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