The Bloemardine

The Bloemardine

Have you ever noticed the statue of the Bloemardine on Brussels City Hall (rue de la Tête d'Or, 2nd floor, to the right of the central window)? What do you know of its history?

We go back in time to explore the curious personality of Heilwige Bloemard, better known as "(the) Bloemardine". This great lady, born in Brussels at the end of the 13th century, was a follower of a movement of thought known as the "Brethren of the Free Spirit". This movement, which was close to that of the Beguines, advocated an ideal of poverty which, consequently, cleansed human beings of all sin. God would become incarnate in them, which freed them from all obedience and allowed them the freedom to fulfil their desires.

In short, if we look beyond the theory, we can deduce that, according to this movement, humans were allowed to indulge all their passions, which was not necessarily to the liking of the ecclesiastical authorities of the Middle Ages, who would quickly identified the movement as heresy.

Heilwige most likely possessed superior intelligence and remarkable oratorial talent. She composed a handful of texts illustrating the doctrine she defended, but they have not survived to the present day. Their content is a kind of "sensual piety"... seen at the time by some as a corruption of morals, evoking impure carnal love! Of course, that’s all a matter for discussion…

The Bloemardine's school of thought enjoyed a degree of dissemination and protection, mainly because she belonged to a noble family in Brussels, which had produced city aldermen.

Nevertheless, her movement was not uniformly popular. In medieval society, men did not tolerate the power of feminin groups or ways of thinking - this was also the case for the Beguines - and to discredit them, they were presented as depraved and sexually immoral.

In 1975, Brussels feminists from the "Porte ouverte" movement celebrated the 640th anniversary of the death of the Bloemardine by laying flowers at the wall of City Hall and putting up a sign paying tribute to her and declaring her "Brussels' first feminist".