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The Great Beguinage Leuven is an architectural complex inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List. It is a completely original, restored building, whose pedigree dates back to the 12th century. Beguinage covers a total area of 3 hectares and is a kind of "city in the city", having its own streets, residential and farm buildings.
The name beginaż comes from the secular association of women (beginki) and men (begardzi). The first communities appeared at the beginning of the 12th century in the territory of present-day Belgium and the Netherlands. The alleged founder of the congregation was Father Lambert le Bège of Liège. He proclaimed the need to establish communities devoted to religious life and charity, whose members did not take religious vows.
The oldest testimonies of the beginner's existence in Leuven come from 1232. The peak of quotations was in the 17th century, when the congregation had 360 members. The last pastor of the Great Beginage, Julien Sterckx, died in 1977 at the age of 107, and the last beginka passed away in 1988.