Martyrs of Gorkum

July 9

Today is the feast day of the Martyrs of Gorkum. Orate pro nobis.

A group of nineteen martyrs were put to death with great cruelty by Protestant Calvinists in Gorkum, Holland on this date 1572. There were ten Franciscans, two Premonstratensians, a Dominican, a Canon Regular, four secular priests, and one layman in the group. (3)

In the year 1572, Luther and Calvin had already wrested from the Church a great part of Europe. The iconoclastic storm had swept through the Netherlands, and was followed by a struggle between Lutheranism and Calvinism in which the latter was victorious.  In June, Dortrecht and Gorkum fell into Calvinists hands and at Gorkum they captured nine Franciscans. These were: Nicholas Pieck, guardian of Gorkum, Hieronymns 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 Franciseus de Roye, of Brussels. To these were added two lay brothers from the same monastery, Petrus of Assche and Cornelius of Wyk near Duurstede.

Almost at the same time the Calvinists laid their hands on the learned parish priest of Gorkum, Leonardus Vechel of Bois-le-Duc, who had made distinguished studies in Louvain, and also has assistant Nicolaas Janssen, surnamed Poppel, of Welde in Belgium. With the above, were also imprisoned Godefried van Duynsen, of Gorkum who was active as a priest in his native city, and Joannes Lenartz of Oisterwljk, an Augustinian and director of the convent of Augustinian nuns in Gorkum.

To these fifteen, who from the very first underwent all the sufferings and torments of the persecution, were later added four more companions: Joannes van Hoornaer, 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 after leading a frivolous life, being disobedient to his order, and neglectful of his religious duties, reformed, became a curate in Monster, Holland and was imprisoned in 1572; Adrianus Janssen of Hilvarenbeek, at one time a Premonstratensian and parish priest in Monster, who was sent to Brielle with Jacobus Lacops; and lastly Andreas Wouters of Heynoord, whose conduct was not edifying up to the time of his arrest, but who made ample amends by his martyrdom.

After enduring much suffering and abuse in the prison at Gorkum (26 June-6 July) the first fifteen martyrs were transferred to Brielle. On their way to Dortrecht they were exhibited for money to the curious and arrived at Brielle 13 July. On the following day, Lumey, the commander of the Watergeuzen, caused the martyrs to be interrogated and ordered a sort of disputation. In the meantime the four other martyrs also arrived. It was exacted of each that he abandon his belief in the Blessed Sacrament and in papal supremacy. All remained firm in their faith.

Meanwhile there came a letter from William of Orange which enjoined all those in authority to leave priests and religious unmolested. Nevertheless Lumey caused the martyrs to be hanged in the night of 9 July, in a turfshed amid cruel mutilations. (2)

The Martyrs

John Oosterwican was director to a convent of nuns of the same order in Gorcum; he was then very old, and had often prayed that God would honour him with the crown of martyrdom.

The names of the eleven Franciscans were Nicholas Pick, Jerom, a native of Werden, in the county of Horn, Theodoric of Embden, native of Amorfort, Nicaise, Johnson, native of Heze, Wilhade, native of Denmark, Godfrey of Merveille, Antony of the town of Werden, Antony of Hornaire, a village near Gorcum, Francis Rodes, native of Brussels. These were priests and preachers. The other two were lay-brothers, namely, Peter of Asca, a village in Brabant, and Cornelius of Dorestate, a village now called Wick, in the territory of Utrecht. The three curates were Leonard Vechel, Nicholas Poppel, and Godfrey Dunen. This last was a native of Gorcum, who having been rector of the university of Paris, where he had studied and taught, was some time curate in Holland, near the French territories, but resigned his curacy and lived at Gorcum.

The other martyrs were John Oosterwican mentioned above; John, a Dominican of the province of Cologne, curate of Hornaire; Adrian Hilvarenbeck, a Norbertin of Middleburg, who served a parish at Munster, a village near the mouth of the Meuse; James Lacop of the same order and monastery, an assistant in a neighbouring parish to Munster; and Andrew Walter, a secular priest, curate of Heinort, near Dort. (4)

They were declared martyrs, and beatified by Clement X. in 1674. The relation of several miracles performed by their intercession and relics which was sent to Rome in order to their beatification, is published by the Bollandists.  The greater part of their relics is kept in the church of the Franciscan friars at Brussels, whither they were secretly conveyed from Bril. See the accurate history of their martyrdom written by the learned doctor William Estius, printed at Douay in 1603. (4)

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