Beghards (bĕgˈərdz) [key], religious associations of men in Europe, organized similarly to the Beguines. They resembled a Franciscan group, with whom they were later often confused. Of unknown origin, they first appeared at Louvain in 1220 and soon spread throughout the Netherlands and into Germany, France, and Italy. Although they survived into the 15th cent., they were from the beginning unpopular and mistrusted. The Beghards were condemned by the Council of Vienne (1311), allegedly for teaching that those who gain perfection in this life cannot commit sin and therefore cannot be blamed for any act. This idea was foreshadowed in the Albigensian teachings. The Beghards were also influenced by the pantheism of a mystical sect, the Brothers of the Free Spirit, which flourished about Cologne.
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