Martyrs of Gorkum

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The Martyrs of Gorkum
Martyrs de Gorkum.jpg
Born16th century
Died9 July 1572, Brielle, County of Holland, Holy Roman Empire
Martyred byThe Watergeuzen
Means of martyrdomhanging
Venerated inCatholic Church
(Netherlands and the Order of Friars Minor)
Beatified14 November 1675, Rome, Papal States, by Pope Clement X
Canonized29 June 1867[1], Rome, Papal States, by Pope Pius IX
Major shrineChurch of St. Nicholas, Brussels, Belgium
Feast9 July
Notable martyrsNicholas Pieck; Hieronymus of Weert; Theodorus van der Eem; Nicasius Janssen; Willehad of Denmark; Godefried of Mervel; Antonius of Weert; Antonius of Hoornaer; Franciseus de Roye of Brussels; Godefried van Duynsen of Gorkum, Joannes van Hoornaer, Jacobus Lacops of Oudenaar, Adrianus Janssen of Hilvarenbeek, Andreas Wouters of Heynoord and Joannes Lenartz of Oisterwijk
19 Martyrs of Gorcum

The Martyrs of Gorkum (Dutch: Martelaren van Gorcum) were a group of 19 Dutch Catholic clerics, secular & religious, who were hanged on 9 July 1572 in the town of Brielle (or Den Briel) by militant Dutch Calvinists during the 16th century religious wars—specifically, the Dutch Revolt against Spanish rule, which developed into the Eighty Years' War.


In the first half of the Sixteenth Century, various forms of Protestantism—particularly, Lutheranism and Calvinism—were spreading through a great part of Europe. In the Low Countries, then under the rule of Spain, Emperor Charles V and his son King Philip II instituted a systematic campaign to root out the new religious movements, which resulted in a certain level of political resentment towards the authorities, including the Catholic Church.[citation needed]

By 1572 the Netherlands were in open revolt against Spanish rule, while in the internal rivalry among the Protestant denominations, Calvinism managed to suppress Lutheranism. On 1 April of the next year, Calvinist forces and a rebel group called the Watergeuzen (Sea Beggars) captured Brielle (Den Briel) and later Vlissingen (Flushing).[2]

In June, Dordrecht and Gorkum fell, and at the latter the rebels captured nine Franciscans: Nicholas Pieck, guardian of Gorkum; Hieronymus of Weert, vicar; Theodorus van der Eem of Amersfoort; Nicasius Janssen of Heeze; Willehad of Denmark; Godefried of Mervel; Antonius of Weert; Antonius of Hoornaer, and Franciscus de Roye of Brussels. To these were added two lay brothers from the same friary, Petrus of Assche and Cornelius of Wijk bij Duurstede. At almost the same time the Calvinists arrested the parish priest of Gorkum, Leonardus Vechel of 's-Hertogenbosch, and his assistant.[2]

Also imprisoned were Godefried van Duynsen of Gorkum, a priest in his native city, and Joannes Lenartz of Oisterwijk, a canon regular from a nearby priory and spiritual director for the monastery of Augustinian nuns in Gorkum. To these fifteen were later added four more companions: Joannes van Hoornaer (alias known as John of Cologne), a Dominican of the Cologne province and parish priest not far from Gorkum, who when apprised of the incarceration of the clergy of Gorkum hastened to the city in order to administer the sacraments to them and was seized and imprisoned with the rest; Jacobus Lacops of Oudenaar, a Norbertine, who became a curate in Monster, South Holland; Adrianus Janssen of Hilvarenbeek, a Premonstratensian canon and at one time parish priest in Monster, who was sent to Brielle with Jacobus Lacops. Last was Andreas Wouters of Heynoord.[2]

The Apotheosis of the Martyrs of Gorkum 1572, print made by Jean-Baptiste Nolin after a painting by Johan Zierneels, 1675

