Des­ti­na­tion

The almshouses, also known as god houses, are one of Bruges’ most beau­ti­ful and peace­ful sights

Chic & Country - - Contents -

Almshouses

Whilst most tourists go up and down the canals and visit choco­late shops, you can dis­cover a hid­den part of Bruges that may make you wish you lived here. There are over 40 God­shuizen (almshouses) dot­ted around Bruges. Each of them are quiet and con­tem­pla­tive havens that, aside from their fas­ci­nat­ing his­tory, re­main sim­ple homes for com­mu­ni­ties of sin­gle women of faith. Some of the God­shuizen date back to the 13th cen­tury when com­mu­ni­ties were formed by the women (many wi­d­owed from cru­sades or war) who took ac­tive roles in so­ci­ety and in ser­vice and were of­ten fi­nan­cially sup­ported by wealthy guilds. These de­vout women came to be called be­guines (in French), and the com­mu­nity they formed was re­ferred to as a be­gi­jn­hof (in Flem­ish). As the com­mu­ni­ties grew, they be­came small vil­lages in the city. Their hall­marks are that they have pic­turesque small gar­dens, white­washed

fa­cades and a glo­ri­ous si­lence. Ev­ery­thing about them evokes peace and faith. The old­est, founded in 1245 by Mar­garet of Con­stantino­ple, Count­ess of Flan­ders, is a walled com­mu­nity of 30 white­washed houses that to­day re­mains com­pletely in­tact and, since 1927, has been the home to a pri­ory of the Or­der of Saint Bene­dict. Whilst it is surely the grand­est and most well known, with one of the houses hav­ing been con­verted into a mu­seum, the de­light and charm of Bruges is that you can stum­ble across these hum­ble God­shuizen by chance. We found the almshouse of De Meu­le­naere and Sint-Jozef al­most by ac­ci­dent! Whilst it is never easy to put away the cares of the world, you sense that these God­shuizen are, al­though sim­ple and with­out glam­our, in­tensely peace­ful and mean­ing­ful. Take a mo­ment and ab­sorb the at­mos­phere of these re­mark­able oases in the bustling city. A visit to them will bring so­lace to your spirit.

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