The Begijnhofmuseum (Beguinage museum) is located in the beguinage of Turnhout, a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1998. In the twentieth century, the religious women’s movement started to become a thing of the past in Flanders. The pastor and the last beguines collected objects and artworks of the beguinage and a museum was opened in 1953. Ten rooms, an indoor garden and a herb garden that make up the museum are accessible for the public to experience the life of religious women in the convent at an historical location.
The collection consists of several sixteenth and seventeenth century paintings by anonymous Flemish masters, sculptures, relics, prints and engravings that illustrate the devotional life of the beguines. Also on display is a collection of historical furniture, including an unusual schapraai (china cabinet), a cushion cabinet from Zeeland, and an exhibition throne from the eighteenth century. The applied arts section includes a well-designed silver saltcellar, Delft Blue pottery and pewter plates. The collection of books and sheet music of the Turnhout beguinage is exceptional and contains a sixteenth-century liturgical music manuscript that is included in the Flemish List of Masterpieces. Items relating to beguine life such as clothing, profession crowns, a linen press and objects used in the wafer bakery are also on view.
Peter Hofland, Location Manager (January 2022)