One of the most extraordinary places in the center of Amsterdam can be found behind a door on Spuiplein. It leads to the Begijnhof (Beguinage), a medieval inner courtyard where the women of the Catholic sisterhood lived.It is unclear when exactly, but the Beguinage was established somewhere in the 14th century to house the Begijnen. These women lived like nuns but were more independent and had more freedom. The Catholic faith was banned in the 16th century. The Begijnhof was the only Catholic institution that continued to exist because the houses were the private property of the women. They did have to give up the chapel. A new, so-called ‘hidden church’ was later built behind the facades of several residences. You can still visit it today.
Cornelia Arens was the most famous Beguine who lived here. She wanted to be buried not in church but in the gutter. Despite her wishes, she was buried in the church. The next morning her casket was no longer in the church but rather in the gutter, as she had wished. This reoccurred several times until it was decided to make her last resting place in the gutter.
The last Beguine passed away in 1971. The houses off the courtyard are still residences but there are no more Beguines here.