Beguines supporters gallery

In this section are listed the biographies of the most famous admirers, and therefore also supporters, of the beguines. As for the portraits of the beguines, here too the list will be always incomplete and unachieved. The names of the both are generally written in the original language.

Let’s start by recalling that it was thanks to these men, sometimes anonymous, that we were able to know the “vitae” of the following beguines with their associated biographer:

Beguine                                                    Biographer
Marie d’Oignies (+1213)                    Jaques de Vitry  and  Thomas de Cantimpré
Odilia di Liegi (+1220)                       Anonymous priest of St Lambert of Liège
Juetta di Huy (+1228)                        Hugo di Floreffe, Premostratensian
Christine de Saint trond (+1228)   Thomas de Cantimpré
Christine de Stommeln (+1312)      Pierre de Dacie
Ida di Nivelles (+1231)                       Goswin di  Bossut, Cistercian
Ida di Leuven (+dopo il 1231)          Anonymous Cistercian
Margherita d’Ypres (+1234)            Thomas de Cantimpré
Julienne de Mont –Cornillon (+1259) Anonynous priest of St Martin of Liège
Ida di Gorsleeuw (+after 1262)        Anonymous Cistercian
Beatrice di Nazareth (+1268)            Anonymous Cistercian

Here is a first list  of their admirers-protectors. Every name is linked with a short biography below :

Adolphe de la MARCK (1288-1344)

Cesarius de HEISTERBACH (1180-1240)

Dieudonné DUFRASNE(1938-2017)

ECKHART Master (ca 1260-1328)

Foulque de TOULOUSE (or de MARSEILLE) (c.1155-1231)

Geert GROTE (or GROOTE) (1340-1384)

Goswin de BOSSUT (XIII°)


Guido de NIVELLES (+1227)

Hugues de PIERREPONT (+ 1229)

Jacques PANTALÉON (1195-1264)

Jacques de VITRY (1170-1240)

Jan van RUUSBROEC (1293-1281) (also RUYBBROECK ou RUESBROEC)

Jean de NIVELLES (+ shortly after 1219)

Lambert LE BEGUE (1131 – 1180 or 1187)

Louis IX (saint) (1214-1270)

Louis MASSIGNON (1883-1962)

Mario (don) SENSI (1939-2015)

Pierre de DACIE (between 1230-40 – 1289)

Robert de SORBON(1201-1274)

Thomas de CANTIMPRÉ (+1272)

Adolphe de la MARCK (1288-1344)
Bishop of Liège, he protects the beguines by convincing Pope John XXII and by his initiatives in their favour in his diocese. On August 13, 1318, under the pressure of generous protectors (including Bishop Adolphe de La Marck himself), John XXII by his bull “Ratio recta” deletes  the sentence promulgated six years ago against the beguines of the Netherlands and the region of Liège.

Cesarius of HEISTERBACH (1180-1240)
He was a German abbot and a writer, prior of the former Cistercian abbey of Heisterbac. Césarius spoke about the beguines in very laudatory terms, as the Walter Simons reported in his book  Cities of Ladies  (p.35) :  “Cesarius of Heisterbach, a Cistercian monk living in the region of Cologne and well informed about goings-on in Low Countries, affirmed that “Although those [holy] women, whom we known to be very numerous in the diocese of Liège, live among the people wearing lay clothes, they still surpass many of cloister in the love of God. They live the eremitical life among the crowds, spiritual among the worldly and virginal among those who seek pleasure. As their battle is greater, so is their grace, and a greater crown will await them”.

Dieudonné DUFRASNE (1938-2017)
Dieudonné Dufrasne was born in 1938 in Cuesmes in the Belgian coalfield Borinage. Became a Benedictine monk in 1959 and then ordained priest in 1963, Dieudonné was one of the founders of the monastery of Clerlande where his funeral was celebrated on 27 October 2017. There, he was above all interested in liturgical renewal, but also in the animation of groups and the generous personal welcome that I also received during my research on the beguines. His name will remain linked at the publication in 2007 of Libres et folles d’amour (Free and love’s crazy), one of the first popular works on the beguinal movement, later translated into Italian with the beautiful title “Donne moderne del Medioevo” (Modern Women of the Middle Ages). The book reveals his deep admiration for the loving boldness of the beguines and features three of them: Mechthild of Magdebourg, Hadewijch and Marguerite Porete.
Dieudonné was “A man of God close to the people. His sweetness, his intelligence, his right word express how much he care to be a witness of a God who has become flesh for our joys and our pains” writes Marcela Lobo in one of the 52 commemorative texts.

ECKHART Master (ca 1260-1328)
Perhaps his name was John, he was born in Hochheim, in Thuringia, around 1260, in a family of the little nobility. He entered the Dominican order, held his novitiate in Erfurt, then in 1285 he was sent to the Dominican General Studium in Cologne, where Albertus Magnus (+1280) and Thomas Aquinas (+1274) had worked.
On 18 April 1294 he was in Paris as a reader of the Sentences of Pietro Lombardo, his first teaching position, under which he obtained the license for the doctorate in theology, a condition for a chair. He was also, like Thomas Aquinas, twice magister actu regens, professor at the University of Paris. His last teaching position was in Cologne. He writes in the vernacular language four treaties and about 120 sermons.
Master Eckhart was also a man of government as prior of the convent of Erfurt from 1294 to 1298 and vicar of Thuringia. In 1303, he was provincial prior of the Dominican province of Saxony, then in 1307 of the province of Bohemia. In 1324 in Strasbourg he held the post of vicar general with jurisdiction over the female monasteries of the Order of Preachers.
Himself a great preacher, he was reproached for preaching to the laity the great theological reflections in the German language. Following a challenge to his preaching by two Dominicans, slanderers and intrigues, the Archbishop of Cologne, Henry II of Virneburg, an inquisition process against Master Eckhart was initiated in 1326. For that, he appeals to the Apostolic See of Avignon, where the trial will take place, but he died in 1328 during the trip. On March 27, 1329, Pope John XXII promulgated the Bull In agro dominico, by which he condemned twenty-eight propositions drawn from Master Eckhart’s works.
Great figure of the German mysticism, during the 10 years of his mandate as Vicar General of the Dominican Order in Strasbourg, Master Eckhart protects the beguines and intervenes in their support. Later he will be a frequent visitor to the beguinage in Cologne. As Jacqueline Kelen notes in her book on Hadewijch, Master Eckhart drew many themes from the l béguinal mysticism that he later developed, such as deepening of the inner life, contemplative union without intermediaries, deification, annihilation in the One.

Foulque de TOULOUSE (or MARSEILLE) (c.1155-1231)
He was born from a Genoese family established in Marseille. After being a merchant and poet, he became a Cistercian monk, since his love for Eudoxie de Montpellier is not paid. So, in 1195, he wrote his last poem and entered the Order. He will then be a Bishop of Toulouse and will participate in the crusade against the Albigensians. Looking for refuge in Liège, he discovered the beguines who stroked him very much and who elected them as example. Taking a temporal refuge in Oignies, he insisted with Jacques de Vitry to write Marie d’Oignies’ Life, since he considered her “defensor Dei” and an effective example in the struggle against the Catharses. This is why Jacques will dedicate this work to him.

Geert GROTE (1340-1384)
Canon and notable in the Dutch city of Deventer, Geert Grote knew very well the world of the beguines and most probably he took inspiration for the foundation of the Devotio Moderna, a movement – the brothers and sisters of the common life – for a poor, personal and secular Christianity which was very successful in Belgium, Holland and West Germany, This movement is considered one of the anticipations of the Reformation. The Devotio Sisters had the term beguine as their nickname, but unlike these, they lived in community of goods (Charles Caspers, Breda, 2017).
Grote had great esteem for the beguines who, though not pronouncing their perpetual vows, lived in evangelical simplicity and were certainly not less religious than the clergy.

Goswin de BOSSUT (XIIIth)
Cistercian of the abbey of Villers, he is the alleged author of the Life of Ida of Nivelles and perhaps of other beguines’ biographies. In fact, intense contacts, informal and non-institutional, existed between the monks of Villers and the beguines of the area of Nivelles-Oignies.

Cleric of the diocese of Beauvais, he was imprisoned in 1308 and sentenced to life in prison in 1310 for having helped and defended Marguerite Porete. Romana Guarnieri writes about him: “A strenuous defender of ‘apostolic life’, he declares himself sent by Christ to support and save those faithfuls who have given everything and live in perfect poverty, and for this they are persecuted

Guido de NIVELLES (+1227)
Priest, brother-in-law of Marie d’Oignies, Guido was the chaplain of the leper colony of Willambroux, when Marie and her husband were also there. Later he practiced in the chapel of the adjacent beguinal community until his death in 1227.

Hugues de PIERREPONT (+1229)
Prince bishop of Liege from 1200 to 1229, he welcomes and promotes in his diocese the female penitential movement, of which Marie d’Oignies is one of the best known figures.

Jacques PANTALÉON (1195-1264)
Archdeacon of Liège, he was a great admirer of Julienne, the beguine-recluse of Mont-Cornillon, and later Augustinian nun, who, following a vision, promoted the Corpus Christi Feast. He will support her with Robert de Thourotte, the Bishop of Liège. When then he became Pope himself, Urban IV (1261-64), with his 1264 Bull “Transiturus de hoc mundo“, will officially formalize this feast and set it aside for the whole Church.

Jacques de VITRY (1170-1240)
A native of Vitry-sur-Seine (Reims), parish priest d’Argentueil, «magister parisiensis», canonical regular in Saint Nicolas d’Oignies, Archbishop of Acre (1216), auxiliary of the Bishop-Prince of Liège, Cardinal Bishop of Frascati (1228), he died in Rome in 1240. He accompanied the Crusaders in the siege of Damietta (1218).
A great defender of the beguines, he helped to support them and to make them recognized by ecclesiastical authority. Jacques de Vitry was struck by the figure of Marie d’Oignies, about whom he wrote a “Vita” in view of her beatification. He left Paris, where he was a teacher of theology: “Tired of dry studies and worldliness and thirsty for inner life, he ended up settling near her (Marie) as a canon of the small and poor Augustinian priory” (Romana Guarnieri, Donne e chiesa tra mistica e istituzioni,, p.76). Deeply struck by her wisdom, he gave up teaching to become a humble itinerant preacher. From now on Marie will be the inspirer of all his sermons. For Jacques, women like Marie could save Christianity from heresy.

He frequented the beguinal environment very closely, as his mother spent the last few years in the Brussels beguinage, after leaving the village of Ruysbroeck in order to be close to her son who was becoming a priest at the St. Gudule Cathedral in Brussels. Ruusbroec himself assumes the spiritual guidance of a community of beguines in Brussels. After 20 years of parish service, he retired to Groenendal with two other companions to live a more contemplative life. “When we refer to those times, the foundation of Goenendal may appear as something else from the desire for a spiritual life away from parochial concerns and assignments. It was to take the right path between the corruption of the clergy and the unruliness of the madmen of love breaking with the Church “(Claude-Henri Rocquet, p.45)
In fact, as Ruusbroec expresses himself in his Del tabernacolo spirituale: “Look at the princes of the Church and tell me if they are good shepherds. Their palaces are full of servants. From them greatness and power abound, wealth of the world. Their table collapses with dishes and nectar, their closets and their trunks are full of precious clothes and jewels, they have in abundance all the most magnificent is offered by the earth. But they never get enough and the more they receive, the more they want. They are similar to the miserable world hungry for earthly goods because it does not have the taste of God “.
Many traits of his spirituality are of beguinal origin. Paul Verdeyen affirms that “he had to be greatly influenced by the writings of the beguine Hadewijch and we can even say that Ruusbroec and his brothers have “saved” the literary posterity of Hadewijch. In fact, anyone who knows the history of women’s writings of this era, knows that the beguine Hadewijch had to cope with numerous problems“. Sweet, humble, luminous, solitary, in the fifteenth century the Carthusian Denys nicknamed him the Admirable for the depth and quantity of his works written in the mother tongue, the thiois, the old Flemish.
A very different view of  Ruusbroec is given by Jacqueline Kelen who reproaches him for having “expropriated” Hadewijch without having mentioned her even once.
(Sources: Les activités de Ruusbroec à Bruxelles, Paul VERDEYN sj lecture on 14 February 1998 – Claude-Henri ROQUET, Petite vie de Ruysbrouck, Desclée de Brouwer, Paris, 2003 – Jacqueline KELEN, Hadewijch d’Anvers ou la voie glorieuse, Albin Michel, 2011).

Jean de NIVELLES (+ shortly after 1219)
An important figure in the ecclesiastical environment of Liège, he later retired to the monastery of Oignies, between 1215 and 1219. He had considerable influence on the development of the first nucleus of beguines in Liège, without being the founder. Jacques de Vitry said of him that he was light, teacher and spiritual father of the entire diocese.

Lambert LE BÈGUE (1131 – 1180 or 1187)
He was a priest of Liege from which some have erroneously derived the name of “beguine”, while it would be more correct to suppose that the epithet “Le Bègue” was attributed for his protection towards the beguines. He was also considered the founder of the beguinal movement following an idea emerged in the clerical environment around 1250 to assert the male prominence. According to Professor D’Haenens, the epithet Bègue would be written Bège and would allude to the rough wool dress brought by Lambert and his disciples. He was arrested, mistreated and imprisoned in the castle of Revogne-lez-Rochefort, then taken to prison in Rome because his preaching against the scandals and simony of the Church of Liege. It seems that he had sent a critical text to Pope Callistus III – the Antigraphum Petri (the defence of Peter) – in which he denounced the laxity of the priests. At that time, many clerics lived openly with their spouses.
The vernacular translation of the Acts of the Apostles (translated in rhyme so that the illiterate people could memorize them more easily), of some texts of the New Testament and of Lives of Saints, among them that of Saint Agnes, caused him a sentence and prison. But rehabilitated by Pope Callistus III to whom he had sent an apology in his defence, he returned to Liège where he died a short time later (in 1180 or 1187 according to the sources). Shortly before his death, he would have built a church in Saint Christophe at his own expense and some small houses to welcome women who wanted to live under his direction, away from the world or, as others say, a retreat house for single women, widows of the crusaders. (Sources: J.Delmelle, Lemmens, pp. 103-105, Simons)

Louis IX (saint) (1214-1270)
He became king of France at the age of 12. He lead two crusades (VII and VIII). In 1260 he founded the great Beguinage of Paris, which he placed directly under his protection and entrusted the first direction to a Flemish «Magistra», Agnès de Orchies. This beguinage, which will be closed in 1471, could host about 400 women, widows or unmarried young ladies.

