Saint John the Baptist at the Béguinage

The Church of St. John the Baptist at the Béguinage (French: Église Saint-Jean-Baptiste au Béguinage, Dutch: Sint-Jan-Baptist ten Begijnhofkerk) is a Roman Catholic parish church in central Brussels, Belgium.

Church of St. John the Baptist at the Béguinage
Église Saint-Jean-Baptiste au Béguinage
Sint-Jan-Baptist ten Begijnhofkerk
Bruxelles kosciol sw Jana Chrzciciela 02 (cropped).jpg
Facade of the church
50°51′9.73″N 4°21′1.68″E / 50.8527028°N 4.3504667°E / 50.8527028; 4.3504667Coordinates: 50°51′9.73″N 4°21′1.68″E / 50.8527028°N 4.3504667°E / 50.8527028; 4.3504667
LocationPlace du Béguinage / Begijnhofplein
B-1000 City of Brussels, Brussels-Capital Region
DenominationRoman Catholic
StatusParish church
Functional statusActive
Heritage designationProtected[2]
Architect(s)Lucas Faydherbe
Architectural typeChurch
Groundbreaking1657 (1657)[1]
Length20 metres (66 ft)
Width62 metres (203 ft)
Nave width13 metres (43 ft)
Number of spires1
ArchdioceseBlason de l'Archidiocèse de Malines-Bruxelles (Belgique).svg Mechelen–Brussels
ArchbishopJozef De Kesel
(Primate of Belgium)

The original Gothic church was built at the end of 13th century, as part of the Notre-Dame de la Vigne beguinage of Brussels. It was partially destroyed by calvinists in 1584 and rebuilt thereafter. Attributed to the Flemish architect Lucas Faydherbe, the reconstructed building, which still stands today, is a notable illustration of the Italian-influenced Flemish Baroque style of the 17th century.

The church is located on the Place du Béguinage/Begijnhofplein, not far from the Place de Brouckère/De Brouckèreplein, the Place Sainte-Catherine/Sint-Katelijneplein and the Grand Hospice Pachéco. This site is served by the metro stations De Brouckère and Sainte-Catherine/Sint-Katelijne on lines 1 and 5.


Great Beguinage of Brussels in 1720 by Jacobus Harrewijn

The beguines were lay women who lived a communal life but were not bound by perpetual vows. Three court beguinages existed in Brussels but the first and largest court beguinage was the Beguinage de Notre-Dame de la Vigne which was founded before 1247 outside the city walls.[3]

Located near today's Place du Béguinage/Begijnhofplein, the community composed a miniature village of individual dwellings with a mill, laundry, and flower and vegetable garden enclosed within a wall.[4] The beguines built an infirmary and a small chapel dedicated to Our Lady of the Vineyard served as a place of worship.

Because their community had grown to 1200 beguines at the end of the 13th century, a larger Gothic church was built at the same location where the present-day building is located. The women engaged in weaving wool, and from the 16th century onward, in making lace. From the start, the Rue du Béguinage/Begijnhofstraat ("Beguines Street") formed the main axis of this large triangular domain of which the Rue de Laeken/Lakensestraat ("Laeken Street") formed the base. The area between the Rue de Laeken and the Quai au Bois à Brûler/Brandhoutkaai was known as the Beguinage Quarter during the Middle Ages.

The beguines were dispersed in 1797 during the French regime. The grounds were parcelled out gradually and streets laid out. The infirmary was renovated and transformed into the Grand Hospice Pachéco.

The church was designated a historic monument on 5 March 1936.[2] In 1998, the tragic expulsion of the Nigerian asylum seeker Semira Adamu, who died after police violence, triggered the occupation of the church from October 1998 to January 1999 by political refugee candidates awaiting regularisation.[5]


The previous church was a Gothic building with three naves and a transept that was destroyed by calvinists in 1584 during the Calvinist Republic of Brussels which lasted from 1577 to 1585.[6][7] The beguines decided to rebuild their church in Baroque style and its construction started in 1657. Attributed to the Flemish architect Lucas Faydherbe,[8] this church is a notable illustration of the Italian-influenced Flemish Baroque style of the 17th century. Its facade is considered to be one of the most beautiful in Belgium. The church was restored after a fire ravaged the roof in November 2000.[9]

In popular cultureEdit


  • The church and the surrounding streets where prominently featured in the 2018 BBC television miniseries Les Misérables.

See alsoEdit



  1. ^ a b Mardaga 1989, p. 165.
  2. ^ a b "Eglise Saint-Jean-Baptiste au Béguinage – Inventaire du patrimoine architectural". (in French). Retrieved 31 October 2021.
  3. ^ Mardaga 1989, p. 104.
  4. ^ Simons 2003, p. 51.
  5. ^ "Document — Belgium: The death of Samira Adamu: Justice still awaited". Amnesty International. 2000. Retrieved 17 August 2013.
  6. ^ Cook 2002, p. 34.
  7. ^ Cammaert 2010.
  8. ^ Coekelberghs & Loze 1981
  9. ^ Depuydt Elbaum 2002


External linksEdit