The Begijnhof is an old inner court in the centre of Amsterdam. It dates back to the Middle Ages when it was the home of the Beguines, a religious community of older women who devoted much of their time to caring for the sick.
These women had to be unmarried, to make a vow of chastity and to promise obedience to the parish priest. However, they were not expected to make a vow of poverty, they were free to dispose of their own possessions. They could renounce their vows at any moment and leave the Beguinage, for instance, to get married.
As a consequence of the Alteration (1578), the Beguines had to hand over their church. It was given to the English and since then is known as the 'English Church'. The Beguines themselves continued to worship in one of the small houses in the court until 1682 when a new chapel was opened.
The last Beguine died in 1971. Nowadays the houses are let to single women. The religious connection has gone.
(in Dutch and English)