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Belgium’s smallest beguinage in Anderlecht re-opens after renovation
After undergoing a major facelift, Anderlecht’s historic beguinage once again welcomes visitors for a limited number of dates this autumn.
Before re-opening definitively as a municipal museum in autumn 2023, the ancient site currently boasts a pristine interior. The bare rooms evoking the simple life led by women who lived in enclosed communities hundreds of years ago.
Founded in 1252, the beguinage dates from the 15th century. It consists of two wings, an enclosed walled garden and a well.
When the museum reopens next year, new displays offer a radical departure from its previous 90-year incarnation. One wing will be devoted to local history, while the other will focus on the story of the beguines.
Director of the Municipal Museums of Anderlecht Zahava Seewald explains: “The collections in the former museum are now restored and we are selecting the best pieces.”
She admits that they charming, but not always clear for visitors. “It was a bit of a mishmash The pieces on display were from the 19-th and 20th-centuries, so nothing was directly connected to the beguines. We really needed to rethink this project and be accurate and correct with the information given to the public.”
The museum is targeting a wide public, including children and tourists. “We want to develop a dynamic and interactive mediation in order to offer something other than that of the Erasmus House and the new museography will highlight the research carried out over the last two years, the archives and the collections," adds Seewald.
Rare example of small rural beguinage
The humble architecture of this beguinage is what makes it exceptional, says Paulo Charruadas, expert in archeology and heritage at the ULB, reports RTBF.
Involved in the renovation and research, he explains how Anderlecht is one of the remaining examples of small rural beguinages. While they were abundant between the Middle Ages and the 18th century, only the large Flemish ones are still standing today.
The beguinage of Anderlecht accommodated a maximum of eight beguines at a time. These women, often widowed, single or elderly from the surrounding area, lived in a religious community without being nuns. From modest origins, they had to provide for themselves, and helped the canons of the neighbouring collegiate church of Saint-Guidon in their daily tasks.
The beguinage is open on 2, 22 & 23 October; 6 & 15 November; 4 December
Photos: (c) Jonathan Ortegat