Directly behind the Amsterdam Museum you can find the Begijnhof, nowadays an oasis of peace in the bustling heart of the city centre. Around the year 1150, a group of devout women decided to join a religious community for the main purpose of caring for the sick people and providing education. These women were the first 'begijnen', although this name was not used at the time. The women were not nuns, nor did they live in seclusion from a monastery all their lives. They did not know any founders or did not made lifelong vows. They had to be unmarried, but they could withdraw their vows at any time and leave the Begijnhof, for example, to get married.
The Begijnhof consisted of small houses and a church, around a courtyard that was closed at night. During the Reformation, the begijnen had to give up their church to the English. It has since been referred to as the 'English Church'. The medieval houses were rebuilt or replaced over time, but the wooden facade of the house at number 34 has been preserved. The house dates from the second half of the 15th century and was reconstructed in 1957 using the original materials. The Begijnhof in Amsterdam can be visited daily.