Rosary is every day at 4 pm. The sisters leave their work – sortent des trous – literally “come out of their holes” in French, to come to the side aisle of the church and pray the rosary before the 900-year-old statue of the Virgin Mary, the oldest Our Lady statue in Brugge. The repetitions begin and waft up and echo into the quiet of the late afternoon church. On any day there are a varied selection of visitors: oblates and regulars who come off and on, chance tourists delighted to have happened on to the sisters at their prayers and families with children. All stop for a moment, rest and sit for a decade or two adding a prayer of their own. The families, mothers or fathers with children, teach the children to light a candle for a sick or special grandparent. The smallish side aisle where the rosary is repeated has a choice of candles, varied sizes for lighting and purchase. The little ones unabashedly stare at the sisters, enthralled by the black floor length habits and white veils traditional of the Beguines and worn by the Benedictine sisters. They always receive a welcome and a special smile especially from the sister who has had children of her own. These lighted candles are then carefully and lovingly arranged and tended by a sister from a different order who lives within the Béguinnage walls and sings the Divine offices with the Benedictine sisters.
Mary is very lovely albeit in the stylized genre of the 1100s. Today as I passed Mary, there were two new plants each with a prominent bright red heart in them. Yes the Virgin Mary is the Valentine of the Convent and the Béguinnage.