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Dordrecht Ancient Capital of Holland

The last Martyrs of Dordrecht

Counts of Holland Arms.svg Wapendordrecht
Coat of arms of the County of Holland Coat of arms of Dordrecht

Even as most cities in Western Europe and the Lowlands Dordrecht was a Roman Catholic city until 1572.. But also the Lowlands were influenced by the Reformers Luther, Calvin and Zwingli. A lot of citizens had already chosen for the Reformers but most local Councils of the cities still ruled in accordance with the religious laws of the Roman Catholic King Philips II, rules without mercy towards "new" religious thoughts.

Also the Council of Dordrecht was still Roman Catholic and they still judged the people in accordance to the laws given by King Philips II. This resulted in the pursue of Protestant citizens until 1572.

The story of the last martyrs of Dordrecht

Joris (Joostenszoon) Wippe was an Anabaptist martyr drowned at Dordrecht, Dutch province of South Holland, on 1 October 1558. He was a native of Meenen in Flanders, Belgium. Van Braght's statement that he had formerly been a burgomaster of Meenen has proved incorrect; in the list of burgomasters of Meenen his name is not found. After his conversion he emigrated to Dordrecht in the Netherlands, adopting the trade of cloth-dyeing. He was a charitable man who dealt generously with the poor, widows, and orphans. On 28 April 1558 he was arrested at Dordrecht and soon sent to The Hague for trial. After some time he was returned to Dordrecht, where he was sentenced to death by drowning on 4 August 1558. The execution was postponed because the executioner refused to put to death a man who was renowned for his goodness. Not until October, after much hesitation, was he secretly drowned in a wine cask. The Dutch martyr books have preserved three letters by Joris Wippe: the first two were written to his wife from prison in The Hague; the third, a striking letter to his children, was written from the Vuylpoort prison at Dordrecht after he had been sent back to Dordrecht. All the letters are undated.

The Martyrs Mirror, the classic 1660 Dutch religious history, memorializes the godly lives and glorious deaths of thousands of early Christians, especially European Anabaptist martyrs between 1524 and 1660. The book shines a mirror on ordinary people who experienced a spiritual reality that few today can even imagine.

Like the more famous Foxe's Book of Martyrs, this compilation attempts to be the voice, beginning with the martyrdom of Christ's apostles, of those willing to stand alone for a simple, obedient faith.

I gathered some stories that took place in Dordrecht between 1558 and 1572, here are the stories of Joris Wippe (1558) and Jan Woutersz van Kuyck and Adriaenken Jans (1572):


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Joris Wippe, when he still lived in the darkness of Popery, was a burgomaster at Meenen in Flanders, his native place; but having subsequently come to the knowledge of the Gospel, he had to flee the Country, and went to live at Dortrecht, in Holland, where he established himself as clothdyer. When he had lived there for a while, and was becoming known, he, through the instigation of the enemies of the truth, was summoned to appear before the lords in the large church. Somewhat alarmed on this account, Joris consulted with several drapers, for whom he dyed, and who were men of influence, as to what he should do. They, placing entire confidence in the magistracy, deemed it advisable that he should appear before them, and hear what they had to say to him.

When he came there, and the lords saw him, they were filled with consternation, and would have preferred that he had taken their summons as a warning to secretly make his escape, since they did not thirst much for innocent blood; but as he had appeared, the bailiff, when Joris was about to leave the church, seized him as one who, according to the imperial decree, had forfeited life and property. This happened on the 28th of April, 1558.

After his apprehension, the lords tried every means to save him from death; he was sent to Gravenhage (that is, to the court of Holland), and there examined; but as he was a resident of Dordrecht, and had been apprehended there, he was sent back thither, and ultimately put to death there.