Louis MASSIGNON (1883-1962)
Orientalist and French theologian, great scholar of Islam and in particular of its mysticism, he was very impressed by the beguine Christine of Sint Truiden (+1224). He considers her as a saint while Pius IX (in 1857) institutes her like Blessed. At the invitation of Fr.Van Straeten, rector of the Congregation of the Most Holy Redeemer, that preserves the relics of Saint Chistine and serve in the sanctuary of Steenart, Louis Massignon prepares a study and a conference for Thursday 24 July (the day of her death) 1924, in the 7th centenary of her death. This text will then be published in La Cité chrétienne and in 1950 in a tribute volume. The figure of Christine hits Massignon on different levels, personal and spiritual. In Gedenkboek published in 1950 we read: “L.Massignon professor at the Collège de France, who in 1924, on the occasion of the 7th centenary of the death of St. Christine, had asked to be able to glorify the saint in gratitude for the grace of his conversion which he attributes to our virgin of Sint Truiden “(p.350). On the scientific and spiritual level, the text presents the Massignon’s reflection on the themes of substitution, the reparative oblation of “special victims” and allows him to “argue” on the themes of miracles and supernatural phenomena. (Source: MASSIGNON Louis, Ecrits mémorables, Tome I, Laffont, Paris, 2009)

Mario SENSI (1939 – 2015)
Born in Assisi in 1939, he was ordained a priest in 1963 and soon after was appointed parish priest of Colfiorito. Doctor of theology (1967) and then Doctor of Philosophy (1970), in October 1988, he was appointed professor of Church History at the Pontifical Lateran University, becoming, in 2002, professor of History of the ancient and medieval Church. Since October 2009 he has been professor emeritus. It has brought out in the history many beguinal communities of Central Italy with a meticulous expertise. To him we owe the most complete monographs of these experiences, arose from “ a solitary, slow, silent and tireless study” as Romana Guarnieri, his great friend, had to say. The work, in two volumes, which sums it up is “Mulieres in Ecclesia. Storie di monache e bizzzoche”, Italian Center of Studies on the High Middle Ages, Spoleto, 2010
Since the 1960s, Mario Sensi, then a twenty-year-old seminarian, came across the beguines of the thirteenth century and explored various parish and diocesan archives, “bringing out a dense landscape from the thick fog, inhabited by a crowd of minor female figures … all these linked by a moving “gender” solidarity, attested by countless wills, left by wealthy women in favour of other women poorer than them, both of then being pious“(Guarnieri, p.408). In Umbria they were many. Don Sensi was also a dynamic animator of the ecclesiastical archival association.

Pierre de DACIE (between 1230/40 – 1289)
He is one of the most important writers in the Latin language of Swedish literature. Pierre was born in Visby (Island of Gotteland) between 1230-1240. Around 1250, he entered as a novice in the convent of the friar preachers of his hometown (the term “Dominicans” will be in use only from the sixteenth century), where he pronounced his vows. He is of a neurasthenic temperament, with a personality dedicated to the rigor of the Dominican discipline. The meeting with the beguine Christine de Stommeln in 1267 in Cologne, where he finished his studies at the Studium founded by Alberto Magno, will upset his spiritual life.
On December 20, 1267, introduced by his brother Walter, he went to visit this beguine who knows ecstasy, hallucinations and stigmata. Between 1267 and 1269, Pierre meets Christine 13 times and then goes to study in Paris near Thomas Aquinas, where he will stay more than a year and from there he will begin a correspondence that will end only at his death. On his return from Paris he meets Christine for the 14th time on 29 of September 1270. He returns to Sweden where he teaches philosophy and theology and will be prior in various monasteries. Taking advantage of a trip to Cologne, where he went for his heart problems, he will make a 15th visit to Christine and will try to take her to Sweden on three occasions.
A final visit will take place in 1287 on his return from the general chapter of Bordeaux. In 1288 his health diminishes. He dies during Lent in 1289. Christine survived him for 23 years. Peter wrote Christine’s Life, made reports of his visits and collected 38 of their letters (those of Christine are dictated to her confessors).
The relationship with Christine helped him to overcome his natural melancholy and to express a form of lyricism, more inspired by the psalms than by the poetry. Ernest Renan was interested in this “monastic idyll”, a jewel of spiritual friendship.

Robert de SORBON (1201-1274)
He was born in a peasant family in a small Ardennes village. He studied to become a priest, was promoted a doctor and provided a rectory in the church of Cambrai. His sermons and lectures earned him a good reputation and King (Saint) Louis IX chose him as chaplain and perhaps as a confessor. He is the founder of the Sorbonne where laymen who study theology can be relieved of material difficulties. The Aline Kiner’s novel La nuit des beguines tells us that Robert de Sorbon kept sermons in the great beguinage in Paris and defended the beguines. The historian Grundmann writes that “In the middle of the 13th century, at the University of Paris, two theologians were teaching close to each other: one, Robert de Sorbon, saw the Beguines and the Papelards as particularly pious people, who for their authentic and fervent piety they were despised and mocked by the supporters of a worldly life; the other William of Saint Amour, fanatical opponent of the whole poverty movement, hurled his vehement insults and his insinuations full of mockery against the Beguines and the Papelards “(Grundmann, Religious Movements in the Middle Ages, Il Mulino, 1974 p.339 )

Thomas de CANTIMPRE (+1272)
Younger of one generation of Jacques de Vitry, Thomas de Cantimpré was born in Bellingen in the Flemish Brabant (south of Brussels) around 1200. Son of a noble family, destined to become a priest, at 6 he was sent to the Abbey of Cantimpré where he attended up to his 17 years
the courses of the capitular school of the cathedral. He will be officially integrated into this community of regular canons and will receive priestly ordination in 1223. The entry of Thomas among the Dominicans in 1232 marks a new stage: he takes the habit in the convent of Leuven where he will almost always live, except for short stays in Paris, Trier and Cologne. Following the Dominican spirit, he immediately resumed his studies: in Cologne with St. Thomas Aquinas and Albert the Great, in Paris in the convent of Saint-Jacques. In 1246 he returned to Leuven where he served as a sub-prior and as a reader, then as a general preacher for a large region covering part of Germany, Belgium and France. Bilingual preacher, he travels Flanders from east to west and also France to preach against the Albigensians. He died on May 15, no doubt around 1270-1272. To him we owe various hagiographies of beguines (Béatrice de Nazareth, Christine de St Trond, Marguerite d’Ypres, le supplément à la Vie de Marie d’Oignies …). But his most famous work is The Book of Bees, a treatise on religion and practical morality in the framework of an allegory on bees. There are elements of anthropology, zoology, botany, mineralogy, astronomy, astrology and meteorology.

Beguines gallery

In Breda beguinage

Whether they are famous or not, in this repertoire all the beguines I’ve encountered are here mentioned. We want to pay tribute to all these weavers of the beguinal  movement.

Sometimes the traits of their vocation are inaccurate or may change with time, because life itself is modifiable and the beguinal choice offers multiple ways of living. In addition, lay and religious elements intertwine in beguinal life, and ecclesiastical pressures are not absent

A short biography of each of them is (will be) presented and whenever possible a blue link refers to a wider description of their life. I have written in red the traits that allow us to include them among the beguines or near the beguinal movement.

Both traditional and modern beguines, but only the dead ones, are remembered, because they all belong to the same history. The list will always be incomplete because the memory is still being reconstructed, but with the women whom we find  here, we are really in good company.
Here they are:

Agnès d’ANTHÉE (XIVe)

Aleydis VAN KAMERIJK  ( de CAMBRAI ) (+1235)

Alyt BAKE ( 1415-1455 )

Angela da FOLIGNO (1248-1309)

Angelica BONFANTINI (+1244)

Angelina di MONTEGIOVE (1357-1435)(or di MARSCIANO)

Anna VAN SCHRIECK (Anversa, + 1688)

Anna CORDEYS (Dienst e Lovanio, +1720)

Béatrice de NAZARETH(+/-1200-1268)


Caterina da BOLOGNA (1413-1463)

Cecilia FERRAZZI(1609 – 1684)

Chiara da MONTEFALCO (1268-1308)

Chiara da RIMINI (1282-1346)


Christina EBNER (1277-1356)

Cristina di MARKYATE (1096-1115)

Christine COUCKE (XVe)

Christine de SINT-TRUIDEN (+/- 1160-1224)

Christine de STOMMELN (1242-1312) (de Stumbele ?)

Clusin ou Claesinne NIEUWLANT (Gent, + 1611)

COLETTE (+/- 1381-1447)

Dorothée de MONTAU (1347-1394)

Douceline de DIGNE(+/-1214/15 et 1274)

Elizabeth de BERG (XIIIe)

Sainte Elisabeth d’HONGRIE

Elisabeth de SPALBEEK (1246–1304)

Elisabeth de THURINGE (1207-1231)

Eve de SAINT MARTIN (1190-1265)

Francesca ROMANA al secolo Ceccolella Bussi , (+1440),

Gertrude RICKELDEYof ORTENBERG (+ 1335) and Heilke of STAUFENBERG (+ dopo il 1335).

