Beguinage Etymology
– The word ‘beguine’ is derived from the name Lambert le Bègue, an early supporter of the movement.
– The term ‘beguinage’ comes from the French word ‘béguinage.’
– The Oxford English Dictionary cites Du Cange as the source for the word’s origin.
– Lambert le Bègue died around 1180.
– The word ‘beguine’ refers to lay religious women who lived in community without taking vows or retiring from the world.

Beguinage Description
– A small beguinage usually consisted of one house where women lived together.
– A Low Countries court beguinage typically included courtyards surrounded by houses, a church, an infirmary complex, and communal houses or convents.
– Every city and large town in the Low Countries had at least one court beguinage from the twelfth through eighteenth centuries.
– Beguinages were encircled by walls and had several gates that were closed at night.
– Beguines came from various social classes, with truly poor women being admitted only if they had a wealthy benefactor.

Women’s Motivations for Joining Beguinages
– The development of beguinages is linked to the surplus of women in urban centers during the Middle Ages.
– Single women moved to cities for work opportunities, as marriage occurred later in life and at a lower frequency.
– Beguinages provided women with social and economic needs, along with a religious life and personal independence.
– Beguinages offered a difficult-to-attain independence for women during that time.
– The theory of men dying in war causing the surplus of women has been debunked.

UNESCO World Heritage Sites
– Several court beguinages are listed by UNESCO as World Heritage sites.
– These beguinages are recognized for their architectural and historical significance.
– The Flemish Béguinages, thirteen in total, were listed in 1998.
– The beguinages are located in different cities and towns in the Flemish region of Belgium.
– UNESCO’s recognition highlights the cultural value of these beguinages.

Sources and Further Reading
– Tanya Stabler Miller’s book ‘Beguines of Medieval Paris: Gender, Patronage, and Spiritual Authority’ explores the role of beguines in Paris.
– Walter Simons’ book ‘Cities of Ladies: Beguine Communities in the Medieval Low Countries, 1200–1565’ focuses on beguine communities in the Low Countries.
– UNESCO’s World Heritage List provides information on the Flemish Béguinages.
– Laura Swan’s book ‘The Wisdom of the Beguines: the Forgotten Story of a Medieval Women’s Movement’ delves into the history of the beguines.
– Xander van Eck’s article ‘Between Restraint and Excess: The Decoration of the Church of the Great Beguinage at Mechelen in the Seventeenth Century’ discusses the decoration of a specific beguinage church.Sources: