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Martyrs of Gorkum

(d. 1572)


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(d. 1572).

These were a group of nineteen religious, including eleven Franciscans, two Premonstratensian canons, and some diocesan priests, who were hanged by militant Calvinists at Briel. Gorkum had just been captured by the Gueux, an extremist group of Dutch Calvinists who had continued a war of independence from Spain after practising piracy.

The priests were arrested and imprisoned from 26 June to 6 July. They were then taken on a ship to Briel, half-naked and the butt of mob insults. They were then interrogated in front of Admiral Lumey and were offered their freedom in return for denying Catholic teaching on the Eucharist and the papal primacy. This they refused to do. They were then joined in prison by three other priests, especially John of Cologne, the Dominican parish priest, who suffered with them.

William of Orange ordered their release and the Gorkum magistrates deplored their arrest, but they were hanged regardless of these authorities in a deserted monastery at Ruggen, near Briel. At this point the courage of a few failed, although of apparently blameless life, while others, who had previously lived scandalously, atoned for this by courageous constancy. Their bodies were mutilated before or after death and buried in a ditch until they were translated to the Franciscan church in Brussels in 1616. Vivid portrayals of their deaths survive in paintings by Jan van Sande and Cesare Fracassini. These martyrs were beatified in 1675 and canonized in 1867. Feast: 9 July.

AA.SS. Iul. II (1721), 736–847; Lives by H. Meuffels and D. De Lange (1954); see also B.L.S., vii. 63–4; Bibl. SS., vii. 111–12.

Subjects: Christianity.


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