Beguinage of Bruges: Overall view, one of the common buildings, a chapel
A Béguinage (Dutch; begijnhof) is a collection of small buildings used by Beguines, which were several lay sisterhoods of the Roman Catholic Church, founded in the 13th century in the Low Countries, of religious women who sought to serve God without retiring from the world. The entire group of Flemish Béguinages was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The Beguinage of Bruges was founded in 1245 by the Countess of Flanders, Margaretha of Constantinople. In 1299, Philip the Beautiful of France placed the Beguinage under his own rule, thereby withdrawing it from the influence of the town magistrate. Visitors enter the place via a bridge over the canal. The entrance gate bears the date 1776. The group of surviving buildings range in date from the 15th to 19th centuries. The last beguine lived here in 1926; in 1937 the beguinage became a convent with Benedictine sisters.