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The prosecution of Anabaptists in Holland, 1530-1566.

Abstract: The prosecution of Dutch Anabaptists in the sixteenth century was less straightforward than either the Anabaptist martyrologies or the imperial decrees suggest. Although later (Mennonite) scholarship has acknowledged this fact, the variables that influenced the punishment meted out to Anabaptists has not been thoroughly studied. Based on research into the prosecution of Anabaptists in three Dutch cities and by the Court of Holland, the author argues that the punishments inflicted on Anabaptists were based on a careful examination of the misdeeds of the accused by the magistrates, who also took into account a number of variables, including local legal traditions, gender, role and the residential and social status of the suspect. As a result, magistrates often did not earn' out the decrees of the Habsburg authorities to the letter, which prevented the automatic execution of Anabaptists and led to a variety of punishments.

In the fall of 1534 the sheriff (schout) and aldermen (schepenen) of Amsterdam identified Jan van Schellincwoude as a dangerous Anabaptist leader. Not only did he deceive innocent people by luring them into this false sect, they believed, but he also stirred up people, causing commotion and "great upheaval" (grooten oploop). Despite their failure to capture him, in November of 1534 the local court banished Jan from Amsterdam for the rest of his life. (1) Nonetheless, he continued to hold meetings (vergaderinge) just outside Amsterdam's city gates in which books about the "life and errors of those who lived in Munster were read and discussed." The following year authorities finally apprehended Jan, and he appeared before the Court (Hof) of Holland. After hearing the case, the court banished Jan from Amsterdam for five years, threatening capital punishment if he did not comply. (2)

Around the same time authorities also captured and interrogated Jacob van Campen, another Anabaptist leader. On July 10, 1535, the sheriff and aldermen of Amsterdam sentenced him to death. According to the verdict, Jacob was to be placed on a scaffold in front of his house and seated on a chair for at least an hour with a mitre on his head. After that, his tongue--with which Jacob spread his "false doctrine" (valssche leer inghe)--his right hand, which he had used to baptize people; and finally his head, were to be cut off. Then his body was to be cut in four pieces and burned, with his head, hand, and mitre put on a stake above the Haerlemmer gate to serve as an example for the rest of the population. (3)

Both of the men were found guilty of belonging to the Anabaptists, and according to imperial law, they both should have been killed. In 1529, the Diet of Speyer had issued a harsh edict against the Anabaptists, decreeing that anyone who rebaptized others or had been rebaptized was to be executed without an ecclesial trial, although repentance could lessen the punishment. (4) The "demonic threat to the religious unity and civic peace of Christianity" had to be removed swiftly and thoroughly. (5) However, as these two cases suggest, the sentences actually imposed on Anabaptists who were tried before local and provincial courts varied widely. Both men had disseminated Anabaptist ideas--Jan van Scellincwoude even caused public unrest. Yet Jan came away with his life, whereas Jacob van Campen was executed in an elaborate and cruel fashion.

Clearly, the punishments inflicted on Anabaptists varied according to several variables. One of these variables, noted in the edict of 1529, was the possibility of recanting and returning to the Catholic faith, an invitation eagerly accepted by many Anabaptists who were not prepared to die for their faith. (6) Other variables that affected punishment included the religious outlook of individual magistrates; the degrees of loyalty that urban and provincial authorities held for officials in Brussels; the distinction that the courts made between leaders and followers; and the manner in which urban magistrates (stadshestuur) defined and prosecuted strangers (vreemdelingeri), inhabitants (inwoners), and citizens (poorters). (7)

Though historians have acknowledged the relevance of these variables, relatively few have questioned the extent to which these factors actually influenced the prosecution of Anabaptists. This gap in the analysis can be explained in part by the fact that most historians who study early modern Anabaptism are themselves Mennonites and have tended to focus primarily on nonviolent, biblically-oriented Anabaptist groups, while excluding the more violent currents of early modern Anabaptism. (8)

Even though this older confessional perspective has been challenged in Anabaptist historiography, (9) its influence has not yet been eclipsed. Since most attention regarding religious persecution is focused on the experience of the martyrs, factors that mitigated punishment or explain why many prosecuted heretics did not become martyrs tend to be undervalued. Focusing on the influence of mitigating variables requires a change of perspective. Instead of examining what Anabaptists did right in the eyes of their confessional heirs--namely, being steadfast in times of persecution and willing to die for their faith--this essay will analyze what Anabaptists did wrong in the eyes of the authorities, and how their punishments varied accordingly.

In particular, this study examines the prosecution of Anabaptists from 1530 to 1566 in three cities--Amsterdam, Leiden, and Delft--as well as in the Court, or Hof, of Holland, asking what variables influenced the outcomes of prosecution and whether these variables remained constant over time.

