Paintings of Biblical figures, Beguines, sisters, and wealthy Flemish nobility accompany me as I walk the monastery halls heading toward Lauds, Midday and Compline, or as I simply wander the cloister heading for a cup of coffee. The convent chapel and the library have wonderful paintings of Biblical scenes and Saints as does the recreation salon. The office where classes are held by Skype for my students in the US also has paintings on the wall. “What are they?” my students ask. Occasionally, (I hope not too occasionally) they are not listening to me, but peering at the wall behind me. Looking around I see a painting not noticed before and respond! All of these paintings speak of bygone devoted eras, silent witnesses to faith in God, devotions of the patron, the painter, the family from which the lovely painting came, or all of the above. The paintings have come to rest and bless us, and no doubt past and future generations also, here in the Begijnhof.
The Begijnhof church has exquisite life-sized paintings — nothing small for these 14th and 15th century painters. The painters and the populace believed God was great, and so should the paintings be to envelop us with the majesty of God and His love for us, his creatures and children. “What is man that thou art mindful of him? The son of man that thou visiteth him?” The visitors to our Begijnhof church, and there are gazillions of them, are blessed by the shortest stop in our church and by the shortest glance around our church. The Begijnhof is a UNESCO site and on every tourist’s and tourist group’s list. Summer is here at the Begijnof and the paintings will continue to silently bless the faithful and the ‘not so much’ as they continue their active lives on our monastery and church walls.