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  LIER : The Beguinage
 
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(For more information about 'Beguinages' please consult our page of the 'Beguinage of Bruges')
 

One of the prides of Lier is the "Beguinage" (Dutch : Begijnhof). It dates from the 13th century and ranks among the largest and most beautiful beguinages in Belgium.

Beguinages were founded in most medieval cities of the low countries at the time of the crusades. A lot of women had lost their husbands and wanted to live in protected communities. Most of these women, however, did not want to join a convent or a monastery, where they had to make vows. In the beguinages, the ladies could live like nuns or sisters, without having to make vows that would tie them for the rest of their lives. The system of beguinages continued to exist in the low countries until this century. Most beguinages consisted of a group a small houses, which, together, formed a little separate village inside a city.

Like most other beguinages in Belgium, the beguinage of Lier  is a quiet and peaceful place, extremely suited for a nice walk. The traffic free streets with their cobblestones take you back to old times. Most of the houses here date from the 17th century. Also the baroque entrance gate and the beguinage church date from that time.

The early beguinage of Lier received a lot of support from duchess Aleidis, wife of Henry III, duke of Brabant, which explains its fast growth into a major beguinage. It suffered several destructions from fire and plundering. The beguinage was closed down in the aftermath of the French Revolution, and only in 1814 the beguines were allowed to open it again. The entire beguinage occupies an area of two hectares and has a total of 162 houses, spread over eleven streets. Most houses were built in brick, with some sandstone here and there.

The beautiful church of the beguinage is an example of baroque architecture. The façade was finished in 1767, which explains why there is already an influence from the rococo style. The patron saint of the church is Saint Margaret.


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