Gertrude VAN OOSTEN(+ 1358)

HADEWIJCH (+1250 ca)

Ida of GORSLEEUW (+ dopo il 1262)

Ida van LEEUW (+ 1260 ca)

Ida de LOUVAIN + 1300

Ida de NIVELLES (1197-1232)

Isabelle DEWIT (XVIIIe)

Ivana CERESA (1942-2009)

Ivette ou Jutta de HUY (1157-1228)

Jeanne d’ARC (1412-1431)

Joan d’ANTHÉE (XIVe)

Julienne de CORNILLON (1193-1258)

Julienne de NORWICH (1342 – 1413)

Jutta de LOOZ (ou de Huy) (+ 1227)


Katherina VANDER HULST (XVe)


Linke DOBBE (XVIe)

Lutgarde de TREVES (+1231)

Lydwine de SCHIEDAM (1380-1433)

Margherita di CORTONA

Maria Bendetta di CARIGNANOe Maria Angela CANAL (XV° secolo)

Maria VAN HOUT (+1547

Marie di GREZ(+1271)

Marie d’OIGNIES (1177-1213)

Marie PETYT (1623-1677)

Marcella PATTIJN (1920- 2013)

Marcella VAN HOECKE (1908-2008)

Margherita d’ARLON (+1414)

Marguerite PORETE (+1310)

Marguerite d’YPRES (+1234 o 37)


Mechthild de MAGDEBURG (1208/10 – 1282)

Odile de LIÈGE (+1220)

Philippinne de PORCELLET (Marsiglia)

Rita da CASCIA (1381-1457)

Romana GUARNIERI (1913-2004)

Sofia del fu BARTOLO

SPARRONE (Aix en Provence)

Uda (o Oda) da THORENBAIS (XIIIe)

Ysabiaus de WARLAING (XIVe)

Abbaye de Fontevraud

Angelica BONFANTINI (+1244)
Around the year 1190, Angelica decides to leave her wealthy family (Father Caicle of Bonfantino and her mother Bologna) and retires as a hermit on a land of the Colle della Guardia offered by her family. In the succeeding years a community is formed and in 1194, the bishop of Bologna, Gerardo Ghisla, on the order of Celestine III, places the first stone of the Church of San Luca.
Can we consider Angelica like a beguine ? In my opinion, yes. In fact, in “101 donne che hanno fatto grande Bologna – 101 women who have done Bologna great ” (Newton Comptoir Editori, 2012), Serena Bersani says : “It is not clear in which area of ​​religious institutions Angelica has been placed. Certainly she did not make vows for a certain rule, but she was a woman who had converted to religious life, voted to hermitage and after to the constitution of a coenobitic community form. Even though she did not belong to an institutionalized religious structure, she always had the approval of the apostolic office and of the Bishop of Bologna. “(P.25) It is also reported that after received the land donated by her mother, two years later Angelica decided to give it to the canons of Santa Maria di Reno “to reserve the usufruct to life in exchange they helped to build the church and the monastery where they would then host later.” The act was formalized in front of a notary on July 30, 1192. However, litigations started with the canons and so Angelica managed to get them started thanks to a papal Bull. The possessions passed under the jurisdiction of the Holy See. After her father died, her mother bought other land on the hill and her example was imitated by other Bologna’s benefactors. At the death of Angelica, quite old, in 1244, the church and the monastery were already well-established and ready to transform from a hermitic community to a monastic community.

Angelina da MONTEGIOVE (1357-1435) (or di MARSCIANO)
by Anna Clotilde FILANNINO

Anna Clotilde Filannino with behind her the picture
of the Blessed Angelina da Montegiove

Blessed Angelina da Montegiove is a woman from the region of Umbria, who lived between the century XIV and XV, known as the founder of the Third Cloistered Franciscan Order. In reality she believed in the possibility of living a form of consecrated alternative to the monastic life. She believed in it and she obtained an official recognition, allowing not only herself and her companions but also many women to come out of illegality, which had been the condition of many for decades. This paved the way for other women who could not be set off on a path of consecration, due to the limited number of entrances to monasteries. The latter ones are largely women of Umbria who lived a similar experience of Angelina, in Foligno, Assisi and Todi, while supporting each other. In the following decades, groups of women from other cities of central Italy – Florence, Ascoli, Viterbo and later Perugia and L’Aquila – will join them and their relationship will become more intense to the point of deciding to found a congregation in 1428, the Congregation of Foligno. Angelina becomes the general minister with the authority to visit, exhort, transfer the sisters from one sorority to another. We are faced with a reality of women who wish to live intensely their spiritual life, similar to that found in the beguinages of Flemish Europe. Their experience in Italy, after a few decades from the approval, was repeatedly hindered because it was considered in contrast with the attempt of reform carried out by the second generation of Franciscan Observers and it took the humble tenacity of Angelina and her sisters not to succumb and keep faith with the happy intuition they were bearers of.

HADEWIJCH (+1250 ca)
by Alessia VALLARSA

Hadewijch by Christine Daine,
Clarisse de Belgique

The historical figure of Hadewijch is still surrounded by uncertainty: her work offers few bibliographical references and there is no “Vita” (biography) dedicated to her. The Brabantine language of her writings places her in the Duchy of Brabant, in Antwerp according to a late tradition or perhaps in Brussels. It is thought she was active around the mid-thirteenth century, but   others place her  at the beginning of the XIV century. Only her work remains: 31 letters in prose and 16 in rimes, 45 songs and 14 visions. In Dutch literature Hadewijch plays a fundamental role since she is one of the first authors to make prose and mysticism, an exception in this literature. Women-mystic-prose: it has been emphasized that this link is not a coincidence. Hadewijch spoke of God not in Latin but in vulgar Dutch. By a creative and daring operation the language of mysticism came out of the world of clergy and was reformulated into vulgar. Most probably Hadewijich was a beguine, a form of religious life sprung up within the vast women’s religious movement, which experienced an extraordinary flowering in the regions of Brabant and in the diocese of Liège. H. Grundmann has shown that the birth of spiritual literature in the vernacular is directly related to the extension of this feminine movement. From her writings it emerges that Hadewijch was a guide of a group of friends whom she exhorted to live radically for the Minne, the noble Love, the only theme of her life, metaphor of the relationship between lovers, therefore also between a woman and God. So she wrote for these friends letters, songs and visions, works that manifest her familiarity with the Bible, the patristic, the mystics of the twelfth century and the lyrics of the courtly love that she adopted, especially for the  songs, the style and the themes and, as recent discovered, the melodies: she spoke of the courtly love to speak about the mystical love. So she addresses a friend: “Try that nothing less than minne is enough for you

Ivana CERESA (1942-2009)

Ivana Ceresa was born in 1942 in the province of Mantua (Italy), where she will then live until her death in 2009. Since her high school, she wanted to be a theologian, but she must wait after the Second Vatican Council to access the theological faculty, inaccessible to women until the 1970s. She became then a literary teacher and only later a theologian. Her book “Dire Dio al femminile” (Saying God in the Women way) was for many women a stimulus to become conscious of gender issues and of the need for an exit from the patriarchate. Ivana called herself a beguine and said, “I’m the beguine of every age, because I’m in a way in incognito … I love in the manner of beguines, in a nonconformist and a bit transgressive” (Ivana Ceresa, Utopia and conserves it, Three Moon Editions, Mantua, 2011). Her friendship with Romana Guarneri, the historian who identified in 1946 the book of Marguerite Porete, and with Luisa Muraro, a great scholar of the beguinal movement, reinforced this identification that led her to say “to be a beguine today is to continue the choice of these women, that is to live in the world without being in the world“.  In 1996, Ivana achieved her most important realization: the foundation of the Order of Sorority of Mary SS. Coronation, recognized by the Bishop of Mantua, Egidio Caporello, in March 18, 2002. In the introduction to the Rule of Order of Sorority, Ivana refers to the beguines of the North and how they expressed strong female freedom with their autonomy and independence towards ecclesiastical and secular control. For the same raison, also Sorority states: “We are women called by the Holy Spirit to make visible the presence of women in the Church and in the world“.

