Welcome to the beguinage of Oudenaarde: an oasis of peace since 1449. You wouldn’t tell looking around now, but this wonderful refuge used to be completely surrounded by the Scheldt.
Coming in, you might have noticed Saint-Roch looking down on you. In the literal sense, to be sure! Saint-Roch is a French plague saint and is demonstrating that he too was affected by the plague in de Middle Ages by showing a wound on his leg. This disease ravaged all of Europe, including Oudenaarde.
The site consists of about thirty houses, grouped around two quaint courtyards with a rich variety of flowers and plants. The oldest building dates from 1500 and was the residence of rector Van De Velde, who was thrown into the Scheldt by the Beggars during the iconoclasm in 1566 and drowned. It wasn’t all peace and quiet àll the time.
Most of the whitewashed houses were rebuilt in the 19th and 20th centuries. A few still date from the 17th century.
Beguines were not nuns. They did not take eternal monastic vows and had their own possessions. They did, however, have to be unmarried and take a vow of chastity. The last beguine died in 1960.