Tuesday, February 23, 2010


The spinster’s semi-monastic private community is a secret little place, an inner court stashed nicely in the center of Amsterdam’s medieval quarter away from the hustle and bustle of the city. The Begijnhof is not always easy to find but there are two entrances; one is in the Spui square--this is the brown arched door and the other one is on the side street from the corner of Spui (by Esprit Café). Walk a bit further down the alley until you reach an intersection and you see an arched brick gate.

The begijnhof is open daily from 8AM to 7PM. When visiting here make sure to keep voices down as you are treading on private residential grounds.

On the left foto is the main entrance of the Begijnhof. Middle foto is a garden near the Spui entrance with a sculpture of a Begijn, not sure who she is, could be the famous Begijn Cornelia Arents. Right foto is the entrance from Spui square.

Most of the town houses here are built during the 17th and 18th centuries. Tourists and non-residents are not allowed to venture into this side of the Begijnhof.

Left foto is the Roman Catholic Begijnhofkapel (Begijnhof Chapel). You can see on the middle foto the bell tower of the English Presbyterian Church while on the right foto you can see its entrance. English masses are serviced here.

Left foto is the interior of the Begijnhof Chapel and on the right foto is another section of the Begijnhof. The Black wooden gothic house is probably the most famous house in the hofje and is recently renovated.

The Beginhof, a non-religious organization was formed in the late 14th century for a very noble cause. Many unmarried women from noble backgrounds came to live here with the goal of doing charity to the community without the religious pressures from living in a convent. The begijnen take a vow of chastity but they can always leave if they want to marry.

The last original begijn (I call them semi-nun spinters) died in 1971 and until now only unmarried older women are accepted to live here. There are about 47 town houses in the hofje.

In the begijnhof you will also find the only English Presbyterian Church that offers English services in the Netherlands. Across this church is a Roman Catholic Chapel, the Begijnhofkapel, a much ostentatious one than the English Church I suppose.

The whole begijnen concept is unique so when in Amsterdam do not miss this.

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