Soeur KATREI (XIVe siècle)

This is the story of Sister Katrei, (spiritual, ndt) daughter of Meister Eckhart in Strasbourg” (p.11). With this enigmatic incipit, it opens a text of the fourteenth century, written in medium-high German, included by Franz Pfeiffer in the volume dedicated to Master Eckhart. But who is sister Katrei ? Marco Vannini, editor of the Italian edition, assumes that most likely Katrei was a beguine, very inspired by the thought of Eckhart. Even such a humble girl, she eventually surpassed the Master for the radicality of her conclusions. Perhaps because he was more than her “worried about saving compatibility of his tought with the ecclesiastical institution” (p.11) Vannini argues.
Katrei is considered a beguine because she could operate her choices freely, move her residence and be independent of any authority. The name sister perhaps intervenes to indicate her belonging to the Free Spirit movement, with which Eckhart also had contacts. For this he was accused of heresy and called to a trial, but he died during the journey to go and justify himself to the pope.
At that time there were 85 houses of beguines in Strasbourg and 169 in Cologne. These places were well known and frequented by Master Eckhart, especially during his position as Vicar General of the Order from 1314 in Strasbourg, but also in Cologne where he tought in the Dominican Studium perhaps starting from 1324.
In her profound spiritual experience, collected in the above mentioned manuscript, Katrei arrives at the conclusion of being able to achieve a stable condition of grace (bewerung in German), of permanent union with God. Not the God (gotten) determined in the ways of the various religions, but the unnamed Deity (gotheit), bottomless bottom, which no one can not appropriate. This happens through “that complete disappearance … or that complete annihilation that necessarily involves the bonds and religious contents” (p.17).
From : Pseudo Master Eckhart, Diventare Dio. L’insegnamento di sorella Katrei, a cura  di Marco Vannini, Adelphi edizioni, Milano, 2006

Marie d’OIGNIES (1177-1213)

Marie was born in Nivelles (Belgium) in 1177 by wealthy parents, who became later disappointed for her indifference towards rich clothes and ornaments. Although she well knows the Cistercian world, she does not want to become a monastic nun. At 14, her parents forced her to marry Jean, also from a wealthy family of Nivelles. Immediately after marriage, finally out of parental control, she initiates intense ascetic practices of fasting, prayer and charity. After a few months from the marriage, Jean lives a conversion that brings him closer to God. Together they decide for an “apostolic life” that also involved a conjugal relationship as brother and sister, without sexual relations. Then, they leave their home in Nivelles and join an informal community of apostolic life not far away, in Willambroux, near a leper colony. They will remain there for 12 (or maybe 15) years. Jean’s brother, Guido, is chaplain of the local church and spiritual director of this community.
Together with the other members of the community, Marie and Jean nurture and care for lepers, but also for others ill or poor, instruct children, offer religious education and pray together.
Mary becomes a “living saint”;  many people talk about her and want to see her. She has a reputation for effective prayers, she can read in people’s souls, recognizing also the state of salvation or sin and invites people to repent. Too disturbed by these crowds coming from the city and surroundings, in 1207 she moved to Oignies near the priory of St Nicolas, living as a recluse in a cell next to the choir of the church.  It was a life of fasts and prayers, but also offering spiritual advices. In 1208, she meets Jacques de Vitry, a canon coming from Paris to meet her and eventually become her disciple. Marie urges him to return to Paris, where he is ordained in 1210, and then to come back to Oignies to serve the lepers and the needy. Mary becomes his “magistra”, inaugurating a deep spiritual friendship, in which they were mutual guides to each other. Marie is also remembered for her preaching, a practice adopted by the beguines, at least before the prohibition of Gregory IX in 1228, and for her gift of prophecy. She is known for her incredible fasts, the last of which lasts for 53 days. At her death at the age of 36 she weighed 33kg. However, contrary to what is sometimes read, she did not receive the stigmata. She is so honored that she is considered the “first beguine”, given that around her the first historically established beguinal community was formed. She died on 23 June 1213, the day when she is commemorated as a Blessed in the Roman Martyrology. Each year, on the first Sunday after June 23, a procession with the urn of her relics leaves from the church of Notre Dame de Oignies
After her death there was much talk about her: it seems that even Francis of Assisi was one of his admirers and that pope Gregory IX (1227-1241), “stopped cursing only by wearing the finger of Maria d’Oignies around his neck“, as curiously reported by Chiara Frugoni (Vita di un uomo: Francesco d’Assisi (Life of a man: Francis of Assisi), Einaudi, p.44).

Rita da Cascia (1381-1457)

The first image of the Saint Rita (1457)

Wife, mother, then widow and finally Augustinian nun: these are the successive stages that have been used to describe the life of Saint Rita da Cascia. However, the careful study of the scholar Lucetta Scaraffia advances a new hypothesis on the fact that the Monastery of Saint Mary Magdalen, where Rita found hospitality, was firstly rather a beguinal house. She writes “Even the monastery of Saint Mary Magdalen, probably, was a house of “bizzoche” [Italian word for beguines in that region] then passed under the control of the Augustinians. The very name that refers to a life of penance rather than withdrawal from the world, and the presence of a female confraternity of the Santissima Annunziata in the church of the same name, formerly linked to the monastery, seem to confirm this hypothesis”. Also, the historian Lucetta states that “Although the visitors to the Monastery in 1465 refer of a Augustinian rule, we know that, in many cases, such a reference constituted a mere regularity clause, necessary for the bishop’s approval, but did not correspond to a real dependence on this institution. Similar cases have been found in the Spoleto valley, where, out of thirteen female foundations built at the end of the 13th century, only seven were institutionalized by the bishops, six of which declared themselves to have assumed the Augustinian rule, but even after the Council of Trento the apostolic visitors denounced the beguinal state of the women who were part of them“. (From Lucetta Scaraffia, La santa degli impossibili, Vita e pensiero, Milano, 2014, p.108-109).

Romana GUARNIERI (1913-2004)
by Luisa MURARO

Romana Guarnieri

Romana was a passionate and very generous scholar, as all those who approached her recognize. Speaking with her I realized almost immediately that she was the depositary of the richness of the mystical feminine theology which I had just glimpsed. That is the richness of an admirable season of European civilization, between the Low Middle Ages and the dawn of modernity. Romana had accumulated them over the years, assimilated with intimate participation and now placed them at my disposal.
Ours have been a long relation, marked by regular stays in her house, by long conversations and by some extra moenia excursions. Everything was beautiful, nothing was easy, just as it should have be.
At first Romana told me of her friendship with Don Giuseppe De Luca, of her conversion to the Catholic Church and of their intense collaboration in the publishing house that they had founded together, until his death, arrived too early. I learned to know her. She did not appraise from conventional courtesy or from other exteriorities, but from the interiority. She did so, however, remaining connected to her counter part, as proof of a strength and a calm that nourished each other. Romana had a special gift, she loved souls. Out of the subjects of study, if she was not solicited, she did not speak about religion but always had a wide window open to the sky. At the centre of her conversion and her faith, Romana put the friendship and love of Jesus, just as she called it. When questioned by me, she said that they were superior to the friendship and love that bound her to Don Giuseppe De Luca, the man who made her meet with her Jesus. Without any doubt she had proved her superior fidelity to this supernatural love, in the friendship itself that bound her to the man without ever becoming an attachment nor, much less, an addiction. Yes, she was a free woman and so she was thanks to God. She was a Beguine.
To read the full Italian text sent to us by Luisa Muraro click the following link: Romana Guarnieri testo completo.

