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11. The Hedge-Preaching in Holland, July 1566


Explanatory Comment: This extract is taken from a history of the Reformation in the Low Countries which appeared between 1671 and 1704. Geeraerdt Brandt (1626-85) was a Remonstrant minister in Holland who established a reputation as a historian, poet and dramatist. The first volume of his history of the Reformation goes as far as 1600. The subsequent volumes in which he treated the synod of Dordrecht of 1618-19 provoked an outcry on account in orthodox Calvinist circles on account of their Remonstrant bias. 

Brandt's preference for eirenical figures caused him to appreciate Erasmus above Luther and to admire moderate Protestants. The value of his history for our purposes lies in his practice of employing original sources, some of which are no longer extant and from which he often quoted at length. In his account of the hedge-preaching and the iconoclasm (of which he thoroughly disapproved), he made extensive use of the memorials of the Amesterdam merchant and moderate Calvinist Laurens Jacobsz. Reael (1536-1601), only fragments of which have survived. 

Text: About the month of July of this year 1566, one Cornelius van Diest ventured to preach in a wood near 's-Hertogenbosch. Thereafter meetings were held regularly in the same place every Sunday and feastday. Many burghers from the said town repaired there, as likewise from Gorcum, Heusden, Zaltbommel, and other neighbouring towns. After the assembly dispersed the preacher was taken by boat to Hedel, where he lodged with the priest, who had begun to attack popery in his sermons more than a year before. Natives of Den Bosch used to travel there daily in a dozen or so boats to hear him preach.

In order to break up the meeting in the Boschveld, and to arrest the preacher, the schout of 's-Hertogenbosch asked the town government for reinforcements of sixty men from each schutterij. But this was refused by the third member [of the corporation] who said that this was none of their business; but the schout, and the Bishop Sonnius, together with the clergy, and those that had been for setting a bishop over them, might do so if they pleased. It was then proposed by the first two members that every burgher who attended [the meetings] should be fined six guilders, but this too was rejected. Therefore the people went out to hear the sermons without any molestation and brought their children with them to be baptized. But upon the feast of St.Lawrence [10 August], the minister was so bold as to preach at Deuteren, close to the town, and after the sermon his hearers, many of whom were armed, escorted him into the town, via the St.Janspoort and along the Postelstraat to the Vughterdijk, as far as the house of Dirk van Tiel close to the Vughterpoort. On the following Sunday, 18 August, two preachers gave sermons at Deuteren who were lodged at the aforesaid house in the same manner. Whilst things carried on in this way in Brabant, the Reformed met openly at Tournai, reportedly as many as 8000 at a time, and at Lille they were even more numerous. At Valenciennes and at other towns children were baptized by the new preachers in the open fields, and several persons married.

In Holland the public exercise of the Reformed Religion was also introduced at this time, the occasion of which together with the most remarkable events, we shall here set before the reader, as we found them in the Gedenkschriften [Memoirs] of Laurens Jacobsz. Reael, one of the chiefest and most zealous promoters of religious liberty, and who was several times afterwards one of the schepenen, or aldermen, of Amsterdam as well as councillor, captain and colonel of the trained bands and finally one of the commissioners or directors of the Admiralty in Zeeland.

Floris van Pallandt, Count of Culemborg, one of the heads of the confederated nobility, himself purged the church in his own town of images at the time the preaching began to prevail so much in Brabant and Flanders. He allowed a certain minister, named Gerardus, to preach publicly after the new way. To hear this man many went there from the adjacent parts, and even from Holland, where there were many who secretly wished for the Reformation, though the number of such as dared to profess it openly was at that time very small. But those few, excited by the zeal of those everywhere, consulted with each other, and with the preachers whom they knew, whether this was not the right time to begin their public meetings in Holland, at least in the countryside. 

But in the whole of the said province only two ministers were available for this task at that time, one of whom was Pieter Gabriel the Fleming, who had formerly preached at Bruges and thereabouts, and the other was Jan Arentsz. of Alkmaar, a basketmaker by trade. Pieter Gabriel then lived with his wife Elisabeth, who was childless, in the Engelsesteeg at Amsterdam, where every Sunday he expounded the Heidelberg Catechism, and those who were of his congregation came to hear him, a few at a time, not without great fear and danger of their lives, because of the cruelty of the magistrates of that town, which upon account of the burning and slaughter of people there for their faith, was known not as Amsterdam but Moorderdam [Murderdam]. Jan Arentsz. lived with his wife and children at Kampen, where he also used to preach in secrecy for a few persons and now and then he went from there to Holland to visit and encourage the secret congregations there. He had been driven from Alkmaar by the fiery zeal of Master Elbert Huik, an Amsterdammer, who had rented or farmed the benefice of the church at Alkmaar from the canons of Utrecht for the sum of five hundred guilders per annum. When he discovered how greatly his income had been abated, since the rise of Luther, and having in vain desired to be released from his agreement at Utrecht, he journeyed to Rome in order to be relieved by the Pope. Having returned (with what success we know not) he began to rage and thunder against the Lutherans and other heretics, so furiously that Jan Arentsz. was forced to flee and to settle at Kampen. Albert Gerritsz., who was likewise a basketmaker, and Pieter Cornelisz., who like Jan Arentsz. had learnt basketmaking from Albert, fled elsewhere and kept up the congregations in the country by their exhortation and preaching. The congregation of the Reformed at Leiden, was likewise obliged to take refuge in flight upon the violent complaint of the same Master Elbert. But this persecutor was visited not long after with such a madness and despair of God's mercy that he had to be to shut up in the madhouse at Amsterdam, where he lay for more than twenty-five years, dying in the year 1594.

In order to deliberate about public preaching at Amsterdam, a few of the burghers invited Jan Arentsz. to come there from Kampen. But the ruling burgomasters, observing what had happened in other parts, and hearing whispers that something of the like nature would be attempted in Holland, assembled the Oudraad [Old Council]1, that is, all the twelve burgomasters on 5 July. After informing them of the rumour that on the following Sunday two ministers would preach outside the town, they wanted to know how they should act in this matter. It was decided to lay it before the Council of XXXVI. When these met next day, they advised them to wait a few days, so that the people might not be alarmed and in the meantime diligently to inquire what foundation there was for such a report.

But on 8 July six of the principal burghers had a meeting with Jan Arentsz. (Pieter Gabriel had gone elsewhere) outside St. Anthonispoort, between the town and the Houtwal beside the IJ on the outer dike in the reeds, for they did not dare venture within the town. These were Reynier Cant, Vranck de Wael, Cornelis Jansz. Coster, Albert Heyes, Willem Florisz., and Laurens Jacobsz. in the Gouden Reael op 't Water. In this small gathering Jan Arentsz. delivered a very intense and zealous prayer, though in a soft voice, beseeching God to send down his Holy Spirit among them, so that they might take such resolutions as would tend most to the honour of his Divine Majesty. After which, having weighed up all the difficulties they unanimously resolved, laying aside all fear and danger of their lives, to begin public preaching in Holland, as had been already done in the other provinces of the Low Countries. It was then further agreed that they should meet again in the afternoon to consider a means of putting this design into effect. But whilst they were returning one after another into the town, they heard the great bell of the townhall ring out, upon which two of them repaired to the Dam, and heard the proclamation of the most recent placard from the Hof [provincial court], which had been sent by Lady Margaret [of Parma]. This repeated the ban on all conventicles and unlawful assemblies, both public and private, on pain of hanging for the preachers and teachers with the forfeiture of all their estates to the behoof and benefit of those that should apprehend them; and in case they had no property, then the persons who caused them to be arrested, should receive a reward of 600 flemish (reckoning forty groats to the ) from the royal treasury. All who furnished or provided places for such preachings were to be treated in the same way. Those who harboured or maintained the preachers were liable to capital punishment; and those who were discovered at such meetings were to be punished at the discretion of the judges, having regard however to their rank, as also whether they went there out of mere curiosity, or whether they went armed with clubs and staves to defend the aforesaid preachers: in the latter case they were to be banished on pain of hanging [if they returned]. This proclamation rather alarmed the aforesaid six burghers, but the scorn with which the common people received the placard, encouraged them again. Some of them cried, 'the priests are afraid of the gallows, and it looks as if they shall come to it'. Others said, 'it will not be easy for them to kick against the pricks', and yet others, 'that the said placard would at once cause public preaching in Holland too, where it had not yet happened.'

Then they returned, as they had resolved, to the appointed place, and at the appointed time, and after calling upon God in prayer, it was agreed, and measures were concerted, to preach openly to the people in all parts of Holland, except around Amsterdam, where it should be delayed a while for fear of the magistrates, who seeing that part of the citizen body, which was for several reasons hostile to them, was also estranged from the Roman persuasion, made use of the Church's arm, to keep them in subjection. And accordingly, on 13 July, the burgomasters asked the vroedschap to decide what means they should use in case any attempts were made to preach within the jurisdiction of the town. Whereupon it was resolved as yet to act discreetly in order not to provoke tumults among the people; but if anything of that sort happened, timely notice was to be given to the vroedschap, and the watch was to be held in readiness.

Next day, to wit 14 July, the first public preaching of the Reformed in Holland, took place in a field near Hoorn, in a field in front of the Regulierenklooster which one crosses as one goes from Blokker to Zwaag and De Bangerd.2 Jan Arentsz., the preacher, caused the people, who flocked there from the town and the nearby villages in great numbers, to hear him, first to sing a psalm, after which he prayed, and then preached. As chance would have it, the burgomasters with the schout Master Joost Huikesloot, his deputy Henrik Korver and two young gentlemen from South Holland were at that very time being entertained to dinner by the monks. These, hearing the noise of the people and not knowing what it might be, sent someone out who brought word that there was preaching. They were all amazed. The schout, the deputy schout, one of the monks and the two nobles got up and went to the ditch which separated the road from the monastery, close behind the preacher, with the intention perhaps of frightening him, but he continued with his discourse. Then one of the monks leapt over the ditch, making a hideous cry, in the hope of dispersing the people, but when no one stirred, the schout shouted (on hearing a reference to the tenth chapter of the gospel of the apostle John), 'Yes, yes, I'll teach you John chapter ten' and then returned to the monastery. The deputy schout, and the gentlemen heard the sermon out; and when they returned to the meal, they had the courage to tell the monks, that they had not been displeased with what they had heard.

About the same time the Heer van Brederode visited Hoorn and several other towns in Holland to recruit support secretly for the Compromise of the Nobility and to induce the chief inhabitants to signify their approval of the Compromise. At Amsterdam he invited a great number of them to his inn, at the Sign of the Prince, where they all entered into a mutual agreement for the defence of their common liberty and signed the Compromise, with the exception of Floris van Rodenburgh, who scrupled to set his hand to the paper, though he remained true to the cause, and afterwards spoke up strongly for liberty and acquitted himself to the end.

In the meanwhile the rumour of this preaching at Hoorn had spread throughout Holland; and it was given out that ministers were coming to several other places. Many of the inhabitants of Amsterdam, both burghers and strangers, longed to hear the Word in that town. At this those in charge of affairs among the Reformed at Amsterdam began to speak a little more freely, insinuating, that if they could be sure of a considerable number of hearers, they would soon find a preacher, but that he was unwilling to place himself and his flock in great danger, if only a small number came to hear, for they knew that the magistrates would do whatever was in their power to break up the assembly.

But there appeared so much zeal and warmth for such a meeting, that it was thought proper to assemble one on Sunday 21 July outside Haarlem, at Overveen, which fell under the jurisdiction of the Heer van Brederode. To make this known, care was taken to spread the following report at eleven in the morning on the previous day in the Warmoesstraat (where the merchants used then to meet): Tomorrow at ten o'clock there will be a sermon at Overveen and another at Alkmaar at the same time.

When this came to the ear of the burgomasters, they bribed some fellows shortly after midday to broadcast a false report that Reynier Cant would preach at the Overtoom on the Heiligeweg next day at the same time in order to confuse the people and to keep them away from Haarlem. But Cant saw through their scheme and he went at half past two in the afternoon with Laurens Jacobsz. Reael to the burgomasters gathered in 't Torentje3 and demanded to know whether they had caused this report about him to be spread. They answered in the affirmative, and that they had been told this by reputable persons. He then demanded to know his accusers, adding, that he perceived there was a plan afoot to bring about his death by using such false witnesses. But when they refused to name these persons, he told them plainly to their faces 'that they had themselves spread this rumour' and accused them 'of wronging him'. He added 'that they though they endeavoured by these contrivances to hinder the preaching outside Haarlem' -- these were his very words -- 'they would not succeed, for the work of the Lord must run its course, and neither all the devils in hell nor their lying instruments could prevent it. There will be preaching at Overveen and we expect also the same to occur shortly outside Amsterdam. The people are full of zeal, having seen through the deception of the Pope and the doctrine of Antichrist. At this minute all the boats and wagons in the town are crowded with people, leaving for Haarlem, to hear the Word of the Lord tomorrow, and we are likewise going there presently.'

It had been agreed among them before that the preacher, Pieter Gabriel, should go to Spaarndam that morning, with Cornelis Jansz. Coster, and stay the night there with the schout, who very much favoured the Reformed. They could then go directly to Overveen, without running the risk of being shut up in Haarlem, but Coster's unseasonable zeal led them both into the town. In the meantime the magistrates of Haarlem were informed by letters from the burgomasters of Amsterdam that there was a design to preach at Overveen, and exhorting then to do what they could to hinder it. Hereupon the vroedschap was summoned by the townbell at nine o'clock that evening to consider what they should do in this matter. The ringing of the bell so late in the evening put Coster, who was lodging with Pieter Gabriel at the house of one Ysbrant Staessz., a shipwright, into great fear. They guessed it was done on account of the preacher, for which reason they concealed him all night under a heap of wood chips. In the morning all the gates were kept shut. The people of Amsterdam, who filled all the hostelries in the town, did all they could to get out; some got over the town walls, and swam across the moats; some were taken away by boats which came to their assistance from outside; others were allowed to slip out by the schutters of Haarlem, when they opened the gates to let the milkmaids pass in and out. About nine o'clock it was announced that a certain vagabond, named Jacob Knuit, had threatened to set the town on fire, and that whoever discovered him would receive a reward of one hundred guilders. 

But at eleven o'clock the gates were opened, and then the others went in large numbers to Overveen, where the majority of the people, had for want of any other lodging slept the whole night in the fields. At last came the preacher himself. Then the people drove two stakes vertically into the ground and fixed a bar across, on which he might lean and support himself. After singing and praying, he took his text from Ephesians 2 [vv.8-10]; and though he was a weak and infirm man, he preached for about four hours long in the hot sun. He concluded with a fervent prayer for all degrees of men, especially for the government, in such a manner that there was hardly a dry eye to be seen. Some, including Bor,4 say that there were not more than three hundred people at this meeting, most of whom were women, and that there were about fifty men with arms to defend them. But Laurens Jacobsz. Reael, who was present, together with Reynier Cant, Cornelis Willemsz. Hooft, Aeghje Cornelisdr., Jan Jansz. Smit and many others from Amsterdam, testifies that as near as he could guess, there were about five thousand of both sexes; but he makes no mention of their being armed. The Heer Binkhorst who lived at Assum castle, of which he was then castellan, likewise attended this meeting, with all his family. 

Before the congregation broke up it was announced that another person would preach at the same place on the following day, dedicated by the Roman Church to Mary Magdalene, at nine in the morning. After this, Pieter Gabriel left with three men in a wagon for Alkmaar where he was to preach next day, which he did. But Laurens Reael was dispatched in haste to Amsterdam to learn how matters stood there and what decision [the Magistrates] had taken concerning the public preaching. Reaching the town quite late, he found the gate guarded by the watch, and he was informed by Egbert Roeloffsz., who was also a friend to the Reformed, that the vroedschap had met not only on Saturday, but on Sunday too. He learned further from

Anthonis van Houff, a member of the Council of XXXVI, (who secretly favoured the cause of the Reformed but was timid and cautious) that they had not yet reached any resolution about the burgomasters' repeated proposition, but that if the Reformed should proceed to hold their meetings near the town, they would then do what should be thought convenient. Reael returned to Overveen the following morning at eight o'clock with the news. The brethren who were thereupon encouraged to persist in their intention, having found that the magistrates, who usually acted with vigour and severity against them, now acted more slowly and remissly. Indeed they had good reason so to do, for they were in dire straits, being informed that preaching was being introduced everywhere at the same time, and not knowing how it would end, because the Compromise of the nobles daily grew bolder for liberty. They therefore continued with their sermons. Jan Arentsz. (who had preached the day before in a cornfield outside Alkmaar to vast numbers of people from the town and the surrounding villages) preached on this Monday at Overveen, on a text taken from Psalm 118, before a very large audience, for the gates [of Haarlem] were left open. Among those that heard him were several clergy, who were most astonished, that this basketmaker, a mere layman, should expound the Holy Scriptures so pertinently, and use such method and order in a sermon that lasted about four hours. After the sermon was over and he had been brought into a house, several of them were very keen to dispute with him about doctrinal differences, to which he as readily consented. When everyone had left and the Amsterdammers had returned home, they were asked what they had seen and heard. Some of them boldly replied: 'We have heard the Word of God, which the priests have obscured with human inventions and which they continue to corrupt to this day, preached to men clearly and purely.' Only a little before such statements would have cost them their lives.

Others ventured to speak out still more plainly against popery, recounting and censuring all the trafficking in the churches, the abuse of the sacraments, and the worshipping of bread, images, and saints departed. But the magistrates who had their informers in all corners of the town, took particular notice of the chief of these zealots, with the intention of severely punishing such boldness and freedom of speech in due time and place. 

On the following Thursday the Council was again assembled by the burgomasters, and it was then resolved that in future the schutters should guard the gates and the booms that secured the waterways into the town. In the meanwhile some leading men among the Reformed met at Buiksloot, on the other side of the IJ, together with the ministers whom they dare not leave in any walled town for, as a result of the public preaching, they had become too well-known: instead they were concealed at Assum castle, at the house of Jan Haviks at Zaandam and in other houses in Waterland. At this meeting it was agreed that preaching should begin near Amsterdam on the last day of July, and a place was appointed. Accordingly, when the day came, the word was spread throughout the town that there would be preaching at nine o'clock in a field outside the Haarlemmerpoort. But about eight o'clock or even before, while the people were going out in great numbers, a certain remonstrance (a duplicate of which had been delivered to the magistrates of Haarlem on the day when the second sermon was delivered at Overveen) was composed by Jan Arentsz., in the name of the faithful, assembled outside the town, and taken to the house of burgomaster Jan Claesz. van Hoppen by a certain skipper or seaman called Pieter van Grieken. He however refused to receive it, and he ordered the bearer to deliver it to the burgomasters, who were gathered in 't Torentje. He did accordingly, and they asked him from whom he had received it. He replied that he did not know the man, (it was Johan Pietersz. Reael) but that he knew it came from those who were now intending to teach outside the Haarlemmerpoort, and that he intended presently to return to them. Hereupon, after interrogating him about several matters relating to the preaching, and his answering what he knew or thought fit to disclose of it, they permitted him to return, and immediately assembled the vroedschap to whom this remonstrance was also addressed; then they caused it to be read.

It summarised the justness of the enterprise on which they had now embarked outside and ran in substance along the following lines: that possibly the magistrates might think they were justified in breaking up their meetings, on the basis of the gossip of some wicked and malicious persons, who had misrepresented their holy and religious exercises, on which they were engaged outside the town. These gave out that this preaching was set up by them out of levity and self-conceitedness, with the intention of drawing the people, naturally addicted to novelty, to them, in order to attempt some great matters; insinuating yet further that their doctrines tended to bring the King's placards into contempt, to excite disobedience, and even tumults and also to expose the magistrates. For these reasons, (lest the magistrates might act prematurely against them in order to prevent and punish them mistakenly) they had thought fit to represent their innocence by this imperfect writing. Calling God, the searcher of hearts, to be their witness that they, who by what they were now doing, had as it were laid down their necks upon the block, expecting every moment to be strangled or [otherwise] put to death, were not impelled by a frivolous, but rather by a sorrowful and broken spirit, which infirmity, they must, through God's promises and the support of the Holy Spirit overcome. Men of understanding might easily be convinced that they did not seek to gather followers, like Theudas of old, or like their contemporaries Jan Beukelsz., David Joris and others. Their only design was, after the example of the Apostle Paul, to bring men as chaste Brides to Christ. These had desired to be accounted servants of God and Christ, whose honour they alone sought. He must increase and be magnified and they must forsake themselves. They gloried not in the flesh, but would make their boast in the cross of Christ, as long as any breath remained in their bodies. And woe to them if they should do otherwise! If their teachers were simple and unlettered persons, God had his reasons for raising them up, the brightness of whose Glory was increased, by confounding the wise in their own wisdom, and by establishing the simple upon the cross, without the assistance of human wisdom. But that nevertheless they hoped more learned teachers would shortly appear among them. The promise of the Spirit of Truth was appropriated to God's people (among whom alone the fruits of the Holy Spirit were to be found), if they could now demonstrate to the whole world that the Truth of God was among them (of which, considering the earnest they had received of it from God, they had no room for doubt), it would then follow, that they had the Spirit of Truth, and that their doctrine did not tend to the destruction but to the salvation of men. But what need of words? Experience was the best argument; their accusers might (if they pleased) examine them, for they were always ready, according to the measure of their gifts, to render an account of their doctrine and discipline. They separated themselves from the papacy and avoided the unscriptural byways of the sectaries in order to escape the plagues which would befall these. As for the reproaches of being seditious persons, they must be content to bear it with Paul, without departing from their duty on that account. On the contrary, no doctrine set greater store by peace and submission. The magistrates might therefore rest assured that both preachers and hearers had nothing else in view than the advancement of the honour of God and Christ, the ease of their own consciences, and the salvation of many others; for the sake of the church, which had been concealed with the sanctuary [they wanted] to bring forth the cornerstone which had been rejected and the truth which had been calumniated, and to convince the world that they were innocent of those vile things for which they had long almost been silenced. They further humbly besought their lordships, either to hear their sermons themselves, or else to send out those shepherds that were to watch over the souls of their subjects so that they might discover whether anything were taught or advanced contrary to the doctrines of piety or to peace and unity, to the end they might instruct and correct those who went astray according to the Word of God. If any man could convince them of error, they were ready to make public confession of their mistakes and to forsake them in order to embrace a better; but if not, they begged they might be permitted to assert and maintain their own opinions in safety, and to contend after a Christian manner and in charity, for victory.

Whilst this remonstrance was debated by the Council, who thought fit to have the gates of the town immediately shut, the preaching continued, not far from the Haarlemmerpoort outside the liberties of the town, at a place called the Rietvink, right opposite the charterhouse, on the foreshore beyond the dike, in the third meadow. The preacher, Jan Arentsz., who had been brought there from Waterland in a boat accompanied by four or five people, was set up in a convenient place, and the people, who were almost too numerous to count, were all ranged to the leeward of him so that they might hear him more easily. The women sat closest and the men stood behind so that, besides keeping good order, they could hear well. When the sermon and singing were finished, the minister departed for Zaandam.

It was the practice of the burgomasters at that time to call together those who had formerly served in that office, on matters of any consequence, and [to consult] the Council of XXXVI, if the matter were of more than usual moment (as is still the custom). But in the case of uncommon difficulties they used then to convene the three schutterijen, each regiment of which consisted of twelve companies with as many captains, as making up the body of the commonalty. The vroedschap therefore, finding this business too weighty for them to determine alone, desired to know the opinion of the schutters. When each schutterij had accordingly been summoned to its artillery yard, the inconveniences of these field preachings were explained to each company, which was asked in turn whether it was not proper to prevent them. The votes, which the captain of every company reported to the burgomasters, revealed that the majority thought 'that the preachings outside the town should be tolerated; but that they were ready to defend the magistrates and town with their lives and fortunes against all insurrections; for this purpose arms had been put into their hands'.

On 4 August another sermon was appointed to be held at the same place. But when the schout, Pieter Pietersz., was informed about it, he went with all the sergeants and the mounted watch, (which at that time numbered about one hundred), as silently as possible out behind the townhall, through Jan Roodenspoort, and then along the outer canal, with the intention of taking them by surprise. But when he reached the Haarlemmerpoort, he encountered the company of schutters who kept watch there during the day at the next bridge which he was obliged to pass; these asked him what his intention was. He answered that it was his duty, as schout of the town, to disperse a gathering of such an idle mob, whose only purpose was to incite sedition. The schutters, in particular Egbert Pietersz. Vinck and Jef Cornelisz., retorted that most of them were substantial burghers, their acquaintances, friends, relations, brothers and sisters, and that they would not permit such people to be disturbed. They advised him therefore to keep the public peace, and not to transgress the decision of the vroedschap and the schutterijen, unless he delighted in bloodshed and wanted to have the gate shut against him. Though filled with rage and resentment he was forced to adjourn the expedition on that occasion and to stifle his fury. 

In the previous April, the office of schout, which the town had again mortgaged, had been taken away from Willem Dirksz. Bardes, and bestowed on this Pieter Pietersz., to the great dismay and fear of the Reformed, who knew that he hated them more than death. But on the very day that the confederate nobility received an answer to their petition, he came to Brussels to take his oath. On this occasion the Prince of Orange as stadhouder of Holland admonished the new schout to act with prudence and moderation, and to do violence to nobody on account of his religion. Thus his hands were sufficiently tied for the time being. But when the new preachings occurred before the town gates, even in his sight, he thought it high time to obtain more power and to use force in order to suppress these novelties.

The burgomasters were no less inclined to severity. The Duchess of Parma, directly contrary to the privileges and customs of the town, had assumed to herself the choice of burgomasters for the current year, and had accordingly appointed men pleasing to her, though she declared that this should not be a precedent for the future. These burgomasters had convened the Oudraad, the day after the last sermon, and consulted with them as to the best way to stop the progress of the business. After reading out a letter sent them on that same account from the Hof [provincial court] of Holland, it was decided that two councillors should accompany the schutters at each of the principal gates (the postern would be kept closed) to examine all who passed in and out, and to let no one pass through without due order. The burgomasters also laid before them a draft prohibition to restrain the inhabitants from going out to the sermons. That draft was to be laid before the Council of XXXVI, the officers of the three schutterijen and the wardens of the guilds so that once it had been approved by them, it might be published and become law. 

But when this draft was brought to the vroedschap next day, it was agreed to defer it awhile, and to see first what her Highness the Regent or the stadhouder the Prince of Orange would direct or do in this matter. In the meanwhile the guilds were to be exhorted in the most appropriate way to forbear from frequenting the forbidden assemblies. At the gates the above mentioned order was observed. The schout however, whether secretly driven on by the burgomasters, or by his own ill humour, could not acquiesce in such a resolution, which appeared to him much too moderate. When therefore he was informed a day or two later in the evening that they intended to meet again at the Rietvink, he immediately summoned his sergeants together with the night-watch and such others as were ready to assist him to come to the townhall in arms about two hours after midnight. The onderschout and gaoler, Dirk van Bremen, arriving at the appointed time at the Dam, where a detachment of schutters kept watch, was seen by Leenert Jansz. Graeff, who asked him what he was doing at the townhall at so unseasonable a time. He replied that it concerned the preaching. Whereupon Leenert went immediately to the house of Laurens Reael, and told him what was afoot. Reael hastened to inform Reynier Cant, and many other friends of the common cause. This caused a great many of the people to furnish themselves with arms, and they took these with them when they went (the councillors on the gate could not stop them from leaving), though they had the modesty to take weapons that were short enough to be concealed under their cloaks, for they carried mostly pistols and daggers. When the minister had finished preaching, he declared and affirmed in the name of the congregation that 'though some of them had indeed come armed, yet they had no intention of injuring any man and still less of introducing the preaching of God's word by force: but that they were compelled to act in that manner to oppose the onset of violence with which they were threatened and to defend themselves and the rest of the auditors both men and women.' For this reason they posted five or six men along the Haarlemmerdijk to give them warning in good time if the schout and his gang appeared from the gate. But he was sufficiently prudent as to leave alone this armed congregation.

About this time there was also preaching at Sloterdijk, a village under the seigneurial jurisdiction of the town [Amsterdam]. And Jan Arentsz. and Pieter Gabriel preached every third or fourth day at Buiksloot, across the IJ in Waterland, where many of the inhabitants of Amsterdam repaired. At this time Albert Gerritsz. and Pieter Cornelisz. also preached occasionally outside Alkmaar and in other places in North Holland, before a similarly numerous audience. On St.James's Day, Pieter Cornelisz. of Alkmaar preached the first public sermon for the inhabitants of Enkhuizen, at the Groene Wijzend behind Grootebroek, to which a multitude of people flocked from all quarters. In the meantime several burghers from Haarlem, Leiden, Delft, Utrecht and other places went to Amsterdam earnestly seeking assistance from those, who had been most zealous in setting up public preaching thereabouts, to establish the same in their respective towns. It was rumoured that in order to still the troubles in the country, the Governor would tolerate the preachings in all the places where they had begun before 21 August.5 For this reason Pieter Gabriel was immediately sent to Delft, attended by four burghers from Amsterdam, to protect him on his journey, and he preached the first public sermon at the Hoornbrug, where there was a great multitude of people from Delft, The Hague, and the neighbouring villages. Soon after, at the urging of the people of Delft, a date was fixed for a sermon in The Hague. At the appointed time many fully-armed schutters from Delft, with at least twenty wagons, alighted just before the residence of the President [of the provincial court], Master Cornelis Suis. Here the wagons, in which the schutters remained seated, were arranged in a circle; the preacher stood in the middle, and the rest of the people in great numbers around him. In this way they sang and preached within earshot of the President, who not long before had threatened the preachers with the utmost severity, but was now obliged to observe, sometimes through the window, this business from his own house. One can imagine how he must have felt. 

Among the audience there were some inhabitants of Utrecht, who took Pieter Gabriel back with them, and arranged for him to preach at Oostbroek, about an hour's journey from the town. On 29 July several burghers from Utrecht travelled to Culemborg to hear another sermon, and though the schout, on the orders of the magistrates, inquired after the persons who had been present, it had very little effect, for some denied it, while others said they had gone there on account of business, or to see their friends.