He left behind him a good testimony as regards his liberality to the poor; for when he was sentenced to death, the executioner lamented with tears in his eyes, that he had to put to death a man who had so often fed his wife and children, and would rather forego his office, than put to death this man, who had done so much good to him and others, and had never harmed any one. Hence he was finally drowned, in the night, in a wine cask filled with water, by one of the thiefcatchers, who, at the command of the lords, performed the executioner's office on him, pushing him backward into the water. Thus he offered up -his life to the Lord, on the first of October, being forty-one years old. The next day he was hung by his feet to the gallows, in the place of execution, as an object of derision to the people, being thus, like his Master, numbered among the malefactors. The day following, several criminals were scourged and banished; whereupon the executioner, after he had executed this punishment, still lamenting the death of Joris Wippe, said, "They have crucified Christ, and released Barabbas."

He wrote several letters in prison, three of which have come into our possession. He doubtless would have written more; but great watchfulness was exercised that he should have no ink, so that he wrote his last letter (to his children) with mulberry juice.

NOTE.-Inasmuch as we, after long search in the archives of this city, found the sentence of death of this friend of God, Joris Wippe, and copied it ourselves from the criminal records of this city, we deem it well to add it here, so that the truth of the above account concerning the death of this man may appear the more clearly and incontrovertibly.

Sentence of death of Joris Wippe done and pronounced in the chamber (of justice), the 4th of August, 1558

Whereas Joris Wippe, Joosten's son, born at Meenen, in Flanders, has dared to have himself rebaptized, and has held* pernicious views concerning baptism, according to testimony and truth, and all the evidence which the judges and the council have seen and heard with regard to it, and according to his own confession, therefore, he shall, to the honor of God, and the edification of the lords and the city,*** be drowned in a cask, and his body then be brought to the place of execution, and there be hung to the gallows, and his property shall be confiscated, and placed in the lord's exchequer.

Extracted from the book of criminal records of the city of Dortrecht, commenced on the last of October, 1554, and ended on the 16th of June, 1573

This is the first sentence of death publicly pronounced upon any one with regard to matters of faith, which we found in this book. As to whether it was pronounced in the chamber of justice, in the presence of the lords alone, or publicly proclaimed in court, before all men, is not expressed; nor is it of much importance to know. This much is certain, that his death resulted in consequence.

But since, according to the testimony of old writers, the executioner was not willing to execute this man, and the lords of justice themselves were not a little troubled in this matter, though they had allowed themselves to be persuaded by the priests and monks, the execution of the sentence pronounced was postponed for over seven weeks, namely, from the 4th of August until the first of October, A. D. 1558.

The following night, having commended his soul into the hands of God, he was drowned in a wine cask, by one of the thiefcatchers, as related above, in the Vuylgate at Dortrecht, where he was imprisoned.

Further Observation.-According to John van Beverwijck's account of the government of the city of Dortrecht, the following persons sat in court when sentence of death was passed upon this pious man

Adriaen van Blyenberg Adriaens (who also sat in court when sentence was passed upon Digna Pietssers), bailiff of Dortrecht; together with nine judges: Mr. T. Schoock Sir Pietssers; Cornelis Krooswijck Jans; Frans Anthoniss; Mr. Aert van der Lede Sir Staess; Willem Boucquet Blasiuss; Adriaen van Nispen Gerrits; Frans Adriaens; Heyman van Bleyenbergh Adriaens; Cornelis van Beveren Claess. ****

But whether they all unanimously passed this sentence, is not stated; however, it appears that the majority concurred therein, which can not have taken place without grief and compunction of conscience on their part, since but a short time before they had sought to get rid of the doomed man, and for this purpose had sent him to the Hague, to the court of Holland, that he might be judged there; but when he returned they sentenced him to death -certainly a lamentable matter on their part; but on the part of the martyr a matter of rejoicing, since death was for him the entrance to an eternal and blissful life.

*Has held," etc.; an error of the writer of this sentence; for Joris still held these views at that very time.* How can God be honored by what lie has forbidden?
** What edification could the lords derive therefrom, who, by doing this, made themselves tyrants, yea, murderers?
**** A shocking idea that just the names of the executioners are used in modern Dordrecht as street names. A street called Joris Wippe street would be a better idea.

