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  • Date: October 12, 2018

"Beginki": women disguised as nuns

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The women's movement called “beggins” occupied a special place in the life of Europe. Although the berets were often killed, and their communities were persecuted here and there, many girls and women left the house (sometimes even just running away) to join the runners. Beginki gave vows of chastity, not being nuns, opened a business, did not enter any of the shops, wandered along the roads, although they were not pilgrims. And the beggins, the idols of modern feminists and a hundred years ago, suffragists, although they did not know the words such as “women's rights”.
"Beginki": women disguised as nuns

Nuns without a monastery

The community of runners largely copied women's monasteries: the runners walked in a uniform form that resembled monastic clothes, they prayed together every day, owned together all the money and other property, obeyed the prioress, cared free of sick citizens and travelers, asked for alms and, most importantly, gave a vow chastity However, they were all laymen.Why so complicate your life?
"Beginki": women disguised as nuns

Traditionally, the answer is sought in the introductory "fee", which the monasteries demanded: it was supposedly high for everyone. However, this explanation does not explain anything. If it was possible to get to the monasteries only for a lot of money (or something that costs them), no one would have ever heard of the peasant women who took monastic vows - and they existed. If only beggars went to the beggars, there could not be found the daughters of noble rich families - and there were enough of them. But the most surprising thing is why women continued to join the beggars even during the years of persecution, knowing the danger of attacks, up to murder?
It is necessary to understand why European women in general went to the nuns, in addition to, of course, hot faith and no less ardent aversion to sin (especially lust). First, it was one of the few opportunities to make a career (except for the monastery, the court service of the maid of honor still existed, but for a very narrow circle of ladies). Yes, some women of the past also wanted to see in life something more than heavy daily work at home, romping with children and going to the market. Monasteries were taught to read, write, sing,sometimes - embroidery or painting; each nun could grow to the abbess or be engaged in an interesting thing unusual for a worldly woman.
"Beginki": women disguised as nuns

Secondly, it was a publicly approved way to remove oneself from participation in the process of procreation. Although, in fact, women died in the Middle Ages and the Renaissance not as often as it is customary to imagine (after all, each had a harsh natural selection as a girl, and they lived before the childbearing age, mostly the strongest), yet childbirth. Thirdly, for women with physical problems, the monastery was a chance to get away from ridicule due to the "ugliness" and the inability to find a husband. Finally, the fourth and not the last, the monastery was a chance for a woman to leave the power of her relatives with whom she was in conflict, or from a situation that threatens to kill (not necessarily because of politics — sometimes simply because of property disputes). Fifth, finally, the monastery gave guaranteed shelter and food.
Now imagine that all this could be obtained in some places in Europe without burning down all the bridges behind you. After all, it was possible to quietly leave the runners, get married - after all, the vow of chastity was given only for the duration of life in the community.The nuns were occupied with labor and prayers all day long - the total prayer and household work (performed by the "duty" by several women at a time) took only part of the day for the runners, and in how to fill the rest of the time, the runner was completely free.
"Beginki": women disguised as nuns

The abbess was chosen jointly, so it was almost impossible to accidentally fall under the power of a person of rare malice. Moreover, it was possible to master all that is taught in the monastery here: more educated sisters taught less educated, but inquisitive. And it was, again, a matter solely of the desires of both the teacher and the student.

Pervert, heretics, family raiders

There are two theories about how beggars appeared. One says that the order was founded out of sympathy for women who are not taken to the monastery, the priest Lambert le Beg. The other is that the wives of knights who died in the Crusades who did not want to create new families coped with the creation of the community, and they also introduced the practice of inviting a common confessor to the community.
"Beginki": women disguised as nuns

Theories of the origin of the name of the runners also differ. Some associate it with Le Beg, others - with the order of the Begards, i.e.literally “begging”, still others with the words begaan (enter somewhere) or begijnen (run off from somewhere), the fourth with the fact that the beige women wore beige clothes.
Usually, under the community of berets, several houses were bought near the street, preferably, not far from the church. Often these houses were surrounded by a single high wall for the sake of security. Sometimes a single building was built, like a hostel - beguinage; his door was marked with a white cross. Each member of the community contributed at their own discretion; it was expected that the contribution of the rich sisters will be more. Inside the commune, at the beggars of property and what could be carried with them (crests, prayer books, and so on) was common. The biggest runners (of course, not from one building) totaled two thousand women!
"Beginki": women disguised as nuns

To fit into society, to get a certain status, as well as from personal convictions, the runners were actively involved in charity work: they cared for the sick and elderly people, sheltered the travelers and the orphanage - abandoned wives, raised and trained orphans. In order to get money for construction of hospice houses, schools and chapels inside the store, money, runners walked the roads, begging for alms, asking for help from rich citizens or doing some simple business.
The first two hundred years of existence of the beggins lived in peace, but gradually they began to be subjected here and there to persecution and attacks, both churches and laity. There were many reasons for this, and the simplest were the church. First, the runners, without asking, gave shelter and food to the sectarians running from the court. Secondly, they developed their own philosophy, which for the church looked like a heresy: it is possible to approach God only with a righteous way of life and prayers. It seemed to make the church and the priesthood unnecessary: ​​it was impossible to forgive.
"Beginki": women disguised as nuns

The fury of ordinary lay people and secular authorities was much more explicable. Although out loud the attackers on the begins repeated after the church about their heresy or accused them of secret and massive lesbian debauchery, it was a completely different matter. An independent, well-organized women's community with its internal infrastructure was suspicious to the authorities and annoyed the inhabitants. In addition, disobedient daughters were hiding among the berets, and many of the abandoned wives who were looking for shelter and food actually left their husbands themselves without being beaten and abused (and without having a lover with whom it was possible to escape, as a last resort) .
The high organization of the communities allowed the business to run the business especially effectively and in some areas it competed with not so organized from the inside workshops - here we still have to remember that in the late Middle Ages and during the Renaissance, workshops in which only men were allowed actively “squeeze” themselves for the sake of expanding clientele and arrived before such women's activities, such as tailoring or making beer. In general, the runners did not find understanding at all levels of society, no matter how good their deeds. Their communities were expelled, and it seemed like a good deed to kill the old woman.
Nevertheless, despite the forced wanderings around Europe in search of a quiet corner, the eternal discontent of those in power, bad rumors, the runaway communities existed for a long time - there were too many women ready to live in constant readiness to move, but not to return home to the tyrants-fathers or relatives who are ready to kill for a poor inheritance.

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