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A beguinage, from the French term béguinage, is an architectural complex which was created to house beguines: lay religious women who lived in community without taking vows or retiring from the world. The Grand Béguinage of Leuven is a well preserved and completely restored historical quarter containing a dozen streets in the south of downtown Leuven. About 3 hectares in size, with some 300 apartments in almost 100 houses, it is one of the largest remaining béguinages in the Low Countries. It stretches on both sides of the river Dijle, which splits into two canals inside the béguinage, thus forming an island. The complete béguinage is owned by the University of Leuven and used as a campus, especially for housing students and academic guests.