During the 13th and 14th Centuries Beguinages were religious communities where women devoted themselves to prayer and good works. Their homes were clustered together on the outskirts of the city where they attended to the poor. Unlike nuns the Beguines didn’t take vows and were still able to earn an income, own private property and leave the Beguinage whenever they chose.
The city of Leuven in Belgium is home to two Beguinages that are now UNESCO World Heritage Sites. The Grand Beguinage in Leuven is breathtakingly beautiful. When you walk through its walled entrance it feels like you’ve uncovered a secret: a village within a city fitted with cobblestone streets, squares, gardens and dozens of houses. Between 1964 and 1989 the Catholic University of Leuven restored this Beguinage and it now houses students and university staff. Can you imagine living there!?