The Context of Prosecution: An Overview

Adopting the perspective of the secular authorities when studying religious persecution means that we must recognize the expanding role of the state in early modern Europe. (10) As elsewhere, one way the Habsburg state tried to impose its will on its subjects in the Low Countries was by enforcing the limits of religious tolerance. Yet despite the Imperial Edict of 1529 and several similar decrees that followed in the early 1530s, Anabaptists in Holland did not suffer immediate or widespread prosecution. (11)

This would change, however, in the years 1534-1535 when several violent uprisings of Anabaptists in Amsterdam and the north German city of Munster destroyed the reputation of virtually all Anabaptist groups for decades to come while also securing the undivided attention of secular authorities. Thus, in June 1535 Charles V issued a decree:
  Everyone who is deemed to be contaminated by the damned sect
  of the Anabaptists, their agitators, followers, and accomplices
  regardless of their condition, shall forfeit their life and
  property and shall be punished to the maximum, without any
  mitigation. (12)

Clearly, anyone connected to this movement was to be executed. As the edict went on to elaborate, Anabaptists leaders were to be burned, males who were merely Anabaptist followers were to be decapitated, and Anabaptist women were to be buried alive. Reducing these sentences was a punishable offense. (13)

In the years that followed imperial authorities reissued several of these edicts to remind local authorities of their obligation to enforce the policy. Repeating the decrees ruled out any excuse for not knowing them. (14) In 1550 the penal code against heresy was completed with the publication of the Perpetual Edict, also known as the "blood edict" (bloedplakkaat). (15) The edict received its name because it demanded the execution of anyone whose actions even hinted of heresy. Those who clung to their heretical beliefs had to be burned. Recantation only served to change the manner of execution: men should be decapitated and women were to be buried alive.

Issuing edicts, however, was easy. The real question in the Low Countries was how local and provincial authorities would carry out the policies designed by their Habsburg overlords. In the towns and cities it was the sheriff--assisted by seven to ten aldermen--who administered justice, whereas at the provincial level this duty fell to the provincial court. (16) These traditional structures of justice did not disappear in the face of imperial edicts. Indeed, the evidence suggests that despite their negative reputation, Anabaptists in the Low Countries were not simply captured and immediately tried. After an initial examination, the aldermen would conduct an investigation if doubts about the suspect's story persisted. (17) The Hof Holland also stuck to cherished judicial legal procedures and traditions, which prevented prosecution from turning into outright persecution.

In March of 1531 the first Anabaptist was executed in Delft in the northern Netherlands; executions in Amsterdam and Leiden first occurred in 1534. (18) For its part, the Hof executed nine Anabaptists in 1531. (19) However, further prosecution did not immediately ensue in any of these settings, perhaps because late in 1531 Melchior Hoffmann forbade his followers to rebaptize other people for a period of two years. (20) In late 1533 Jan Mathysz reinstated the rebaptism of believers, and in 1534 the Hof ordered the beheading of several Anabaptists who followed him. (21) In Amsterdam the prosecution of Anabaptists also began in 1534 after three of them walked down the streets with their swords drawn (the zwaardlopers) while others, inspired by their prophet, ran naked through the city streets proclaiming God's imminent judgment on the city (the naaktlopers). In response, Amsterdam authorities sentenced four people to death while nine people received noncapital punishments. (22)

No Anabaptists were executed in Leiden in 1534, but the city council there became increasingly worried about Anabaptist activities in and around their city. On October 20, 1534, Leiden's pensionary, (23) Willem Pietersz, stated that "many people went to meetings, are contaminated by numerous errors and are called the Anabaptists ... Many of them travelled to Miinster in order to forcibly relieve the city of the siege." If they succeeded, Pietersz feared, they would "return to these lands even more powerful (mit meerder macht) and they would slay all of those who opposed their sect ..." (24) On January 23, 1535, Leiden's city fathers were warned about the presence of Anabaptists in their city. It turned out that a group of Anabaptists had gathered in a house belonging to Jan Beukelsz, the self-proclaimed king of Miinster.25 All the Anabaptists captured there--fourteen men and four women, among them Marye IJsbrandsdr, the wife of Jan Beukelsz--were burned at the stake. (26)

During the night of May 10-11, 1535, around forty Anabaptists managed to occupy Amsterdam's city hall, killing several burghers, members of the militia, and a burgomaster. The following day the Anabaptist uprising was defeated and the magistracy of Amsterdam, already criticized by the central government for its lenient treatment of heretics in their city, responded forcefully. During the course of the year, the city executed sixty-two Anabaptists, banished twenty-three, and required one of them to do penance. (27) Those involved in the attack were severely punished as an example for the rest of the population. The magistrates demanded that they lie down on a table, where they were cut open and their hearts removed. According to the chronicler Joost Buyck, the executioner threw "their heart in their face while saying 'now eat thy treacherous heart!'" Their decapitated heads were put on stakes above the city gates, and their bodies were quartered and hung on the gallows outside the city. (28) The Anabaptists who died while resisting attempts of the authorities to recapture the city hall were hung on the gallows upside-down. (29) This inversion of the normal practice of hanging shows the contempt contemporaries held for the deeds of these Anabaptists--by hanging them from their feet the authorities demonstrated that their "lower body" (emotions) had prevailed over their "upper body" (reason and restraint), just as their material and spiritual crimes negated everything that made someone a good Christian. (30)

