On my first day at the Béguinage, I was shown ‘the Trente,’ the convent chapel, and welcomed to pray there whenever I wanted. It is a deliciously warm and welcoming place with small pews for possibly 20-30 Sisters. Prayer has been done there for over 500 years and you are drawn into the sweetness and peace of the chapel. There are Béguines blessedly buried under the marble floor; it’s now carpeted over but if you peek at the corners you can see the old stone grave engravings. The stained glass window commemorates the last Béguine who oversaw the change of guardianship of the Béguinage from the Béguines to the Benedictine Sisters nearly 100 years ago now. Two paintings adorn the walls; one of Marie Alacoque who received locutions from God and the stigmata. She thought everyone heard from God like that! The other is a lovely Virgin and Child.
The chapel is referred to as the Trente because that is the house number, and the entrance is the old Béguine entrance with a statue of the Virgin and Child above. #28 is the sisters normal entrance, and #26 and #24 the ‘portiere’ where a visitor can pull the bell pull, and it will be answered by a lady – usually living in one of the Béguinage homes on the courtyard – and your summons responded to. #22 is the guesthouse door. All of these entrances usher you into the enclosure of the monastery and its quiet, recollected and prayerful life.