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Thursday, July 09, 2009

Feast of the Holy Martyrs of Gorcum


in the Church of St Nicholas, Brussels

martyred 9 July 1572
canonized 29 June 1867
feast day 9 July

The Martyrs
There were nineteen martyrs. Fifteen of them were residents of Gorcum (Gorinchem, a town about fifteen miles east-south-east of Rotterdam). Of the four others, one was from Heinenoord, two from Monster, and the last from Hoornaar, a village near Gorcum.
(The Roman numerals refer to the order of the statuettes of the martyrs on the sides of the reliquary, starting on the side-aisle side, altar end, going clockwise.)

Lenaert Veghel: see below, at end of list)
There were Eleven Franciscans:

Claes Pieck, born in Gorcum on 23 August 1534 of a well-to-do family. He attended school at 's-Hertogenbosch, where he entered the Franciscan Order. He read theology at the Order's own college in Louvain and was ordained priest in about 1558. He then worked as a preacher in Louvain, Brussels and Antwerp before being called to the monastery at Gorcum as Guardian, the Franciscan equivalent of "Father Superior". (Aged 38 at the time of his death)

Jeronymus of Weert, born in about 1522 in Weert (about 15 miles / 23 km south-east of Eindhoven). He was a Franciscan monk who, having served as parish priest in Goirle, spent a year in Jerusalem. In 1566 he was elected assistant ("vicar") to the Guardian of the monastery in Gorcum. (Aged about 50)

Nicasius of Heeze, born in Heeze (a few miles south-east of Eindhoven, in the Campine) in about 1522. Heread theology at the University of Louvain and entered the Franciscan order. As a priest he lived in the Franciscanmonasteries of Leiden (Leyden), Haarlem (where he was the responsible for the tertiaries), and lastly Gorcum. Hewas a father confessor and spiritual guide. (Aged about 50)

Dirk Eem (or Van Embden, or Van Der Eem), born in Amersfoort in about 1499, of noble stock. A Franciscan, he was responsible for the tertiaries of his order in Gorcum. (He was in his seventies)

Willehad the Dane, a Franciscan, born in about 1482 in Holstein. At the time of the Reformation he fled toEngland, from thence to Scotland and lastly to Gorcum in the Netherlands. It is interesting to note that in spite of allhis efforts to avoid capture he still became a martyr and saint at the ripe old age of 90!

Govaert of Melver, (real surname Coart), was born in Melveren in about 1512. A Franciscan, he was theverger of the monastery in Gorcum. (Aged about 60)

Antonius of Weert, born in Weert (cf Jeronymus) in about 1523. Like the other Antonius he was a Franciscan mission preacher. (Aged about 50)

Antonius of Hoornaar, born in Hoornaar about four miles north of Gorcum. He was a Franciscan missionpreacher.
(statuette of St. Nicholas)

Francois De Roye (or Van Rooy), the youngest of the ordained Franciscans. He was born of a well-to-dofamily around 1549 in Brussels, where he studied theology. He was ordained priest in about 1570. (He was in hisearly twenties.) The fact that he was a native of Brussels explains why he has a special place on one of the ends ofthe reliquary/flanked by St Michael, Patron Saint of Brussels, and St.Nicholas, Patron Saint of this church.
(statuette of St. Michael)

Peter of Assche, (surname probably Van Der Slagmolen), born about 1530 in Asse near Brussels. He was aFranciscan brother who took part in the everyday tasks of running the monastery. (Aged about 42)

Cornells of Wijk, born in about 1548 in Wijk near Duurstede. He was a Franciscan brother.(Aged about 24)

One Dominican:
Father Jan or Jan Van Keulea He was, it is thought, from Cologne (Koln) and was the parish priest of thevillage of Hoornaar, about four miles north of Gorcum.

Two Premonstratensians (Norbertines or White Canons):
Jacques Lacops, born in Oudenaarde in about 1541. He was a Norbertine Canon from Middelberg Abbey.In 1566, when over four hundred Roman Catholic churches were ransacked by the sea-beggars, he stoppedpreaching the Roman faith. (Sea-beggars, known as "gueux" in French and "watergueuzen" in Dutch, werefreebooters who had taken to fighting on the side of the Protestant militants.) In 1567 he returned to Catholicismand moved to Marienwaard. In about 1569, he was put in the care of his fellow Norbertine, Adriaan, who was tobecome parish priest of Monster.