Later Jan Arentsz. was fetched from Amsterdam to Utrecht by Dirck Cater, an Amsterdammer, who however lived at Utrecht in the house of the Vrouwe van Diemen, whose niece he had married. He preached outside the town, very close to the castle, before a very large multitude of gentlemen, canons, and burghers, both men and women. During the sermon a musket ball, fired from the castle, wounded a certain young woman. When the sermon was over, the minister was invited by Dirck Cater into the town to the house where he stayed. Many in the congregation advised him to go and accordingly he went. But the hospitality he received later cost the lady of the house her life and property.

Pieter Bor tells us that well-armed members of the New Religion (as the Reformed were commonly styled at that time) assembled in large numbers from Utrecht, Amsterdam, Schoonhoven, Culemborg, Vianen, and IJsselstein on 15 August, to hear a sermon at a certain village or place, not far from Utrecht, called Loevenhout, a seigneurial lordship with high justice belonging to the provostry and archdeaconry of St. Jan.6 The town-gates were kept shut from morning until after one o'clock in the afternoon, and then only the wicket was opened to allow burghers to pass through. [Bor also tells us] that on 18 August they were so bold as to meet again for a sermon in great numbers, some armed, others unarmed, outside the Tolsteegpoort on the way that leads to Vianen. Some of the magistrates wanted to shut the gates and exclude those that went out [to the preaching], but the majority opposed this, fearing lest those of the New Religion should be provoked to seize, plunder and burn the monasteries six or seven of which lay outside the town, or else to fall upon the suburbs and open country.

At Haarlem, Leiden, and other towns, there was also preaching outside the walls, and all hastily arranged so that they could say such meetings had taken place before 21 August. But when the minister, attended by five or six persons, appeared before Dordrecht, and gave out there would be a sermon near the Vuilpoort, for there was a minister, who expected some auditors, no one appeared. For this reason they went to Gouda, where they met one of their brethren, a surgeon or barber, by whom they gave notice to the burghers that there would be a sermon outside [the town] at such and such a time, but nobody appeared at the appointed place; some of the minister's company who had entered the town, heard so much muttering and murmuring that they took to their heels, for the [inhabitants] threatened to kill the minister and their followers who had thrown the provinces with this new Lutheran teaching into turmoil. This report persuaded them to withdraw from the town discreetly. But that same day some priests distributed gingerbread to the school children of Gouda if they would break the windows in the house of the barber, who had put it around that there would be a sermon outside: that evening the same was done. The company who had escorted the minister left for Amsterdam, but he went to Waterland.

[Account of Strange Commotion among the Orphans of Amsterdam]

But the magistrates [of Amsterdam] were chiefly concerned at this time lest a sudden attempt be made to introduce the preachings into the town. To obviate this a particular ordinance was made by the burgomasters and vroedschap on 16 August, for the assembling of the schutters in an emergency, the first article of which read as follows: 'My lords the burgomasters with the Council of XXXVI have unanimously decided that none of the new teachers shall be suffered to come within the walls of this town to preach; and if they attempt it, they shall be arrested by the schout.' This ordinance was communicated to the whole schutterij , and it was thought they would comply with it, since it had been agreed by the decision of the vroedschap. But most of them answered that on the matter of the first article they could not resolve upon anything, and that they would see what they had to do, if the preachings were introduced into the town. The rest of the articles mostly concerned matters already in train, in particular that the schutters should guard the gates, so there was no disagreement here. But the Reformed resolved, notwithstanding this, that Jan Arentsz. should preach on 21 August at the Lastage, in effect a suburb of Amsterdam, on the eastern side [of the town] on the shore of the IJ. When the burgomasters heard this, they convened the vroedschap, and acquainted them with what was in preparation and what answer the schutters had previously given. It was there decided to suffer the preaching on this occasion, but that the ministers should be warned not to continue to preach within the town, or they would prevent the same with force. The burgomasters therefore sent their secretary, Master Pieter Vlotinus, or Vloits, to the inner dike outside the St. Anthonispoort. Jan Arentsz. was expected here from Waterland, and when he disembarked he was received by great number of people. The secretary, however, discharged his commission, by reading aloud from a manuscript [to the effect] that he would bring a great deal of trouble upon himself and others, if he proceeded to preach within the jurisdiction of the town, or went still further and preached inside. The minister replied that he would submit to the burgomasters in all that was in his power; but in this case, he must obey God rather than men. He at once invited the secretary to hear him so that he might give a true account to his masters of all that passed. But he would not think of it, and he returned to the town, while Jan Arentsz. went to the Lastage, where he preached on the matter of baptism, confuting the errors of the Papists and the teachings of the Anabaptists on this doctrine, and treating all the scripture texts relating to baptism with such skill, that many priests who came to hear him out of curiosity, reported that he had learned his sermon by heart out of a printed book, and repeated it afterwards; for it seemed to them impossible that a craftsman should preach so well, and that for four hours together.

