AT THE heart of several cities in Belgium lies an unexpected treasure. A gate in a high brick wall creaks open, to reveal a cluster of small, whitewashed, steep-roofed houses round a church. Cobbled alleyways run between them and tiny lawns, thickly planted with flowers, grow in front of them. The cosiness, the neatness and the quiet suggest a hortus conclusus, a medieval metaphor both for virginal women and the walled garden of paradise.
Any veiled women seen there now, however, processing to Mass or tying up hollyhocks in their dark habits and white wimples, are ghosts. Marcella Pattyn was the last of them, ending a way of life that had endured for 800 years.
These places were not convents, but beguinages, and the women in them were not nuns, but Beguines. In these communities, which sprang up spontaneously in and around the cities of the Low Countries from the early 13th century, women led lives of prayer, chastity and service, but were not bound by vows. They could leave; they made their own rules, without male guidance; they were encouraged to study and read, and they were expected to earn their keep by working, especially in the booming cloth trade. They existed somewhere between the world and the cloister, in a state of autonomy which was highly unusual for medieval women and highly disturbing to medieval men…
82 year old Panagiotis Moulatsioti received tonsure from her son, Fr. Abbot Nektarios Moulatsioti, becoming a nun of the Holy Monastery of Sts. Augustine of Hippo and Seraphim of Sarov.
The Enthronement of The 105th Archbishop of Canterbury
The newly appointed Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby is enthroned today, installing him as the 105th Archbishop of Canterbury and head of the Church of England, in front of bishops and religious of the Anglican communion from around the world, the Prime Minister David Cameron, The Prince of Wales and other dignitaries.