Begijnhof an oasis of peace and quiet
Begijnhof is one of these hidden spot in the centre of Amsterdam. A beautiful courtyard offers almost improbable peace and quiet right behind shop-strewn Kalverstraat. Sneak into this haven of rest through a little gateway and find yourself in a peaceful oasis of green surrounded by historic houses. Stroll around this garden and take in the peaceful atmosphere.
Begijnhof, is a huddle of 17th and 18th century houses looking on to a central green with the atmosphere of a village green. It is difficult to believe that Amsterdam’s most crowded shopping street is only a few meters away. Begijnhof was founded in the 14th century as a home for Beguines, an order of lay nuns who educated the poor and cared for the sick in return for lodging within the complex. Nothing survives of the earliest cottages that were built of brick and wood, apart from one of the two remaining wooden medieval houses in Amsterdam.
The Wooden House
The Houten Huys, het Wooden House, at no 34 has a wooden façade and dates back to mid-fifteenth century. This house was built before the city had banned timber houses after a series of catastrophic fires. On the side wall is an interesting collection of wall plaques taken from biblical scenes in keeping with the beguines religious lifestyle. No 19 has its wall plaque still in place. It depicts the exodus of Jezus from Egypt.
The English Church
During the reformation this fifteenth-century church, known as the English Church of Amsterdam was given to Presbyterians fleeing from England. A wall plaque and stained-glass windows commemorate the fact that some members of this group were the later Pilgrim Fathers who sailed for America early 17th century.
Begijnhof Chapel at nos 29 – 30 is a clandestine church. When, after the alteration of 1578, Amsterdam came under Calvinist rule the Church in the middle of the green was closed. From then on Roman Catholics could no longer profess their faith openly. However, Catholics still worshipped but now in private homes, parts of which had been converted into churches, known as clandestine churches. Beguines and other Catholics attended mass in secret in these makeshift churches until freedom of religion was restored at the end of the 18th century.
Entrance to Begijnhof is via the gateway on Spui or through the main entrance at Gedempte Begijnsloot.
photo credit Marianne Crone