After the sermon he intended to sail back to Zaandam, but his hearers would not permit it, and they carried him almost by force through the crowd to the gate. Some of them said to Lucas Meynertsz., one of the Council, (who had been posted there during the sermon with Willem Martsz. Calff and many of the town watch to prevent any disorder during the return), 'We want to bring the minister into the town'. He replied that he had no orders to permit this; however, during the exchange they forced their way and brought the minister into the town. Guillaume du Gardyn took him out of the throng, and went with him to the house of his brother Philips du Gardyn. This greatly offended the magistrates. They also accused Willem Martsz. Calff of having offered the minister a drink at the gate and indeed of escorting him into the town and later they endeavoured to prove it with witnesses, alleging this had been seen from the townwalls. But some gentlemen sent by the Hof [the provincial court] to enquire into the matter, found that it was impossible for anyone to see the place from where Calff then stood, and consequently that it was all a fiction: their report came at a very opportune time for he was then in prison. Thereafter they preached continually at the Lastage, and indeed in a certain warehouse belonging to Jan Willemsz. [van Hoorn] alias Wijngaert where the congregation increased to such a degree, that the warehouse and the surrounding ground could not contain them.

In the meanwhile it was found impossible for the four preachers, namely Jan Arentsz., Pieter Gabriel, Albert Gerritsz. and Pieter Cornelisz., to serve the whole of Holland and Utrecht, according to the necessity of affairs. Laurens Jacobsz. Reael therefore, wrote at request of the Reformed of Amsterdam, to Cornelis Cooltuyn of Alkmaar, at that time minister at Emden, to send some ministers from there to Amsterdam for Holland: God had furnished them with an excellent opportunity; the harvest was great, but the labourers were few. Cooltuyn, repeatedly receiving such requests, arranged for the following preachers to be dispatched to Amsterdam at different times: Hermes Bakkereel, minister of Jemgum in Emder- or Reiderland; Juriaen Eppesz. and Jan Davidsz.; Kopping Jelles, minister of Bingum; Johannes Bilderbeek, minister of Zuiderhuisen; Appius Regneri, minister of Manslacht and a native of Gelderland. They likewise deputed Willem Floris and Ruige Florensz. of Haarlem to go to the Vrouwe of Kniphusen, to persuade her to send them her minister Boudewijn, who came from Naarden, for the use of the church there about, to which she readily and cheerfully consented. Cornelis Bakker, minister at Bremen, a Hollander by birth, hearing that his native country was in need of ministers, also repaired to Amsterdam. Those of Elburg got Dr. Albert Hardenberg. The rest of the ministers that arrived in Amsterdam were sent from there to other parts, as circumstances required. Each town sought in time, to procure a preacher for themselves. The people of Gorkum got one Henricus, formerly warden of the Grey Friars of Utrecht; those of Culemborg kept their own Gerardus; Delft had Appius; Haarlem was supplied with Sixtus from Friesland and Alkmaar had Pieter Cornelisz. At Hoorn one Clement Maertsz., the priest of St. Anthonis Kerk, quit the papist religion, and began openly to preach on 14 September at 't Keern, to the north of the hospital, in a place known as Jaapswerf. He also married a lawful wife in Amsterdam. In addition Clement received the assistance of one Evert Gerritsz. Gorter who sometimes preached. They baptized and married people in the same field where they were much beloved by the congregation, having very many hearers, among whom where some of the principal burghers.

At Enkhuizen, the priest Andries van Castricum returned to his employment. This man did much damage to the papist religion by his edifying sermons and pious conduct, to which also the irregular lives of the clergy which scandalized many inhabitants contributed not a little. For the monks, who ought to have set a good example to others, were so much in their cups that the people then applied this simple verse :

The monks of the monastery,
Were addicted to strong drink,
They had three great pots,
With names like men,
One was known as 'Hugo's Mouth',
The second was called 'Make Cheer',
And the third was called 'Bottoms Up'.

One confessor ran away with one or two beguines. Another assured the wife of one Gerbrandt Zeewolf, that her husband, who had been left her for a long time, was dead; indeed he offered to deliver his soul from purgatory, if she would bestow one gold angel for that purpose: upon this assurance the soul-masses were said and upon the word of the priest, the wife ventured to marry again; but five or six years later, her first husband returned, and the woman, deceived by her own credulity, was convinced too late how the avarice and hypocrisy of the priest had contributed to her ruin. But the survival of Zeewolf proved to be the death of soul-masses and other Romish superstitions in the minds of many.

Source: G.Brandt, The History of the Reformation and other Ecclesiastical Transactions in and about the Low Countries, I (London, 1720) 77-87 revised after consultation with the original Historie der reformatie en andre kerkelycke geschiedenissen in en ontrent de Nederlanden, I (Amsterdam, l671) 314-35. Place names have been modernised and proper names modified to conform with current usage.

1 Electoral college composed of serving burgomasters and schepenen as well as former officeholders. They elected three burgomasters who, in turn, chose the fourth from the retiring burgoasters. The election took place on 1 February.
2 Bangerd derives from boomgaard, that is 'orchard'. 
3 The burgomasters' chamber in the old townhall of Amsterdam was so called because it was located in the tower. 
4 That is the historian Pieter Bor who wrote what was, in effect, the official account of the Revolt in the early seventeenth century. Brandt refers here to Bor's Oorsprongk, begin, en vervolgh der nederlandsche Oorlogen, I, (Amsterdam, 1679), p. 77.
5 The date is slightly inaccurate. On 25 August 1566 Margaret of Parma reached an agreement with the Compromise of the Nobility. Protestant sermons might continue where these had occurred before 23 August until the religious issue had been resolved after consultation with the States General. 
6 Bor, Oorsprongk, begin en vervolgh, I, p. 78.

Last Modified: 24-4-2010 13:00