Adriaan of Hilvarenbeeck, born in Hilvarenbeek between 1528 and 1532. He was a Norbertine canonf rom the monastery at Witheren near Middelburg (on the coast, mid-way between Ostend and The Hague). In about1560 he became parish priest of Aagtekerke. In 1572 he was nominated parish priest of Monster. He was in hisforties.
One Augustinian:
Jan (Lenaerts) Van Oosterwijk, born in about 1504 in Oosterwijk (now Oisterwijk, a few miles south-westof VHertogenbosch). He was an Augustinian Canon and for many years bursar or steward of the monastery of TeRugge near Brielle. Towards the end of his life he was put in charge of the convent of beguines in Gorcum. He wasnearlv seventv.
Four diocesan priests:

Govaert Van Duynen was born in Gorcum around 1502. Before taking holy orders he studied theology in Paris. He worked for a number of years as parish priest in a town in the north of France, but in about 1544 hesuffered some sort of mental disturbance which reduced him to simple-mindedness. He subsequently took up asmall.benefice in Gorcum. He was in his seventies at the time of his martyrdom.

Andries Wouters, born in about 1542. He was the parish priest of Heinenoord (about nine miles west ofDordrecht). His lifestyle was, apparently, far from exemplary. (Aged about 30)

Nicolaas Janssen, born in 1532 and nicknamed "Poppel" after his native village, which is not far fromWeelde, near Antwerp. He studied at the University of Louvain between 1553 and 1558 (probably reading liberalarts and theology). Ordained as a diocesan priest, he was sent to Gorcum in 1558 to help Lenaert Veghel. He was 30in 1572.
(statuette of St. Francis Van Outers)
( " The Blessed Virgin Mary)
" St.Boniface of Brussels, 1181-1260: relics at the Abbaye de la Cambre, Brussels)
Lenaert Veghel or Vechel, born in 1527 at 's-Hertogenbosch. Between 1543 and 1556 he read liberal artsand theology at the University of Louvain. He was ordained a diocesan priest, and in 1556 was nominated parishpriest of Gorcum. He was a sensitive, anxious man. On 8th July 1572 he should have been taking a higher degree intheology...... At the time of his death he was 45.
Their Trials
(Above the statuettes, on the roof of the reliquary, are six scenes depicting the main events of the martyrdom. They start on the main nave side of the reliquary, altar end, and go anti-clockwise.)
On the night of 26th/27th June 1572, the town of Gorcum (Gorinchem) was besieged by the sea-beggars. They had thirteen boats and about one hundred and fifty men. They took prisoner the three diocesan priests, the Augustinian Canon and the eleven Franciscans who had sought refuge in the Blue Tower. Poppel Janssen was hanged by the neck from the church door with a Franciscan cincture (waist-cord), then Jet down alive. The Guardian of the Franciscans was also strung up, but the rope broke and he was brought round with a candle-flame (1st scene).

For eight days they were mocked and ill-treated, then on Sunday 6th July they were taken by boat to Brielle (2nd scene) where they were thrown into the thieves dungeon with Jan Van Keulen (parish priest of Hoomaar), to join another diocesan priest (Andries Wouters) and two premonstratensians already held captive there.

On Tuesday 8th July the prisoners appeared before Count Lumey van der Marck. The Franciscan Guardian and Lenaert Veghel, (the Parish Priest of Gorcum), upheld the authority of the Pope, whilst the two White Canons defended the Eucharist (3rd scene).

On 9th July 1572, at one o'clock in the morning, they were hanged for their adherence to the authority of the Pope and their faith in the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist (4th scene).

The Gorcum Martyrs were beatified by Pope Clement X on 14th November 1675 (5th scene) and canonized by Pope Pius IX on 29th June 1867 (6th scene).
Their Feast is celebrated each year on 9th July, the day of their martyrdom.
History of their Relics and the Reliquary
The bodies of the martyrs - who had met with their deaths in a peat barn just outside the town of Brielle -were disposed of with a minimum of effort. The Gueux dug ditches underneath the beams from which the martyrs had been hanged, so that when the victims were cut down, they fell straight into these makeshift graves. It was only in 1615 that some Catholics dared to dig up the bones and take them to the Belgian provinces, which were considered a safer resting place. For a short period the relics were kept in the collegiate church of St. Gudula/Gudule (now the Cathedral Church of St.Michael and St.Gudula), Brussels, but on 18th June 1618 they were solemnly transferred to the convent of the "Re"collets" (Grey Friars), a branch of the Franciscan Order. This convent stood opposite.our church, but it was closed in 1796 by order of the French occupying forces, then demolished, and the Butter Market was built on the site. Less than a hundred years later it too was demolished (in about 1868) to make way for the new boulevard and the Stock Exchange (Bourse). The relics were put in the care of our church, St.Nicholas-by-the-Bourse, and are preserved in a gilded reliquary dating from 1870, the work of HoIIner, a native of Kempen am Rhein in Germany. On the wall facing the reliquary is a painting which depicts the martyrs' last supper

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