tanya + Stabler # reader_B00W35SUG6
You will see directly how her writing is engaging and documented. Not for nothing The Beguines of Medieval Paris was a reference text for the book La nuit des béguines (see News Letter n.1/2018 ) by the late Aline Kiner.
Tanya Stabler Miller’s book describes the beguinal communities in the Paris of the 13th and 14th centuries, at the time it was the largest city in Western Europe due to its intellectual and economic appeal. Paris: “vibrant and cosmopolitan” as defined by the author.
Drawing on an array of sources, including sermons, religious literature, tax rolls, and royal account books, Tanya Stabler Miller contextualizes the history of Parisian beguines within a spectrum of lay religious activity and theological controversy. She examines the impact of women on the construction of medieval clerical identity, the valuation of women’s voices and activities, and the surprising ways in which local networks and legal structures permitted women to continue to identify as beguines long after a church council prohibited the beguine status. Based on intensive archival research, The Beguines of Medieval Paris makes an original contribution to the history of female religiosity and labor, university politics and intellectual debates, royal piety, and the central place of Paris in the commerce and culture of medieval Europe“. (source: http://www.upenn.edu/pennpress/book/15228.html ). Finally, I would welcome Tanya Stbler Miller, a professor of History at Loyola University in Chicago, in our Beguines News Letter and rejoice in her presence with us.
8 March & Beguines (12-03-2019)

Among the many expressions surfaced on the occasion of March 8 Women’s Day, it was a real surprise to find an article on the beguinal movement in a Spanish on line magazine. Muchas gracias to Vicente and Maria Luisa for letting me know about to me. Even if you do not read Spanish, just click out of curiosity on the website https://cantabrialiberal.com/opinion/un-movimiento-femenino-de-la-edad-media-por-juan-goti-ordenana,482662.html and you will see the article by professor Juan Goti Ordeñana of the University of Valladolid who regularly writes in the Cantabria Liberal magazine.
The importance of this text, even with its minor inaccuracies, is that it presents the beguines’ movement as a manifestation of freedom and autonomy of women. It underlines their influence on the people, as perhaps even superior to the preaching of the monks and secular clergy. (“
su influencia religiosa en el pueblo, que la predicación de los monjes de los monasterios y el clero secular de las parroquias“). The most surprising thing is that the beguines have been remembered from Spain by a man on March the 8th. Another mimosa has bloomed.

Reading the News Letter of the year 2018
Reading the News Letter of the year 2017