The Martyrs of Gorcum
The Martyrs of Gorcum were a group of nineteen Dutch Catholic priests and friars who were hanged on July 9, 1572 in Brielle by the Sea Beggars. The (Sea) Beggars were militant Dutch Calvinists who opposed on land and water the rule of the Catholic Spanish king Philip II in the Netherlands. This resulted in the Eighty Years’ War (1568-1648), a war for freedom as well as a religious war.
The capture of Brielle on April 1, 1572 provided the first foothold on land for them in their attempt to free the Netherlands of the Spaniards. After that many Dutch cities joined the rebellion.
In the rebellious places the practice of the Catholic faith became prohibited. On June 26, 1572 Gorcum surrendered to the Sea Beggars. Seventeen priests and two friars were captured and tortured which caused much turmoil in Gorcum. The Sea Beggars transferred them to Brielle where they were interrogated. As they refused to renounce their belief all of them were sentenced to death and finally hanged.
The news of their death, torture and firmness spread around the Catholic world and soon after people attributed miracles to them.
On June 29, 1867, the Martyrs of Gorcum became canonized by Pope Pius IX. In the 19th century the Martyrs became symbols of the emancipation of the Dutch Catholics.
Nowadays Brielle is a national place of pilgrimage. Throughout the year, but especially around July 9, lots of Catholics went on pilgrimage to honor the Martyrs of Gorcum.
© photos: Bea and Dick Hoeks-De Laat, 2007