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Béguines; Béghards

Béguines were members of sisterhoods founded in the Netherlands in the twelfth century. Without common rule or hierarchy, free to hold private property, and with leave to marry, they lived austerely without vows, save chastity, and they emphasized manual work. Béghards were their male counterparts—usually weavers, dyers, or fullers—who held no private property and had a common fund. Their names might be derived from Lambert le Bègue (“the Stammerer”; d.1177), a revivalist preacher at Liége. Mainly Netherlandish, there were communities in Germany and France (Louis IX founded a béguinage in Paris in 1264). Called extra-regulars as they were neither lay nor monastic, they served the sick and indigent together with their contemplation. Both groups were long suspected of heresy, chiefly because of their association with the Spiritual Franciscans, and were condemned by the Council of Vienne* (1311). Many Béghards reformed and were permitted to carry on (by John XXII) and survived until the French Revolution. The Béguines were long persecuted, being little more than charitable institutions from the fifteenth century. They became rehabilitated in Belgium, even to establishing closer relations with approved orders and adopting the Austin rule. Some still exist in the Low Countries, notably in Bruges and Ghent.

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