In prison at Gorkum (from 26 June to 6 July 1572), the first 15 prisoners were transferred to Brielle, arriving there on 8 July.[3] On their way to Dordrecht they were exhibited for money to the curious. The following day, William de la Marck, Lord of Lumey, commander of the Gueux de mer, had them interrogated and ordered a disputation. In the meantime, four others arrived. It was demanded of each that he abandon his belief in the Transubstantiation, the doctrine of the real presence of Christ in the Blessed Sacrament, as well as the belief in the Papal supremacy. All remained firm in their faith. Meanwhile, there came a letter from the Prince of Orange, William the Silent, which enjoined all those in authority to leave priests and religious unmolested. Despite this call, on 9 July, they were hanged in a turfshed.[2]


A shrub bearing 19 white flowers is said to have sprung up at the site of their martyrdom. Many miracles have since been attributed to the intercession of the Gorkum Martyrs, especially the curing of hernias.[3] The beatification of the martyrs took place on 14 November 1675, and their canonization on 29 June 1867.[1][4] Their elevation to sainthood, which took place on the Feast of Saints Peter and Paul, was part of grand celebrations marking 1,800 years since the traditional year for the martyrdom of the two apostles in Rome.[5]

For many years the place of their martyrdom in Brielle has been the scene of numerous pilgrimages and processions. The reliquary of their remains is now enshrined in the Church of Saint Nicholas, Brussels, Belgium.

The 19 martyrs[edit]

St. Anthony of Weert, O.F.M.

There were 11 Franciscan friars or Minderbroeders (Friars Minor), one Dominican friar or Predikheer, two Norbertine canons regular and a local canon regular, or witheren and five wereldheren (secular clergy). The 19 put to death on 9 July 1572 were:[2][6]

  1. Leonard van Veghel (born 1527), spokesman, secular priest, and since 1566 pastor of Gorkum
  2. Peter of Assche (born 1530), Franciscan lay brother
  3. Andrew Wouters (born 1542), secular priest, pastor of Heinenoord in the Hoeksche Waard
  4. Nicasius of Heeze (born 1522), Franciscan friar, theologian and priest
  5. Jerome of Weert (born 1522), Franciscan friar, priest, pastor in Gorcum
  6. Anthony of Hoornaar, Franciscan friar and priest
  7. Godfried van Duynen (born 1502), secular priest, former pastor in northern France
  8. Willehad of Denmark (born 1482), Franciscan friar and priest
  9. James Lacobs (born 1541), Norbertine canon
  10. Francis of Roye (born 1549), Franciscan friar and priest
  11. John of Cologne, Dominican friar, pastor in Hoornaar near Gorkum
  12. Anthony of Weert (born 1523), Franciscan friar and priest
  13. Theodore of der Eem (born c. 1499–1502), Franciscan friar and priest, chaplain to a community of Franciscan Tertiary Sisters in Gorkum
  14. Cornelius of Wijk bij Duurstede (born 1548), Franciscan lay brother
  15. Adrian van Hilvarenbeek (born 1528), Norbertine canon and pastor in Monster, South Holland
  16. Godfried of Mervel, Vicar of Melveren, Sint-Truiden (born 1512), Franciscan priest, vicar of the friary in Gorkum
  17. Jan of Oisterwijk (born 1504), Augustinian canon regular, a chaplain for the Beguinage in Gorkum
  18. Nicholas Poppel (born 1532), secular priest, chaplain in Gorkum
  19. Nicholas Pieck (born 1534), Franciscan friar, priest and theologian, Guardian of the friary in Gorkum, his native city


  1. ^ a b "Martyrs of Gorkum", Oxford Reference
  2. ^ a b c d e Albers, Petrus Henricus. "The Martyrs of Gorkum" in The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 6. New York: Robert Appleton Company (1909). Accessed 9 July 2013.
  3. ^ a b Dominican Friars, Province of St. Joseph (8 July 2012). "Dominican Saints 101: St. John of Cologne" Accessed 9 July 2013.
  4. ^ Müller, Daniela et al, Iconoclasm and Iconoclash, Brill, 2007 ISBN 9789047422495
  5. ^ McCarthy, Kathleen. "The martyrs of Gorkum - a painting in the Goold collection", Footprints, Volume 30 Issue 2 (Dec 2015), ISSN 0015-9115
  6. ^ Butler, Alban. "July 9: SS. Martyrs of Gorcum" in Lives of the Saints, Vol. VII, (1866). Accessed 9 July 2013.