Called the Venice of the North, Bruges or Brugge is a wonderful city near the Belgian coast, crossed by a maze of navigable canals that wind through fascinating Gothic architecture. Bruges, the capital of West Flanders, is simply fairy-tale: the historic center, included by UNESCO in the list of World Heritage Sites, is surrounded by an oval moat that follows the route of the ancient and now disappeared medieval fortifications and is a whirlwind of picturesque cobbled streets that connect charming squares dominated by historic churches and ancient buildings with stepped gables. One of the most famous areas of Bruges is undoubtedly the Beghinage. This name refers to a complex of picturesque buildings once inhabited by the beghine, fraternities of lay women. These women, widowed after the Crusades and fearing for their safety, used to gather in beghinages. These are lay sisterhoods that respect the Catholic values of obedience and chastity, but that nevertheless allow the women who belong to them to maintain control over their own patrimony. The beghinage of Bruges, consisting of thirty white houses, was founded in 1245 by Margaret of Constantinople, Countess of Flanders. The Beguines are no longer there since 1928, in their place today live Benedictine nuns. Inside the beghinage, in addition to the houses, there is a church and a courtyard. Of the 1500 Beguines who lived in Belgium until a century ago, only one remains today, in Kortrijk.