Amsterdam’s enclave of peace and tranquillity | Travel

A historic courtyard within the metropolis centre was as soon as home to a pious order of girls. It remains to be a splendidly peaceable spot, although today anybody is free to get pleasure from its serenity

The Beguines, a gorgeous sq. within the centre of Amsterdam.
Photograph: Alamy

In Amsterdam’s busy centre, on the northern facet of the sq. known as the Spui, an unassuming timber door is a portal into one of many metropolis’s most magical spots: a 14th-century enclosed courtyard the place tiny gabled homes – all completely different – wrap round inexperienced lawns. Traffic noise vanishes and the serenity is nearly startling – notably today, with elements of the town now struggling the detrimental results of mass tourism.

This former convent (of kinds) was home to the Beguines, a Catholic order of single or widowed girls who lived like nuns though they didn’t take monastic vows. The final died in 1971.

Inside the courtyard are two intriguing church buildings. Dating from 1392, the gothic Engelse Kerk was rented to English and Scottish Presbyterians, together with the Pilgrim Fathers, after the Reformation. (The head of the Beguines, one Cornelia Arens, refused to be buried inside a Presbyterian church following her demise in 1654; her grave is within the backyard.) It remains to be Amsterdam’s Presbyterian church, with companies in English held at 10.30am on Sundays.

Under the protestant Calvinists, the Beguines worshipped on the clandestine Begijnhof Kapel: inbuilt 1671 it intentionally doesn’t appear like a church from the surface, however inside is an beautiful marble-columned chapel with stained-glass home windows and wall portray.

Also within the Begijnhof is Amsterdam’s oldest preserved wood home (circa 1465), one in all solely two remaining within the metropolis after their development was banned to scale back the fireplace danger. Visitors are requested to minimise noise out of respect for the 105 single girls of “good moral character” who nonetheless reside right here right now.

Catherine Le Nevez is the writer of Lonely Planet’s Amsterdam metropolis information

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