Beguinage of Bruges: Exterior view of the Béguinage church, St. Elizabeth
St. Elisabeth Church was built in 1245; rebuilt in 1605 after a fire. The statue of the Virgin and Child over the entrance dates from the 13th century and is known as "Onze-Lieve-Vrouw van Spermalie".
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.