The Béguinage

Unlike the cloistered nuns of other orders, the beguines were sisters who were more integrated into society and lived in small houses in the beguinage and other areas of the city, and instead of taking vows of chastity and poverty that were assumed to be for life, beguines could leave the group and marry if they chose, and they could keep their personal property. In fact, beguine women invested and worked in the silk industry of medieval Paris, making them important not only in the history of spirituality within the city, but also within its economic development. Additionally, the fact that they could maintain control of their individual assets meant that women from a variety of socio-economic backgrounds came together in the beguine community. Tanya Stabler Miller uses tax rolls to map their houses outside the main beguinage and demonstrates how these women were integrated in the city, with particular concentrations on the rue Quincampoix, the rue Troussevache, the rue Neuve-Saint-Merri, the rue du Temple, and on streets around the church of St.-Eustache on the Right Bank.  The unconventional characteristics of this community garnered suspicion and even hostility as members of the patriarchy struggled to understand the role of the beguines in society and to circumscribe its members. However, the beguines enjoyed significant royal support and were a remarkable group of women within the landscape of Paris. The beguinage allowed religiously inclined and humbly dressed women to participate in the spiritual, charitable, and economic life of the city without the restrictive vows and rules that bound other religious women.

Present-day location: 4 Rue du Fauconnier