Communities of women founded in the Netherlands in the 12th century. Establishing houses on the outskirts of towns, they lived semi-monastic lives, and devoted themselves to the care of the poor and the infirm. They took no vows, did not relinquish their property, and were free to return to the world and wed if they chose. When it was necessary, they supported themselves by manual labour or by teaching. Bound together only by kindred pursuits and community of worship, they had no mother-house, nor common rule, nor superior-general; each community was complete in itself and made its own regulation, although later some adopted the rule of the Third Order of Saint Francis. They established foundations in Germany, France, and Italy and by the end of the 13th century practically every town had at least one beguinage. Centers of mysticism, they greatly influenced the religious life of the people, but many communities participated in the heresies of the age and were condemned by the Council of Vienne. Restored by Pope John XXII, most of their houses were suppressed during the religious conflicts of the 16th century and the French Revolution. There are several at the present time however, in Holland and Belgium, which care for the sick and the poor and make lace. The last Beguine, Marcella Pattyn, died on 14 April 2013.

Profiled Beguines

Additional Information

MLA Citation

  • “Beguines”. New Catholic Dictionary. CatholicSaints.Info. 2 January 2020. Web. 24 September 2021. <>