The present beguinal “revival” in France includes a sector with a strong Christian inspiration and another secular one with a more limited reference to the beguinal history.
In the Pyrenees-Orientales, in Perpignan, in a renovated cloister, about fifteen people live in 14 apartments with the aim of “fostering brotherhood among Christians“. These people have signed a Charta committing themselves “to availability for service … and to the facility of forgiveness given and received” and also to daily prayer in the morning, a weekly community meal, participation to the Mass in the nearby parish on Sunday and a monthly meeting of spirituality. The rest of the time is left to individual autonomy. They were helped by a real estate and also building company, Vivre en béguinage (Living in a Beguinage), which made this renovation as the first of a number of future beguinages for spiritually oriented elderly persons. This association, in 2019, undertakes in the city of Tours (after Lourdes, Quimper and Mulhouse) its fifth project, “even if the concept has undergone several changes since the first, born in Perpignan five years ago“, Line Kortobi tells us in her article in Libération, 19 July 2019 .
Other Christian realities are not only for dynamic seniors. For exemple, in Burgundy, in Saint-Martin-du-Lac in the Béguinage de la Croix-aux-Bœufs religious and laity live together and in Lille the project Synodie (marching together) has born from the initiative of two families.
La Croix aux boeufs, located in St Martin du Lac (Burgundy-Franche Comté)
is a beguinage based on a strong Christian spiritual inspiration with initially an apostolic and monastic community. It is made of about fifteen people, lay and consecrated. Oblates and couples are also part of it, without living under the same roof. Because the initial community has lived in Belgium for 5 years, they well knew the beguines and wanted to be inspired by them. With the 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 the Beguinage must be the spiritual pursuit, but the three vows – poverty, chastity, obedience – are not required to be admitted. Many other information can be found on their website and in the French text Le béguinage St Martin du Lac.
The journalist Line Kortobi informs us that a beguinage project is also being carried out in Paris, at Vaugirard Street, in the 15th arrondissement, where a “piece of convent” is “unearthed” by the Dominican sisters. The desire shared by the members of the Beguinage Association of Paris (Association du béguinage de Paris) is to found a “lay community for lay people, in accordance with the Christian faith of each in order to age well in the capital“.
There are, moreover, especially in the North, various other realities of shared habitats, mainly intended for the elderly, such as Le Foyer du Béguinage in Gravelines and even companies like Béguinage & Compagnie which take charge of the entire realization of a beguinage for this type of public. It is a modality that is growing and seems to be the missing link between the time of retirement and the nursing homes, more expensive and necessary only when personal autonomy is lacking. These initiatives, while not presenting spiritual connotations, nevertheless sought to retain the name and the typical architectural model of the beguinages and a functioning based on solidarity, sometimes refered to gender . The first of these initiatives was set up in Lambres-lez-Douai in 1997 by the social housing company Floralys, which in 2012 had no less than 17 “béguinages” and nearly thirty in 2020.
An interesting experiment with feminist connotation is La maison des babayagas (The house of witches) in Montreuil, which since 2012 welcomes women over 60.
Here another article about this experience, Des béguines aux Babayagas, quelles alternatives de logement pour les femmes ? (From beguines to Babayagas, which housing alternatives for women?), written by Manon Legrand – photos by Romain Champalaune.
Les beguines, dossier, Lumière & Vie, janvier-mars, 2013
La retraite, un espace pour Dieu – La Croix, 21 et 22 mai 2011
Les béguinages reviennent à la mode – La Croix on line – 8/6/12
Le béguinage, nouvelle alternative à la maison de retraite -Le Parisien – 25 Avril 2012
Une société HLM réinvente le béguinage pour retraités, Le Monde, 19-20 août 2012Les béguinages tracent une novuelle voie – La Vie – 6 Novembre 2014
https://www.vivaparigi.com/la-maison-des-babayagas-la-casa-di-riposo-dedicata-alla-causa-femminista) and other information in Internet
Line KORTOBI for Libération newspaper: