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Susan of DT Origins: What is THE BEGUINE?? (17) RE: Origins: What is THE BEGUINE?? 21 Jun 13

Another use of the word from wikipedia - I went looking for this because had encountered it in a novel:


At the start of the 12th century, some women in the Low Countries lived alone and devoted themselves to prayer and good works without taking vows. At first there were only a few of them, but in the course of the century, their numbers increased. This was the age of the Crusades, and the land teemed with widowed women [reference required] —the raw material for a host of neophytes. These single women tended to live on the fringe of towns, where they attended to the poor. About the beginning of the 13th century, some of them grouped their cabins together to form a community, called Beguinage.

The Beguine were not nuns; they did not take vows, could return to the world and wed if they chose, and did not renounce their property. If one was without means, she neither asked nor accepted alms, but supported herself by manual labour, or by teaching the children of burghers. During the time of her novitiate, she lived with "the Grand Mistress" of her cloister, but afterward she had her own dwelling. If she could afford it, she was attended by her own servants. She was bound to her companions by having the same goals in life, kindred pursuits, and a community of worship.

They had no mother-house, nor common rule, nor common general of the order; every community was complete in itself and fixed its own order of living. Later many adopted the rule of the Third Order of Saint Francis. These communities were varied in terms of the social status of their members; some of them only admitted ladies of high degree; others were exclusively reserved for persons in humble circumstances; others again opened their doors wide to women of every condition, and these were the most densely peopled. Several, like the great Beguinage of Ghent, numbered their inhabitants by thousands. Douceline of Dinge (ca. 1215-74) founded the Beguines of Marseille; her vita, which was composed by a member of her Beguine community, sheds light on the movement in general.[5]

This semi-monastic institution was adapted to its age and spread rapidly throughout the land. The women influenced the religious life of the people. Each of these institutions was a centre of mysticism, and it was the Beguines, the Beghards, and the sons of Saint Francis who shaped the thought of the urban population of the Low Countries. There was a Beguinage at Mechlin as early as 1207, at Brussels in 1245, at Leuven before 1232, at Antwerp in 1234, and at Bruges in 1244. By the close of the century, most communes in the Low Countries had a Beguinage, whilst several of the great cities had two or more.
As the 13th century progressed, the women tended to become mystics and relied less on their own labour, often turning to begging instead. In some cases, this shift toward mysticism caused problems for the Beguines. For example, Marguerite Porete, a French Beguine and mystic, was burned at the stake in Paris in 1310 by civil authorities (heresy was against state law at that time). She was condemned by the Church for heresy and accused of being a Free Spirit. She was finally condemned and executed for reasons that are still not entirely clear. One reason may have been her refusal to remove her book The Mirror of Simple Souls from circulation.

By the 14th century, some communities were absorbed by monastic and mendicant orders. Others developed into flagellants or other practices considered heretical. In 1311, Pope Clement V accused the Beguines of spreading heresy. They were suppressed under John XXII, Urban V, and Gregory XI. They were rehabilitated in the 15th century by Eugene IV.

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