Letters of Joris Wippe to his relatives you can read HERE

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In the year of our Lord 1572, the lords of justice at Dortrecht in Holland, laid their hands on two very meek and dear friends Of God, who followed their Saviour, the slain Lamb of the cross, Jesus Christ, and were not of the least of the members of the church of the Lord scattered abroad in all Countries, in showing forth, as lights in this world, their eminent virtues among this evil and perverse generation. They were both taken out of the fold like lambs for the slaughter, the circumstances being as follows

First, Adriaenken Jans' daughter was suddenly apprehended. She resided at Molenaersgraef, in the Papendrecht district; which was under the jurisdiction of the city of Dortrecht, and because she was said to be a heretic, she was seized and imprisoned in the Vuylpoort (Dirty gate). (Vuilpoort) (demolished in 1864, near the New Church, present Noordersluys, Noordendijck) ---

No pictures are survived of this "dirty gate", only on some paintings of Aelbert Cuyp we can see this gate from a distance. See the middle of the painting left of the windmill.

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The Large Dort (CUYP, Aelbert 1620 - 1691), Oilon canvas 157.5 x 197 cm. about 1650. (National Gallery London)Full title: 'A Distant View of Dordrecht, with a Milkmaid and Four Cows, and Other Figures ('The Large Dort')'
The painting shows in the background the town of Dordrecht (Dort) from the south-east. The skyline is dominated by the Grote Kerk with the Vuilpoort, one of the town's water gates (demolished in 1864), beyond the windmill to the left. A similar view appears in another National Gallery painting by Cuyp, known as 'The Small Dort'. The church and the water gate are seen from another angle in 'The Maas at Dordrecht in a Storm' by Cuyp, also in the National Gallery's Collection.This landscape is a mature work, probably of the late 1650s, demonstrated by the exceptional quality of the monumental representation of the cows, three at rest, and one standing placidly observing the milkmaid at work.

--- After that the plan was formed to capture Jan Wouterss van Kuyck, who resided in the city, but frequently changed his abode, so as not to be so easily recognized. To this end, the bailiff, having learned where he resided (namely, in the street leading to the Rietssdijck, near the New Gate, in a room which was reached from the street by a flight of stairs), came with his beadles and unexpectedly, and without asking anything, ascended the stairs, where Jan Wouterss met him just as he opened the door. The bailiff said, since he did not know him, "Does Jan van Kuyck reside here?" to which this good, upright and very sincere man, not willing to speak contrary to the truth, answered yes, adding that it was he himself.

These words he spoke very loudly, in order that his dear wife, who was back in the room, should hear it and flee, which she did: his only daughter, however, a child of only about seven years, remained in the room and saw her father apprehended, to which no attention was paid. The ministers of justice immediately laid their hands upon this friend of God, and forcibly bound him, whereupon he said, "O my lords, how you bind me, as though I were a wicked man; however, you bind not me, but yourselves." Then a great lamentation arose among them; however, they proceeded, and led him, as a defenseless lamb that is overcome by wolves, from the Rietssdijck to the Vuylpoort, about half an hour's walk through the city, where they put him into another cell than the one in which Adriaenken Jans was confined, though within the same walls and under the same roof of said prison.

In the meantime both had to suffer much temptation, according to the body as well as in regard to the soul; several times they were severely tortured, stripped, and scourged, so that almost the entire city spoke about their sufferings and misery, as Jan Wouterss subsequently also indicated in one of his letters.

The papist clergy also assailed them much according to the soul, in order to deprive them, by many wiles and snares, of the treasure of a true faith; but they were not able to accomplish anything with either of them; hence they [the two martyrs], were finally sentenced to death in ~~pen court, to be executed with fire, on the water front of the city, near a certain lime kiln, where now the new fortification is, between the mill that stands upon the bastion, and the rampart; however, with the condition, that Adriaenken Jans should not really die by fire, but should prior to her burning be strangled at the stake, which lesser penalty of death we do not find to have been executed on Jan Wouterss.

