Sources - Beguinages - The Netherlands and Belgium

Description of sources


Like many organisations and people who lived and worked together beguines also established rules. The statutes of a beguine-court included rules about the board, the times of contemplation, about clothing, work, ownership of the houses, visitors etc. Usually once a year the rules were read out aloud. Another name for the statutes, like in the beguine-court of ‘s-Hertogenbosch  is ‘roll’ (‘rolle’).


Praying for the souls of a the dead was not only a very important task of the beguines, but also a substantial source of income. Beguines prayed for the dead souls on or around the date of death of their fellow beguines (or other persons), they were present during mass and paid a visit to the grave. In the Breda anniversarium, the register with the names of the individuals to commemorate after their death we find not only rules about the number of candles to burn, the amount of priests during the mass for the memory of the dead soul and the distribution of food to the poor but also about the sharing of the income between the beguines (Gooskens 1992). 

Profession registers

Dutch: Professieregisters.

A beguine made no eternal vows, such as those taken by men and women who joined a cloister. A new beguine promised to obey the mistresses of the community and to live in chastity. This solemn moment of accession, the profession, is recorded in a so called profession register. Usually the community or the chapel would receive a gift. In the professie-register of the Breda beguine-court (Archief Begijnhof 43, 1648-1833) the mistress sometimes noted details about the donation. For example: ‘Anno 1651 in september is geproffessit Anneken Willems out wesende vijftich jaeren. Heeft aen de kerck vereert vier coperen candeleren enden eenen witten satijnen geborduerden kelckdoeck. Suster Anneken Willems is gestorven int jaer 1675 den 10 november ende heeft aen het begijnhoff van Breda gemaeckt xxxx (doorgehaald) gulden, ontfangen bijde meesterse Magdalene van Sprangh, maer behouden 71 gulden 13 st. door de groote rusie die de vrinden maeckten. Maer heeft nog aen de kerck gegeven eenen silveren aerm die voor Sinte Begga hanght' [Transl.: In the year 1651, in the month of September, Anneken Willems, aged 50, has been professed. She has piously donated to the church four candelabres made out of copper and a embroidered purificatorium, made of white satin. Sister Anneken Willems has died November 10th, 1675 and has legated to the beguinage of Breda 40 guilders [the amount having been crossed out], as this amount has been received by mistress Magdalena van Sprangh, but has kept 71 guilders 13 stuivers because of the greatquarrel among the friends. However, she has donated a silver arm, pending before [the statue of] Saint Begga]. 

Foundation letters

Not uncommon is the presence of a so called foundation letter written by a devout and rich member of the urban patricians or a member of the nobility of the region. By the letter or charter the patrician granted a house or land on which beguine houses could be built for a certain number of devout women or a noble women so that they could live together.


In archives with medieval documents cartularies can frequently be found. Cartularies are registers containing transcriptions of original documents related to the foundation, privileges and legal rights of ecclesiastical establishments, in this case the beguine-court. 



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