On the web

Information sources available on the web, classified by the following 4 categories: 

Articles and books
Blog & Facebook & Twitter
Information web sites
Videos on Youtube

You also might contribute to improve this list, by sending other more bibliography references to:

Articles and books (in descending chronological order)

Apolline Vranken,  Des béguinages à l’architecture féministe. Comment interroger et subvertir les rapports de genre matérialisés dans l’habitat ?
thesis of Master 2 in architecture, Prix de l’Université des Femmes, 2018

AAVV, Beguinal movement yesterday and today , speeches in various languages presented at the international congress of 23/08/2017, celebrating the 750th anniversary of  Breda beguinage

Milena GARAVAGLIA, Cohousing al femminile, Abitare nei beghinaggi moderni, e-book, Amazon, 2017

Silvana PANCIERA, The Beguines, Kindle Edition, Amazon,2013

Mario Sensi, Storie di Bizzoche tra Umbria e Marche, 1995

E.T, KNUTH, The Beguines, 1992, in

Blog & Facebook & Twitter




Sisters of Valley

Information web sites

 UNESCO website of the 13 Flemish béguinages in the  World Heritage List

Le jardin du béguinage

Le petit béguinage de La Lauzelle
Interview sur le Petit béguinage réalisée avec l’aide d’Evelyne Simoens

Begijnhof van Turnhout (notified by M. Hugo Vanden Bossche)


Agence Vivre en béguinage
La Maison des babayagas


BEGINE – Treffpunkt und Kultur für Frauen e. V. –
Beginenhof in Berlin
Beginenhot Tännich


Begijnhof van Breda :


Metter in ordine la differenza: l’esperienza della Sororità di Mantova,

Other in the world in German language, really not up to date, that collects experiences of women living together in various places in the world

Sisters of Valley
Giovanni Drogo, Sister of the Valley

Videos on Youtube

Les Béguines

Paper texts

Articles  and books in alphabetic order by author. If a link is related to the title, thus a short synthesis or the entire text are available.

You also might contribute to improve this list, by sending other more bibliography references to:

sr Felicitas, Beguinage of Bruges
A  B  C  D   E   F   G  H I+J+K  L M   N   O   P  Q+R   S   T   U  V+W+Y Z

AAVV, Béguines et béguinages, Archives générales du Royaume, dossier éducatif, 1ère série n.12, Bruxelles, 1994

AAVV, sous la direction d’A.Vauchez, Histoire du chistianisme, Tome 5, Desclée de Brouwer,Paris, 1993

AAVV, Trésors des béguinages, Snoeck-Ducaju et fils, Gand, 1961

AAVV, Un monde de femmes indépendantes. Du XIIe siècle à nos jours. Les béguinages flamands, Guide Luciole pour voyageurs intelligents, Riverside

BARA ocso Wendelein, Hadewijch di Anversa: una vita dedicata all’amore , in La Scala, n° 70; 3 / Luglio – settembre 2016; pagine 157-166.

BARTOLOMEI-ROMAGNOLI Alessandra, DEGL’INNOCENTI Antonella, SANTI Francesco, Scrittrici mistiche europee, Edizioni del Galluzzo, Firenze, 2015

BAUMER-DESPEIGNE Odette, Le mouvement béguinal au XIIIe siècle en Belgique, Frauenfeld – Suisse, 1987, texte polycopié

BEATRICE de Nazareth, 7 degrés d’amour, Ed.Claude Martingay, Génève, 1972.

BEATRICE de Nazareth, I sette modi di amare Dio. Via di Beatrice, edizioni Paoline,2016

BLASUCCI A., CALATI B., GREGOIRE R., La spiritualità del medievo, volume 4 della Storia della spiritualità, Borla

BOUCKAERT Claude, De laatste der begijnen, Uitgeverij Groeninghe, Kortrijk, 2000


COMMODI Bernardo, Beata Angelina da Monegiove, Editrice Velar, Gorle, 2014

CRÉ Marleen,  The Mirror of Simple Souls, in Middle English Revisited: M.N. and the compiler of London, Westminster Cathedral Treasury, MS 4

DE DACIE Pierre, La vie de Christine de Stommeln, suivie de Lettres de Pierre et de Christine, William Blake and Co., 2005

DE JAEGHER Paul, s.j., Anthologie mystique, Desclée De Brouwer, Paris, 1933

DELHEZ Charles (sous la direction de), Collection “Sur la route des saints”  Julienne  De  Cornillon, Ed Fidélité, Namur,1996

DELLA CROCE Giovanna, I mistici del nord, Ed.Studium, Roma, 1981

DELMELLE Joseph, Abbayes et béguinages, Rossel édition, BXL, l973

De VITRY Jacques, Vie de Marie d’Oignies, avec supplément de Thomas Cantimpré, traduction et préface par André Wankenne, Société des études classiques, Namur, 1989

d’HAENENS Albert (avec une équipe du Centre de recherche sur la communication en histoire de l’UCL), Béguinages de Belgique, Ed.Belgique points ARTIS.

DUFRASNE Dieudonné, Donne moderne del Medioevo, Jacabook, 2009; Libres et folles d’amour, éd. Thomas Mols, Bierges, 2007

FESTA Gianni e RAININI Marco (a cura di), L’ordine dei Predicatori. I Domenicani : storia, figure e istituzioni (1216-2016), Editori Laterza, 2016

FICHE et MARTIN, L’histoire de l’Église, Tome 9, Blond & Gay, 1946

FILANNINO Anna Clotilde,  La Contessa con gli zoccoli. Angelina da Montegiove nobile, penitente e francescana, Edizioni Porziuncola, Assisi, 2006 (prefazione di Mario Sensi)

FOZZER Giovanna, Nello specchio di Margherita, Firenze, 2001

GIULIANA  Di  Norwich, Libro delle rivelazioni, Ancora, Milano, 2003

GRUNDMANN, H. Movimenti religiosi nel Medioevo, Il Mulino, Bologna 1980.

GUARNIERI Romana, Amiche mie, beghine, in Ruah, Il femminile di Dio, Piccola biblioteca Millelire, n.14, Stampa alternativa

GUARNIERI Romana, Pinzochere, Dizionario degli Istituti di Perfezione 6 (1980), 1721-49

GUARNIERI Romana, Donne e chiesa tra mistica e istituzioni (secoli XIII-XV), Edizioni di storia e letteratura, Roma, 2004 (pp.417)

GUIDUCCI Armanda, Medioevo inquieto, Sansoni Editori, Firenze, 1990

HADEWIJCH d’Anvers, Ecrits mystiques des Béguines, Ed.Seuil,Paris, l954

HADEWIJCH d’Anvers, Lettres spirituelles, Ed Claude Martingay, Genève,1972

HADEWIJCH d’Anvers, Visions, Collection Les deux rives, O.E.I.L.,  Paris, 1987 ; HADEWIJCH d’Anvers, Les Visions, traduction, présentation et notes de Georgette Epiney-Burgard, éditions Ad.Solem, Genève, 2000

HADEWIJCH d’Anversa, Lettere. Dio amore e amante. Traduzione dal mediolandese di Rocco Berardi, Cinisello Balsamo (Milano), Edizioni Paoline, 1986.

