Dutch Language Blog

Het Begijnhof Amsterdam Posted by on Jun 24, 2010 in Dutch Language

The Begijnhof in Amsterdam is the only little courtyard, once home of the begijnen, built in the Midieval times of  Amsterdam. You can enter it at the Singel, almost a meter below the rest of the city center. The Begijnhof is one of the oldest canal gardens in Amsterdam.

First of all: begijnen were people living together in a free community under the Catholic Church. You can compare it with a cloister, although they didn’t  plead eternal vows and had the right to keep their material goods. They did promise chastity, although they could leave the community any time they wanted to get married. The Begijnhof was one of the places where the begijnen lived.

From what and when the Begijnhof officially received its name is unclear. In 1346 the place was a house for begijnen and called a “beghynhuys” (old fashioned spelling of the word “begijnhuis”) and in 1389 the word courtyard was mentioned in a privilege letter. Originally the Begijnhof was completely surrounded by water, with only  a small entrance gate at the Begijnensteeg. This changed in the Nineteenth Century,  when the entrance at het Spui was created.

One of the most famous places is the houten huis (the wooden house, from around 1470) located on Begijnhof 31, which was restored. There are only two medieval wooden houses left, with het houten huis as the oldest wooden house in the Netherlands.

The Begijnhof was the only Catholic establishment left standing after the Alteration of 1578, because the place was in collective ownership of the begijnen. All the other Catholic churches and organizations were violently pushed into the Protestants’ beliefs. The Protestant government did force the begijnen to give up the Catholic chapel, now known as the Engelse Kerk (the English church).

The most famous resident of het Begijnhof is Cornelia Arnes, who died on July 6 of 1621. She wanted to be buried in the gutter of the unhallowed chapel. The legend says she was buried in the chapel anyway, but the coffin still appeared in the gutter the next day. After this happened for a second time, she was finally buried in her gutter of choice. Others say her soul was restless and she wandered over the courtyard at night, until they buried her in the gutter.

Tags: , , ,
Keep learning Dutch with us!

Build vocabulary, practice pronunciation, and more with Transparent Language Online. Available anytime, anywhere, on any device.

Try it Free Find it at your Library
Share this:
Pin it



    A few years ago I did speak to social worker at the Begijn hof , as I was thinking of comming back to the Netherlands , and I had no where to go . She did say only elderle woman live ther now , as I am 70 year of age , Catholiek , is it stil possible to live there ??? I knew there was a waiting list .I still would like to live there ,as I have no FAM here in Australia more , I am on my own , have 10 brotheres and sisters in Holland , please let me know wat de mogelijkheden zijn , ik spreek ook nog vloeiend Hollands Elisabeth Boerlage .