Martyrs of Gorkum(Gorinchem)

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This story might surprise many for the Netherlands is known as a tolerant and multi cultural society, this wasn’t always the case.

The Martyrs of Gorkum (Dutch: Martelaren van Gorinchem) were a group of 19 Dutch Catholic clerics and friars 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 in the Low Countries.

As of 1572, Lutheranism and Calvinism had spread through a great part of Europe. In the Netherlands this was followed by a struggle between the two denominations in which Calvinism was victorious. On 1 April of the next year, Calvinist forces and a rebel group called the Watergeuzen (Sea Beggars) conquered Brielle (Den Briel) and later Vlissingen.

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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.

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.

In prison at Gorkum (from 26 June to 6 July 1572), the first 15 prisoners were transferred to Brielle, arriving there on 8 July.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 Blessed Sacrament and in papal supremacy. All remained firm in their faith. Meanwhile, a letter arrived from the Prince of Orange, William the Silent, which enjoined all those in authority to leave priests and religious unmolested. But to no avail.On 9 July, they were hanged in a turf shed.

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A shrub bearing 19 white flowers is said to have sprung up at the site of the martyrdom. Many miracles have been attributed to the intercession of the Gorkum martyrs, especially the curing of hernias.The beatification of the martyrs took place on 14 November 1675, and their canonization on 29 June 1867. They were canonised on the feast of Saints Peter and Paul, as part of the grand celebrations to mark the 1800th anniversary of the martyrdom of Peter and Paul AD67.

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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.

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Stratford Martyrs

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The Stratford Martyrs were a group of 11 men and two women who were burned at the stake together for their Protestant beliefs, at Stratford-le-Bow or Stratford near London in England on 27 June 1556, during the Marian persecutions.

Protestants were executed under heresy laws during persecutions against Protestant religious reformers for their religious denomination during the reigns of Henry VIII (1509–1547) and Mary I of England (1553–1558}

A detailed description of the event is in John Foxe’s book, The Acts and Monuments.Foxe lists those executed.

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The 16 accused had been brought to Newgate in London from various parts of Essex and Hertfordshire. There, beginning on 6 June 1556, at an ecclesiastical tribunal under the direction of Thomas Darbyshire, the chancellor of Edmund Bonner the Bishop of London, they were charged with nine counts of heresy, to which they all either assented or remained silent. All of them were condemned to death and later published a letter detailing their beliefs in rebuttal of a sermon that had been preached against them by John Feckenham, the Dean of St Paul’s. On the 27 June 1556, the remaining 13 were brought from London to Stratford, where the party was divided into two and held “in several chambers”. Here, the sheriff unsuccessfully attempted to persuade each group to recant, by telling them falsely that the other group had already done so.

The executions were said to have been attended by a crowd of 20,000. The exact place of the execution is unknown; the most likely site is thought to have been Fair Field in Bow (then known as Stratford-le-Bow), north of the present day Bow Church DLR station.An alternative suggested location is Stratford Green, much of which is now occupied by the University of East London Stratford Campus; however, this theory seems to date only from the erection of a monument to the martyrs in the nearby churchyard of the Parish Church of St John the Evangelist in 1879.

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According to Foxe, “eleven men were tied to three stakes, and the two women loose in the midst without any stake; and so they were all burnt in one fire”

In 1879 a large monument was erected in St John’s churchyard in Stratford Broadway, to commemorate the 13 and others who were executed or tortured in Stratford during the persecutions. The memorial is Grade II listed on the National Heritage List for England.