HADEWIJCH d’ANVERSA, Poesie, visioni, lettere, scelte e tradotte da Romana Guarnieri, Marietti Editore, 2000

HOORNAERT  R.(Chanoine), La plus ancienne règle du béguinage de Bruges, Ed.De Plancke, Bruges, l930

HOORNAERT  R.(Chanoine), Le béguinage princier de Bruges, le passé, le présent, Ed. de la vigne, Bruges, 1938

KEULEN Jacqueline, Hadewijch d’Anvers ou la voie glorieuse, Albin Michel, 2011

KINER Aline, La nuit des béguines , éditions Liana Levi, 2017 ; La notte delle beghine, Neri Pozza, 2018

LAFITTE Serge, Les béguines. Insoumises de l’amour divin, dans Le monde des religions, mai-juin, 200

LEMMENS Joseph, Une révolution du monachisme en Belgique, XIIIe-XVIIe siècles, Le cri histoire, Bruxelles, 2009, (chpitre IV : les Béguines et les Beguins)

LES BÉGUINES, Dossier, dans Lumière & Vie, janvier-mars 2013

LESGRETAIN Claire, L’étonnante modernité des béguinages, La Croix, 12 –12-2002

LIEB Brita Begine, Beginen und die werke der Barmherzigkeit, Parzellers Buchverlag, Fulda, 2016

MAISONNEUVE Roland, L’univers visionnaire de Julian of Norwich, O.E.I.L., Paris, 1987

MASSIGNON Louis, Ecrits mémorables, Tome I, Laffont, Paris, 2009

McDONNEL Ernest W., The Beguines and Beghards in Medieval Culture: With Special Emphasis on the Belgian Scene, New Brunswick, N.J.: Rutgers University Press, 1954

McGINN Bernard, Margherita Porete, erotica e dama d’amore, Marietti 1820, Genova, 2017

MAES Pierre, Les béguinages, dans Trésors des béguinages, Catalogue de l’exposition au Musée des Beaux  Arts à Gand,  avril – juin 1961, édité par Snoeck-Ducaju, Gand, l96l.

MAETERLINCK Maurice, L’ornement des noces spirituelles de Ruysbroeck l’admirable, Les éperonniers, Bruxelles, 1990.

MAJERUS Pascal, Fondateur ou formateur ? Maître Guidon et l’établissement des proto-béguines à Nivelles, dans Revue d’histoire religieuse du Brabant-Wallon, Tome 12, 1998

MAJERUS Pascal, A l’ombre des enclos béguinaux, Revue d’histoire religieuse du Braban wallon, 13, 1999, 2, p.144-151.

MAJERUS Pascal, Les béguinages de Belgique : au-delà du mythe, Bulletin de Dexia banque, 2000/3 , p.33-53.

MAJERUS Pascal, Ces femmes qu’on dit béguines. Guides des béguinages de Belgique, Bibliographie et sources d’archives, Archives Générales du Royaume, 1997, Tomes 1 et 2

MARGUERITE PORETE, Le Mirouer des simples ames, edité par R. Guarnieri

MARGARETAE PORETE, Speculum animarum simplicium, cura et studio P. Verdeyen , (CCCM 69), Turnholti, Brepols, 1986.

MATON Gérard, Eléments pour une histoire de la congrégation Notre Dame du Fief, Texte polycopié.

Mc DONNEL E.W., The beguines and beghards in medieval culture, New Brunswick-New Jersey, 1954

MECHTILDE di Magdebourg, La luce fluente della divinità, Ed Giunti, Firenze, 1991

MENESTÒ Enrico (ed.), Le terziarie francescane della beata Angelina: origine e spiritualità. Atti del convegno (Foligno, 13-15 luglio 1995), Centro Ital. di Studi sull’Alto Medioevo, Spoleto 1996, pp. VIII-360, tavv. f.t. 47 (Biblioteca del Centro per il collegamento degli studi medievali e umanistici in Umbria 17).

MENS A. (a cura di) Beghine, Begardi, Beghinaggi, Dizionario degli Istituti di Perfezione I, 1165-1180

MOMMAERS Paul, Hadewijch d’Anvers, adapté du néerlandais par Camille Jordens, CERF, Paris, 1994

MURARO Luisa, Il dio delle donne, Mondadori, 2003

MURARO Luisa, Guglielma e Manfreda, La tartaruga edizioni, Milano, 2003

MURARO Luisa, Le amiche di Dio. Margherita e le altre, Orthotes, Salerno-Napoli, 2014

MOROTTI Giuseppe, La riscoperta delle Beghine: dovere di gustizia e stimolo per il nostro tempo, in Appunti di viaggio, n.128, settembre-ottobre 2013

PÈDE René, Béguine set béguinages à Nivelles sous l’ancien régime, dans Revue d’histoire religieuse du Brabant-Wallon, Tome 12, 1998

PANCIERA Silvana, Les beguines, Ed. Fidélité, Namur, 2009 e 2011 ; Le Beghine. Una storia di donne per la libertà, Gabrielli Editori, San Pietro in Cariano, 2011 ; Die Beguine, Octopus, Munster, 2014

PANCIERA Silvana, Marguerite Porete, un’eretica da santificare, in Appunti di viaggio, n.129, novembre-dicembre 2013

PANCIERA Silvana, Vedere con cuore: Mechthild di Magdeburg, in Appunti di viaggio, n.130, gennaio-febbraio 2014

PANCIERA Silvana,Hadewijch o la lirica cortese nelle mistica, in Appunti di viaggio, n. 132, maggio-agosto 2014

PERNOUD Régine, La femme aux temps des cathédrales, Stock, 1980.

PERNOUD Régine, Les saints au Moyen Âge, Plon, 1984

PORETE Marguerite, Lo specchio delle anime semplici, traduzione di Giovanna Fozzer e contributi di Romana Guarneri e Marco Vannini, Ed. San Paolo, 1994

PORETE Marguerite , Nobile amore,  Piemme, casale Monferrato, 1996

PSEUDO-HADEWIJCH, Poesie miste, tradotte da Alessia Vallarsa con la coll. Di Joros Reynaert, Marietti Editore, Genova-Milano, 2007

REATI Fiorenzo,ofm, L’amicizia profumo della vita, Arca, Trento, 2004

RICHIR Luc, Marguerite Porete. Une âme au travail de l’Un , Ed.OUSIA, Bruxelles, 2002

ROQUET Claude-Henri, Petite vie de Ruysbroeck, Desclée de Brouwer, Paris, 2003

RUYSBROEC, Le livre des XII Béguines, œuvres de Ruysbroeck l’admirable, Tome VI, Vroment & C°, Bruxelles, 1938

SALVADORI Patrizia, Travolta da divina passione, dans Medioevo, ottobre 2004

SALVANESCHI  Nino, L’anima del Belgio, Milano, 1927

SALVARANI Renata,  Anime in amore di Dio, in Medioevo, ottobre 2009.

SBROGIÓ Adriana e CAZZANIGA Marco (a cura di), Le nuove beghine, Identità e differenza, Spinea, 2014

SCARAFFIA Lucetta, Spose di Dio, in Ruha, il femminile di Dio, Piccola biblioteca mille lire, n.14, Stampa alternativa

SEBASTIANI Lucia, Da bizzocche a monache in Il monachesimo femminile in Italia dall’alto medioevo al secolo XVII a confronto con l’oggi, a cura di Gabrielle Zarri, Gabrielli Editori, 1977

SENSI Mario, Storie di bizzoche tra Umbia e Marche, prefazione di Romana Guarneri, Edizioni di storia e letteratura, Roma, 1995 ;  Mulieres in Ecclesia . Storie di monache e bizzzoche, 2 tomi, Centro italiano di studi sull’alto medioevo, Spoleto, 2010

SIMON Pierre Arnold, Spiritualités et prophétisme dans les traditions judéo-chrétiennes, conférence organisée par Anjali, Bruxelles, 1989

SIMONS Walter, Cities of Ladies. Beguine communities in the Medieval Low Countries. 1200-1565, University of Pennsylvania Press, 2001

SOLETI Maria Alessandra, Margherita porete: un processo ancora aperto. Una voce mistica nell’europa tardomedievale, Ed. Il Poligrafo, 2011

SOULAINE Aude, Marguerite Porete, dans Sept semaines avec les maîtres spirituels, Le supplément de La Vie du 4 mars 2004 (propos de Luc Richir)

SWAN Laura, The Wisdom of the Beguines, Bluebridge Press, 2015

TALEB Mohammed, La révolution des béguines, dans Le monde des religions, mars-avril, 2011.

