Debates - Beguinages

Where does the name 'beguines' come from?


There are several hypotheses about the etymology of the term ‘beguines’. In the chapels of the beguine-courts you can find the statue of Saint Begga. Begga (615-93), daughter of Pepin van Landen, founded several churches and built a cloister at Adenne on the Meuse River. The beguine-movement, however, is from a much later date. Despite the presence of many Begga-images in beguine chapels, it is not plausible that Saint Begga was the founder of the movement. There is also the theory that the pious women collected money and food by begging, and thus the term stems from this activity. Others suggest a connection with the Albigenses, the heretical movement of the twelfth through thirteenth centuries. Others associate the colour of the outfit of the beguines, beige, with the origin of their name. The identification of the dissident cleric Lambert le Bègue (c. 1250) as the founder of the beguine movement appears to be a legend as well. As of today, the etymology of beguines remains a mystery (about  Lambert le Bègue: Simons,  2001, 24-34).



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