THE GORCUM MARTYRS
martyred 9 July 1572
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.
There were Eleven Franciscans:
(statuette of St. Nicholas)
(statuette of St. Michael)
Two Premonstratensians (Norbertines or White Canons):
Four diocesan priests:
(statuette of St. Francis Van Outers)
( " The Blessed Virgin Mary)
" St.Boniface of Brussels, 1181-1260: relics at the Abbaye de la Cambre, Brussels)
(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.
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