TOMSIN Nathalie, Béguines et béguinages liégeois, Ed.Lecture et liberté, Liège, l984

TRIEST Monika, Grote Madammen. Het Sint-Elisabeth begijnhof van Gent en Sint-Amandsberg. Uitgeverij Averbode, 2011

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Beguinal movement today

Marcella Pattjin
Beguinage of Kortrijk

With the death of the last Beguine in the world, Marcella Pattijn, on April 14, 2013, in the Sint-Jozef home in Kortrijk (Belgium), the historical epic of the Beguinal movement comes to an end. The movement sprang up in religious fervor which marked the end of the twelfth century and especially the thirteenth and helped to promote that the eminent medievalist historian Raoul Manselli calls “the second evangelization of Europe“.

Still little known or badly known despite its incisive historical heritage, the movement of the beguines seems to regain breath today through some modern experiences of community life that are inspired by it. Sometimes they refer to it by their denomination as for example the Garden of Beguinage in Etterbeek or the Beginenhof in Berlin. At other times, they integrate into the new experiments one or more dimensions which have characterized the very life of historical Beguines.

We will therefore list by geographical zone the emerging initiatives that are inspired by the Beguinal movement in their daily life:

In Austria
In Belgium
In Germany
In France
In Italy
Others in the word
informations up to dated at July 2017

The Beguinal movement yesterday

Beguine statue
Beguinage of Antwerpen

Toward the end of the twelfth century an utterly new phenomenon occurs: different women intend to exist as such, without being either wives or nuns. They are neighbours or living in the same house or in terraced houses in the same street. Some live as hermits near a church, or with sick people, some live alone or in groups, near a male convent. Others, mainly poor women, choose a wandering apostolic life, praying and begging for “a piece of bread for God’s sake”.


This is how the movement of the Beguines comes to life. In spite of a variety of forms, the movement has the same aim everywhere: living a secluded life in an urban environment, heading for perfection through prayers, sanctified work, help of the poor, community life and mystical research, also with forms of asceticism.

The Beguines’ experience is a creative mixture of both secular and religious ingredients. Among the secular ones: individuality, institutional independence, remunerated work. Among the religious ones: a dedicated life with revocable vows, intense praying, help to the poor, mystical research.

The first group of Beguines historically documented develops around Marie d’Oignies (b. 1177- d. 1213). After nursing with her husband a group of lepers for twelve years, in 1207 Marie retires to live a Beguinal life at Oignies, in Hainaut, a province of today Belgium.  A second group forms with the help of Lambert le Bègue. Just before his death in Liège in 1187, the prelate had a group of small houses built around the church of San Christophe, in order to accommodate women intending to live in seclusion. We also know of the existence in Nivelles in 1208 of a group of women devoted to praying and charity.

The considerable increase of their number, the vicissitudes due to an errant life and the clerical pressure for a protected setting of these women lead to the creation of beguinages: groups of small individual houses enclosed by walls, which later acquired the status of a parish. The movement gains its widest expansion in the thirteenth century and develops mainly in the beguinages from the second half of the same century.

Such diversity, and the absence of a centralized administration make it difficult to quantify the number of Beguines. From a letter of Pope John XXII to the bishop of Strasburg, we know that in 1321 only in West Germany live about 200,000 Beguines. In 1372 as many as 1,300 Beguines live in Brussels, that is more than 4% of its 30,000 inhabitants. One estimates that at the moment of its greatest expansion the movement counted about one million Beguines throughout Europe. But there is no documentation for it.

The Beguinal movement does not have a precise origin nor a founder

Saint Begge with Beghards and Beguines , Mechelen

In the seventeenth century there has been an attempt to indentify her in St. Begga, but this attempt lived shortly, as Begga, sister of the abbess Gertrude de Nivelles died much earlier, precisely in 693. Without a founder, without a precise origin, the Beguinal movement also has no unified rule, as each beguinage has its own one. Last but not least, the Beguinal movement has no formal historiography, which partly explains its limited historical visibility.

These women are called by different names according to the country where they live. In one of his sermons, written between 1229 and 1240, Jacques de Vitry enumerates them so:

In Latin           MULIER   RELIGIOSA
In French        PAPELARDE
In Lombard    HUMILIATA
In Tuscan        BIZZOCA
In German      COQUENNUNNE
In Flemish       BEGIJN

The origin of the Flemish name is uncertain: it may be a philological corruption of the word Albigenses; it may come from the colour beige of their dress; it may come from Old German “beggen, beggan”: to pray; or from Old French “begart”: to pour out prayers; or still, from Celtic, in French “bègue-béguelle”: simpleton, bigot.


The Beguinal movement includes also men, the Beghards.  Like the Beguines, the Beghards are not tied by irrevocable vows, nor have a unified rule and the members of a community obey only to their local superior. But unlike Beguines, Beghards do not have private property. The brothers in the same convent share their money, live under the same roof and eat at the same table. They are in general of modest origins, weavers, dyers and so on. For this reason they are closely linked to guilds. We even know that in Brussels – and probably elsewhere – no one could ever be admitted to a Beghard convent unless he was a member of the weavers’ guild. Beghards are often men who have suffered hardship, men who had survived friends or have been deprived of familiar ties due to unlucky events, men who could not live on their own because of delicate health, old age, accidents.

The Beguinal movement emerges in the same period of religious fervour when the Franciscan and Dominican orders are born, as well as a number of movements qualified as heretics  [Apostolians, Albigenses, Cathars, Free Spirits, Poor Volunteers] violently repressed by the Church. Also the Beguinal movement is considered suspicious and in the odour of heresy. Thanks to the active intervention of some prelates, in the thirteenth century two Papal bulls  [by Gregory IX in 1233 and by Urban IV in 1269]  are issued in protection of the Beguines in a few  dioceses of what today is Belgium. But the German, French, Italian, and other Beguines found it hard to resist, as the repression was still active elsewhere.

The Inquisition, created in 1231, condemns to the stake also a number of Beguines, among them Lutgarde of Trier in 1231, Aleydis of Cambrai in 1236, and Marguerite Porete in 1310. The Vienne Synod (1311 – 1312) condemns the Beguinal movement as heretic, but the sentences was mitigated by two papal bulls: the first, by John XXII in 1319 in favour of the Beguines of Brabant, the second by Clemente VI in 1343, in favour of the Dutch Beguines.


Persecuted, subject to inquisitional procedures, often deprived of their properties, even forced to close their institutions, only the Beguines of the Low Countries manage to hold on without too many aggressions, even in a general atmosphere of suspicion and strict compliance with the authority. In these are hard times, new buildings such as the beguinage of Hoogstraten built in 1380, are extremely rare. The repression lasted until all the Beguines were transferred in closed and strictly controlled communities. The most obstinate Beghards were locally condemned several times and came to an end with the end of the Middle Ages.

The crisis of the Calvinist Reform in the northern Low Countries causes the disappearance of all beguinages, except those in Amsterdam and Breda. In the southern Low Countries, the movement has a revival, but on it the wind of the Counter-Reformation blows, which calls for a stricter supervision by spiritual directors and a stricter seclusion.

The Austrian government, which after the treaty of Utrecht  [1713]  obtains the government of these territories, does not encourage the movement. On the contrary, it introduces a set of obstacles such as permissions and taxes, which forces the Beguines to sell their beguinages at low prices.

Lastly, the French occupation in 1795 confiscates their properties and acknowledges their existence only as charitable services. In 1824 the Beguines obtain the right to wear again their dresses, but not to own their properties, and for a while they are also forbidden to enter new professions.

Marcella Patteijn

In spite of this, in 1896 in Belgium still live 1,230 Beguines. In 1960, 600 Beguines are living in eleven beguinages but at the end of the twentieth century their number can be counted on the fingers of two hands. The latest beguine in the word, Marcella Pattijn (1920- 2013), died Sunday 14 April  2013 in Kortrijck in the home Sint-Jozef where she have lived after have been living in the Kortrijck Beguinage from 1960 to 2005.