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DID YOU KNOW? In Amsterdam, you can visit the Begijnhof, a fascinating and tranquil Catholic compound.

The Begijnhof is in the heart of the city and was established shortly after the 1345 miracle. It is the home of the Beguine sisterhood, who are not nuns or typical Catholics. The Begijnhof plays an important part in my story because fictional Aunt Margaretha is a Beguine. She is well-educated, spiritual, tends toward mysticism, and is devoted to helping the needy. She teaches literacy and religious principles in the vernacular and not in Latin, which the church hierarchy frowns upon, along with the Beguines' mysticism. Margaretha came to the order with her own money to buy a house in the Begijnhof and is a savvy investor.  


After Protestants took over Amsterdam's government in 1578, they seized Catholic facilities, and banned the annual Miracle Procession and Catholic worship in public. The church within the Begijnhof was taken over, but the Begijnhof residences were untouched because they were private, not church, property. When the large Holy Place church on the miracle site was confiscated, its holy relics, including the miracle Holy Communion host, were entrusted to the Beguines. After 1578, the Beguines started holding clandestine church services in their homes.


House 34 is the oldest residence in the Begijnhof and probably the oldest in Amsterdam. The last Beguine died in 1971, and now the Begijnhof is home to about a hundred unmarried women.

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