It is especially in Germany that the beginal renewal seems to live a real spring. In many cities archival documents have been brought to light, referring to ancient settlements, and in 30 localities there are modern concrete initiatives. Sometimes a new beguinage are built, sometimes there are groups of women who feel united without sharing daily life. Spirituality, when mentioned, is now ecumenical Christianity. The feminist thought is often affirmed.
It all seems to have begun in 1985 when Gertrud Hoffmann, a widow of Catholic tradition, because she couldn’t find traces of beguines in archives and libraries, stimulated the rediscovery of this submerged story. She herself founded a beguinage in Essen where she welcomed homeless persons.
Since then, a Foundation was created in 2003 http://www.beginenstiftung.de and a Federation in 2004 www.dachverband-der-beginen.de, of which Brita Lieb is the current Coordinator and Sigrun Dieberg the President. The objectives of the Dachverband-der-begin are the foundation of communities of beguines and the networking of beguinal initiatives and projects. Currently more then 600 women are actively involved in different modalities.
Below the list of the modern beguinages affiliated at the Dachverband-der-beginen, in 2015 and 2022.
Since 2015, the Dachverband-der-begin has been registered as a non-profit association with the Bielefeld District Court. Its purpose is to revive the culture of the Beguines and to transmit the knowledge of the historical and modern Beguines. This is done through conferences, seminars and outreach in the media, conferences and meetings. It has also promoted a research on historical beguinages which brought to light the historical existence of about 600 beguinages in Germany.
Every year the Federation organizes the Beginenenreise, a study journey of the Beguinal movement. Here are the programs of the years 2018 (Beguines in Switzerland), 2019 (Beginenreise 2019) and a short Beginenreise 2019 report by Sigrun Dieberg, and 2021 ( Beginenreise 2021 ). The spirituel busreise 2022 was focused on “Germany : a land of Godness ?” The first international conference took place in 2020. In 2022 followed: The Wisdom of Beguines: Active Ageing.
Other initiatives inspired by the beguines
Always in Germany, we remember the feminist association BEGINE – Treffpunkt und Kultur für Frauen e. V., that for more than 25 years has been operating in Berlin a cultural commitment and emancipation of women. Although not showing a spiritual inspiration, this cultural center wanted to root into the memory of the beginual movement.
The same inspiration is found in the important project of Beginenhof in Berlin, that presents a feminist matrix without explicit spiritual references.
The Beginenhof is an edifice designed for independent women. The creator of the project is the sociologist Jutta Kamper, who inaugurated it at the end of 2007. It is a unique co-housing: it brings together 53 single women between 40 and 73 years old, from all over Germany, who they decided to settle in Berlin. The project was born in 2000 but became a reality only in 2007, after the construction of the building was completed. Jutta and 3 other women have been looking for investors for years to implement the project, and finally in 2005 Kondor Wessels authorized the construction of the building, recognizing the Beginenhof as a successful contemporary housing model; the land was instead made available by the City administration.
Within a few months the apartments were sold and 53 women became owners of those bright and modern apartments. In fact, the facade of the building has no walls, but colored windows that reflect color games on sunny days. The architectural project was carried out by Barbara Brakenhoff and included the involvement of the buyers in the conception of their apartment. In the Beginenhof in Berlin, now part of the Frauenwohnprojekte network (female housing projects), the only rule is that ownership is female; men are allowed as guests or roommates. Although these women differ in age and marital status, they have a high level of education in common. Their good neighbourly relations are based on solidarity, respect and cultural exchange. They benefit from common multifunctional spaces which, depending on the needs, become a gym or meeting room, a laundry room, a garden and a terrace.
The Beginenhot Tännich in Thuringia, directed by women with experience in feminism and economics, wants to promote women’s entrepreneurship and their public presence. In this farm are living women of all ages, with or without children. It was founded by the daughter of Liselotte Polh-Henn (1908-2000) to honor her mother’s political commitement for women. Each year, on November 3th, the date of Liselotte’s funerals and the execution of Olympe de Gouges in 1793, this initiative is celebrated and the confirmation to the project is annually renewed.
This project unfortunately seems to have been interrupted in 2005.
Modern beguinages in Germany, affiliated at the Dachverband-der-beginen, in January 2015 (Source: http://www.dachverband-der-beginen.de/beginenvereine.php)
* Ostfriesland / Emsland
* Schwerte I e II
* Tübingen I e II
Modern beguinages in Germany, affiliated at the Dachverband-der-beginen, in July 2022 (source: https://www.dachverband-der-beginen.de/beginenprojekte)
* Bielefeld Beginenhöfe
* Bramsche- Beginen in Malgarten
* Beginengruppe Bremen
* Beginenhaus Delbrück
* Essen Priembergweg
* Schwerte, Kiebitzweg
* Schwerte, Schützentrasse
* Tubingen – Hagelloch
* Tübingen – Mauerstrasse
* Unna – Köninhsborn
Milena Garavaglia, Cohousing al femminile, Abitare nei beghinaggi moderni, e-book, Amazon, 2017
Béguines modernes en Allemagne, interviewes of I.Rudder and Béatrice Bea, by Bernard Litzier, Radio Suisse Romande “Les beguines, priantes et indépendantes- gennaio 2012
http://guide.supereva.it/storie_di_donne/interventi/2008/04/326656.shtml (for the Beginenhof in Berlin)
Cited website and https://begine.wordpress.com/