The Great Beguinage (Groot Begijnhof ) of Leuven is a well-preserved beguinage and completely restored historical quarter containing a dozen streets in the south of downtown Leuven. About 3 hectares in size, with some 300 apartments in almost 100 houses, it is one of the largest remaining beguinages in the Low Countries. The complete beguinage is owned by the KU Leuven and is part of the campus.
The Groot Begijnhof has the appearance of a small town in the city. As a community for unmarried, semi-religious women, this beguinage originated in the early 13th century. The oldest written documents date back to 1232.
Just like other beguinages in Flanders, the beguinage in Leuven had its first golden age in the 13th century and difficult times during the religious conflicts in the 16th century.
The last priest of the Beguine community died in 1977 at the age of 107. He is buried in the graveyard of Park Abbey. The last Beguine died in 1988.
This small town was restored between 1964 and 1989 by the Catholic University of Leuven, which had purchased the site in 1962 from the Social Welfare Commission. The restoration proceeded in two phases. The majority of the streets were restored in the 1960s and 1970s, under supervision of professor Raymond M. Lemaire. The church and the street next to it were restored in the 1980s.
In 1998, this place was officially recognised by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site.
In the picturesque little houses of the beguinage once lived no fewer than 360 beguines. Today they are used as accommodation for students, visiting professors, and members of the university staff.
(https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Groot_Begijnhof,_Leuven), photos by Aslı Tezcan