High Road to Culture in Flanders and the Netherlands

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High Road to Culture in Flanders and the Netherlands

Islands of Difference. Beguinages in the Medieval Low Countries
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Islands of Difference. Beguinages in the Medieval Low Countries

(Walter P. Simons) The Low Countries - 2004, № 12, pp. 205-214

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On December 2, 1998, Unesco inscribed thirteen Flemish beguinages on its World Heritage list, recognising them as sites ‘of worldwide significance'. With only three elderly beguines alive at the time of writing, of whom only one still resides in a beguinage, the sites have evidently outlasted their original purpose. What new uses might be found for them? History may help us to think through these problems. An examination of the beguines' past shows the reader how their communities have always been islands of difference within a larger urban whole.

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