In the meantime both prepared themselves for death with great desire and inward joy, unable sufficiently to praise God that they had been Counted worthy to deliver up their bodies as a sacrifice for His holy name's sake.

When the hour of their departure had come, both were tied together; however, they fell upon their knees, and quietssly offered up, before they were led forth, an earnest prayer to God the Lord, that He would strengthen them in their impending suffering, to persevere unto the end.

Thereupon their mouths (for fear that they should speak something to the people), were gagged with a piece of wood, or some other instrument made for this purpose, and they were thus led from the prison which presented a pitiful sight. Jan Wouterss, however, pulled out the piece of wood, or instrument, with one hand, which it appears was not bound, and cried with a loud voice, "O Lord, strengthen Thy feeble servant: and Thy poor handmaiden. It is for Thy name's sake that we have come to this for which we have willingly prepared ourselves."

When he had said this, one of his fellow believers, whose heart, as it seems, had been set aflame hereby mightily pressed his way through the people, and coming before him, said, "Strive valiantly, dear brother, you will suffer no more hereafter."

Thereupon Jan Wouterss instantly pulled open his jacket and showed him his breast bloody from the scourging inflicted upon him in prison and said, "I already bear in my body the marks of the Lord Jesus;" and he lifted up his eyes to heaven, looking longingly as it were to the heavenly resting place.

In the meanwhile, before all this was properly noticed, because of the surging crowd, said person went out of sight and disappeared among the people; whereupon some of the servants of justice murmured and sternly asked, where this man was. This occurred near the swine market, close by the New Haven.

They went on and soon arrived at the place of execution, where two stakes stood erected near, and around which an innumerable multitude was gathered.

Having arrived there, they ascended the height, or erected scaffold, where they on their knees again quietssly prayed to God, though Jan Wouterss only was able to speak, since the mouth of Adriaenken Jans was well gagged with the previously mentioned piece of wood, or instrument.

When they had risen, preparations were first made to strangle Adriaenken Jans, whereupon she placed herself at the stake.

Then Jan Wouterss said, "This is the day of salvation." But the underbailiff, hearing this, sternly cried, "Be silent." Thereupon Jan Wouterss said, "Why should I keep silent; I certainly speak nothing that is evil."

In the meantime Adriaenken Jans was strangled, who, according to the testimony of those who witnessed it, previous to her burning, remained standing at the stake a little while, dressed in a red petticoat.

The servants of justice then turned to Jan Wouterss, who cheerfully, yea, with a smiling Countenance, placed himself at the other stake, which stood close by, where he while being fastened to it, noticed that some of his fellow believers stood among the people, to see his end; to whom, without naming any one, he cried aloud, "Adieu and farewell, my dear brethren and sisters, I will herewith commend you to the Lord, to the Lord who shed His blood for us." With this he made haste and prepared himself for death, commending his soul to God in these words, "O God, who art my strength, I commend my spirit into Thy hands."

Then fire was set to the wood piled around him, and this friend of God was burned alive, as it appears, with his dead sister, to the great sorrow of many that stood around and were filled with commiseration at the sight of it.

This was the end of these two dear favorites of the Lord, of whom no one spake any evil (touching their life), but whom every one praised on account of their virtuous walk.


When said two persons were led forth to death, the hall bell was rung (as was generally done at executions that took place in the name of the city), in consequence of which a great concourse of the common people gathered to the place of execution.

The gates of the city were closed, or at least guarded, that no one could get out or in, except with the consent of those who kept watch there, and their names were written down after they had stated whence they came, and whither they were bound.

When they had arrived at the place of execution, which was on the northwest side of the city, close by the water's edge, and had ascended the height,or scaffold, some among the bystanders called to these two valiant persons with a good intention, and comforted them, because of their courage, in their impending death. Jan Wouterss turned to them and exhorted them to amend their life, and to accept the true faith, declaring that they both were of good cheer and longed for this holy sacrifice.

