Tongeren

Tongeren Beguinage visited and reported by Graham Green (July 2021)
Along the river Jeker

Last week I visited the beguinage in Tongeren. I went some years ago but was disappointed – our little group had already visited another beguinage in the morning and since it was raining in Tongeren we didn’t linger for long. What a delightful surprise this time.

The beguinage is in a quiet part of town but still within the old town walls. Indeed the area along the river Jeker has been renovated, making a delightful walk with a view of several of the main buildings: (left to right) the brewery,  the Cloth Makers’ Tower (Lakenmakerstoren), the infirmary and the St Ursula Chapel (Sint Ursulakapel).

But the best part was my visit of the Beghina museum. This interesting collection of objects and a film about several beguinages is housed in a beautiful building, dating back to 1660. The museum (on the left) stands next to another fine renaissance building.

Mr Vandersmissen had this house built for his two twin daughters and it is one of the oldest surviving buildings in the town. It survived the fire in 1677 and also the revolutionary French wave of destruction at the end of the 18th century – I read that the beguines were spared by bribing the French authorities but I haven’t yet found out what form the bribe took !

The museum building still has the enclosed garden (Jardin clos) with a high wall separating the house from the street, this being typical of the more wealthy properties in Flemish beguinages. This charming garden has a statue which one assumes is a beguine.

All the houses in Tongeren,including the museum, are privately owned as opposed to many other beguinages, where the CPAS / OCMW (city authority) has remained in charge since the French revolution.

Today the beguinage in Tongeren comprises 8 streets. In its heyday at the beginning of 18th century there were nearly 100 buildings housing over 300 beguines.

In 1995 the Franciscan monastery (Frèes Mineurs) was taken over by Poverello, a social institution founded in the 1970’s by a Flemish doctor. Today they serve 60 meals a day to the needy. I read that the town, who owns the St Catherine’s church (currently closed), has sold it to Poverello for 1 Euro. The town will finance most of the restoration and Poverello will look after it as a place for prayer and cultural activities.

Most other buildings are in good condition. For example the St Ursula chapel (on the left) has been renovated for receptions, exhibitions and other special events. Next door is the former infirmary, today a restaurant simply called “de Infirmerie”.

The infirmerie

The former slaughterhouse (abattoir) has been converted into a youth hostel. The former Agnetenklooster, just outside the beguinage, was a monastery founded in 15th century, rebuilt in 16th, now converted into a bed and breakfast hostel.

Lilly Pond

The Flemish often mix the old and the new with taste. The Lilly Pond is a large stone plaque with lillies just outside the old church. The dark stone reflects the church and trees – the lilies are in bronze so they are in flower all year round.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tongeren Beguinage visited by Graham Green (July 2021)

 

 

Last week I visited the beguinage in Tongeren. I went some years ago but was disappointed – our little group had already visited another beguinage in the morning and since it was raining in Tongeren we didn’t linger for long. What a delightful surprise this time.

The beguinage is in a quiet part of town but still within the old town walls. Indeed the area along the river Jeker has been renovated, making a delightful walk with a view of several of the main buildings: (left to right) the brewery,  the Cloth Makers’ Tower (Lakenmakerstoren), the infirmary and the St Ursula Chapel (Sint Ursulakapel).

 

 

But the best part was my visit of the Beghina museum. This interesting collection of objects and a film about several beguinages is housed in a beautiful building, dating back to 1660. The museum (on the left) stands next to another fine renaissance building.

 

 

Mr Vandersmissen had this house built for his two twin daughters and it is one of the oldest surviving buildings in the town. It survived the fire in 1677 and also the revolutionary French wave of destruction at the end of the 18th century – I read that the beguines were spared by bribing the French authorities but I haven’t yet found out what form the bribe took !

The museum building still has the enclosed garden (Jardin clos) with a high wall separating the house from the street, this being typical of the more wealthy properties in Flemish beguinages. This charming garden has a statue which one assumes is a beguine.

 

 

All the houses in Tongeren,including the museum, are privately owned as opposed to many other beguinages, where the CPAS / OCMW (city authority) has remained in charge since the French revolution.

Today the beguinage in Tongeren comprises 8 streets. In its heyday at the beginning of 18th century there were nearly 100 buildings housing over 300 beguines.

 

In 1995 the Franciscan monastery (Frèes Mineurs) was taken over by Poverello, a social institution founded in the 1970’s by a Flemish doctor. Today they serve 60 meals a day to the needy. I read that the town, who owns the St Catherine’s church (currently closed), has sold it to Poverello for 1 Euro. The town will finance most of the restoration and Poverello will look after it as a place for prayer and cultural activities.

 

Most other buildings are in good condition. For example the St Ursula chapel (on the left) has been renovated for receptions, exhibitions and other special events. Next door is the former infirmary, today a restaurant simply called “de Infirmerie”.

 

 

The former slaughterhouse (abattoir) has been converted into a youth hostel. The former Agnetenklooster, just outside the beguinage, was a monastery founded in 15th century, rebuilt in 16th, now converted into a bed and breakfast hostel.

The Flemish often mix the old and the new with taste. The Lilly Pond is a large stone plaque with lillies just outside the old church. The dark stone reflects the church and trees – the lilies are in bronze so they are in flower all year round.