'Ladies with a black habit and white cap, caricatures depicted in comic strips': this is the image that young people in the future are likely to have of beguines. But the Beguinage Museum knows better!
Don’t say nun to a beguin
'Begijnhof 56' is a real old beguine house. Up to the 1970s, eight poor beguines lived here in Sint-Jansconvent (St. John’s convent). All objects in the museum have therefore belonged to Turnhout beguines at one time or another. Thank goodness, because you can now discover the big difference between a nun and a beguin. A beguin did not take a vow of poverty. If she was rich, she could afford anything. But if she was poor, she had to work.
From the presbytery to the convent in the museum
Father Johannes Mermans lived from 1677 to 1697 at 'Begijnhof 56'. In 1693 he founded Sint-Jansconvent. After his death eight poorer girls / women get the chance to become a beguin. In 1953, the CPAS gave the Friends of the Beguinage permission to collect the old objects of the beguines located on the ground floor of the convent. The museum evolves from two rooms to the entire front building. In 1998, the rear building is also taken into use and the museum gets its current area.
Visit the Beguinage Museum with a guide
Book a group visit led by a guide to the Beguinage Museum.