Thereupon he was harshly reproved by the underbailiff, which displeased many, notwithstanding they had not attained to the true enlightenment.

Both of them were then stripped of their upper garments and also of their shoes, which were thrown among the common people, but picked up and taken away by a certain brother named Dirck Wouterss.

Forthwith Adriaenken Jans was first placed at the stake, and strangled without delay, seeing which and recognizing her, a certain sister of the church, whose name is well known, and who had come in the market boat from Rotterdam, fainted away, and was therefore not able to witness the subsequent death of Jan Wouterss.

This took place as already stated. In the meantime the hall bell was still rung, until about the time that the (so-called) justice was finished.

NOTE.-We went to no little trouble to obtain at the archives of this city of Dortrecht, the old records of their examinations and death sentences, but were not able to procure them, as they are no longer extant; they were also, as it appears, never put on record in the ordinary's book of criminal sentences, which we searched for this purpose. It is our opinion that these sentences were simply put on loose sheets of paper and thus read in court and then destroyed, so that no remembrance of it should remain, as it seemed that the city should soon change her government and religion, as actually took place about three months afterwards, through the arrival of William I, Prince of Orange. Nevertheless, we are not without other legal testimony in regard to this matter.

Johan van Beverwijck, first physician and judge of the city of Dortrecht, writes concerning it, in the history attached to his description of Dortrecht, in the Dort edition, p. 348, for the year 1572, as follows :

"In the city proper there was imprisoned, accused as a heretic, a man of blameless life and conversation, as I learned from those with whom he resided, by the name of Jan van Kuyck Wouterss, a skllful writer upon glass and painter., "The authorities, seeing the disposition of the people, were not in haste with his trial; yea, the bailiff, Jan van Drenckwaert Boudewijnss, who was still young and beardless, had himself painted by him, in the attitude of Solomon, where he pronounces his first sentence., "But the monks did nothing but vehemently preach against this slackness, and hesitated not to proclaim from the pulpit, that the bailiff had apprehended him merely. to have himself painted by him.

"Hence, this poor man, after many tortures, inflicted upon him in order to extort from him the names of his master and comrades; was burned on the 28th of March, A. D. 1572, on the New Fortification, together with Adriaenken Jans, a woman from Molenaersgraef."

Thus far, Johan van Beverwijck.

Hence the account of the death of these persons is certain and reliable, nor is it doubted by any one that we have ever heard here in this city; the well disposed will therefore be satisfied therewith.

For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory. II Cor. 4:17.


Jan van Drenckwaert Boudewijnss, aged between twenty-nine and thirty years, being then bailiff of Dortrecht.

Arent van der Mijle Sir Corneliss, burgomaster of the community, who had gone out of office about the close of the year 1570, but had now, the 6th of March, been re-elected.

Together with (according to the law of said city) nine judges: Cornelis Sir Hendricks; Adriaen van Mosyenbroeck Sir Govertss; Adriaen Koninck Dirckss; Arent Hendricks; Gijsbrecht Janss, treasurer; Michiel van Beveren Sir Pietsserss; Mr. Jan van Muylwijck Sir Franss; Pietsser Kool Sir Huygenss; Damas Sir Wouterss, surrogated by Jan Adriaenss.

There we have extracted from the register of the lords of justice of the city of Dortrecht, who reigned in the year 1572, according to the account of the aforesaid Johan van Beverwijck, in the book referred to, where he treats of the government of the city, for the year 1572.

But whether they all together concurred in this sentence, or only some of them, by a majority of votes among them, is not expressed, nor do we consider it of much importance to know, since it is sufficient for our improvement and edification to have learned the unwavering faith and steadfast death of the aforesaid martyrs, who died under their reign.

Concerning the death of these friends two hymns were composed at that time, in the first of which the following words among others were sung, touching the cause and time of their imprisonment

Old Dutch (Dietssz) English

Terstond daer yaa zijn Brieven gekomen,

Right after, letters came

Te Dordrecht aen den. nieuwen Schout,

To the new Bailiff at Dortrecht,

Die seer jonk is van jaren, etc.

Who is very young of years, etc.

In the other this is sung concerning,their death:

Old Dutch (Dietssz) English

Adriaenken Jans is eerst omgebrocht,

First Adriaenken Jans was put to death

't Welck Schout Jan Drenkwaert heeft versocht.

Who requested the bailiff Drenkwaert.

And afterwards:

Old Dutch (Dietssz) English

Java Wouterss sprak, met goed bescheyd,

Jan Wouterss clearly spake

Dit is den dag der saligheyd.

This is the day of.salvation.

Swygt, sprak den Underschout.

Be silent, said the underbailiff.

Waerom soude ik (seyde hy) 'tspreeken laten,

Why should I, he said, forbear to speak?

Myn woorden zijn niet quaed, noeh stout.

My words are neither bad nor bold.

Adriaenken look haer oogen voorwaer,

Adriaenken too looked forward,

Om haren Bruydegom to behagen klaer;

To please her Bridegroom.

Die rust nu in den Heer,

She rests now in the Lord,

En is de pyn van den brand ontgaen,

And has passed the fire's pain,

Aileen door sijn genade meer.

Through His bountiful grace alone.

Jan Woutersz heeft hem aen den pael garecht,

Jan Wouterss placed himself at the stake,

Doen lachre by [van vreugd] als een vroom knecht,

Then laughed for joy, as a pious servant,

En beval soo God

And thus commended his spirit

Synen geest in Syne handen,*

Into the hands of the Lord,

Die was sijn Toevlucht, Borgt, en Slot.

Who was his Refuge, Fortress and Castle.

Oorlof heeft by geroepen aldaer,

Farewell, he sweetly called

Aen Broeders en Susters in't openbaer,

To the brethren and sisters openly

Met woorden soet,

With sweat words,

U wil ik den Heer bevelen,

I will commend you to the Lord,

Die voor ons heeft gestort sijn bloed.

Who shed for us His blood.

Dees twee schaepkens zijn door, voort tempeest,

These two lambs have now passed through,Away tempest!

Wat heeft al [haer] hjden nu geweest?

What were now all their sufferings?

Sy hebben de Kroon, Der Martelaren verworven,

They obtained the martyr's crown,

Die hebben sy nu voor haer loon.

Which now they hold as their reward.

In the same hymn is also mentioned, how their mouths were gagged, how they prayed to God, how they prepared themselves for death at the *"In's heeren Handen, seyt den Schrijber."place of execution, etc.; but we deem the foregoing sufficient for a memorial of their sacrifice.

NOTE. As there have come into our hands all the letters, testaments and confessions, twelve in number, of Jan Wouterss van Kuyck, as also a letter of Adriaenken Jans of Molenaersgraef, with the answer of her husband, J. A. of Dort, all of which we have, upon perusing them, found to be full of sound and edifying teachings we have deemed it well to add the same here for edification and perpetual remembrance, so that every one may see the active and living faith upon which the afore-mentioned friends laid down their lives.

Survived letters from Jan Woutersz van Kuijck and Adriaenken Jans.

Dordrecht, Anabaptist and Remonstrant city

In 1572 the Council of Dordrecht was forced by the Sea-Baggers and the citizens in June 1572 to choose the site of William of Orange. He was later baptized in Dordrecht and stayed often in Dordrecht because of the strong Calvinistic belief of the town until 1613. Later Dordrecht became one of the most important cities of the Remonstrant belief in the 17th century.

By order of Prince Maurice (Maurits) in 1618-1619 the Synod of Dordrecht, known as The Dordtsche Leer Regels, was held despite the city had became Remonstrant.

Dordrecht is still a stronghold of the Protestants until this day.


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