Founded in the 13th century, the “Grand Beguinage” (UNESCO heritage site) was bought by the University of Louvain in 1962 and made into students’ halls of residence.
In the midst of its narrow alleys the primitive Gothic church (14th century) is dedicated to Saint John the Baptist. Designed like a basilica it has neither tower nor transept. The huge stained glass window of the chevet (extreme end of the chancel) attracts immediate attention.
Above the altar is a “Golgotha” by Pieter Josef Verhaeghen. The altars and the confessionals are 16th century and the organ (1692) is by Pieter Goltfuss. Thanks to restoration work, frescoes of the 14th 15th and 17th centuries have been discovered and 90 tombstones of beguines* uncovered on the floor.
*Beguines did not make solemn vows like nuns but promised to be chaste for the time of their stay at the beguinage and to obey the ecclesiastic authority of their superiors, called “Grandes Dames”. The beguines filled their day with religious observance, the education of young girls, needle work or nursing the sick.