Though the prosecution of Anabaptists declined markedly in the succeeding years, authorities acted forcefully in two other instances. In 1538 authorities in Delft published two edicts against David Joris, marking their increased awareness of him. (31) The following year they executed twenty-eight followers of Joris, including his mother, in Delft. (32) In the second case, ten Anabaptists were burned in Amsterdam in 1549. Until then the burning of Anabaptists in Amsterdam had been quite unusual. (33) Historians Albert Mellink and I. J. Brugmans were likely correct in their assessment that "in the first place the convicts were tried by the municipal authorities as peace-breakers and rebels." (34) Even though most of them were not revolutionaries, the Anabaptists arrested in the 1540s and 1550s still had to be punished, since rebaptism remained a crime. (35) All the Amsterdam Anabaptists who were burned in 1549 had refused to recant and "remained stubbornly committed to their errors" (in zijnen dzualingen ende ketterien hartneckelkken hlijjvende) (36) In their refusal to recant, they gave the authorities no other choice than to follow the imperial edicts to the letter and to sentence them to death.


Despite the harsh measures meted out to Anabaptists, the judges clearly distinguished among various types and levels of criminal behavior in heretics. Moreover, courts categorized heretics differently, depending on the nature of their crimes, and issued a range of penalties. Differences in punishment are also noticeable among the cities of Amsterdam, Delft, and Leiden. (37)

As the tables that follow demonstrate, historian James Tracy was generally correct in his conclusion that in "the towns there was a definite slackening of interest in heresy trials." (38) The prosecution of Anabaptists in Amsterdam, for example, continued to drop after the 1530s despite the fact that Tracy undercounted the number of Anabaptists executed there between 1544 and 1550. (39)
Table 1.1: Percentage of Executed Anabaptists Per Decade

           1530s  1540s  1550s     Total

Amsterdam     65     21     14  1OO (n=109)
Delft         94      6      0   100 (n=32)
Leiden        51     22     26   100 (n=43)

Sources: DAN II, V; RAL, arch. nr. 508, inv. nr. 3, inv. nr. 4H
(Correctieboek); GAD, arch. nr. 13, inv. nr. 46; ARA, arch. nr., inv. nr. 5654.


How can we explain this decrease in Anabaptist executions? One could argue that the changing behavior of Anabaptists led to a change of mentality at the various levels of government: as the more violent currents of Anabaptism diminished, "moderate magistrates realized that executing the peaceful Mennonites was barbarian." (40)This conclusion runs contrary to Michael Driedger's concept of "deviance amplification," according to which the use of violence by authorities actually provoked dissenters or nonconformists to resort to violence. Driedger has argued that since "most Anabaptists were not anti-governmental revolutionaries in their very nature," state violence actually led to "the intensification of Anabaptist opposition." (41) Research has shown, however, that the Anabaptists who plotted to take over Amsterdam had carefully planned their attack.(42) Moreover, the fact that several Anabaptists from Munster were given money and were sent to recruit Anabaptists to help defeat the army of the prince-bishop or to establish a New Jerusalem elsewhere,43 suggests that it was not primarily the actions of the government that led Anabaptists to embrace violence. Instead, the impetus to violence --at least in the 1530s--came from strains of Anabaptism itself.

According to the extant records, a total of 182 Anabaptists were executed in Amsterdam, Delft, and Leiden between 1530 and 1560 while an additional seventy-four Anabaptists received noncapital punishments. These figures suggest that the majority of captured Anabaptists died for their convictions. Nonetheless, we should bear in mind that only a few of Delft's judicial sources are extant and it seems unthinkable that all of the Anabaptists captured in Delft received the death penalty, especially since we know that some Anabaptists in Delft in the late 1560s were not sentenced to death. (44) Moreover, the repression following the Anabaptist attacks in Amsterdam and Minister hugely inflated the number of the executed Anabaptists. And we should keep in mind that even in 1535, when the prosecution reached its peak in Amsterdam, twenty-four Anabaptists received "minor" punishments.


Still, table 1.2 suggests that the policy of the local authorities toward Anabaptists was not mild. Only in the 1550s, and solely in Amsterdam, are there signs that the authorities tended to favor noncapital punishment instead of capital punishment. Thus in 1550 Amsterdam officials banished twenty Anabaptists because they refused multiple times to appear before court, partly explaining the higher number of noncapital penalties. In the end, however, even if persecution clearly became less heavy in terms of the number of Anabaptists who were captured and tried, the penalties the authorities dealt remained harsh. Although the authorities in the 1550s may have focused less on capturing Anabaptists than in an earlier era, Anabaptists who did appear before their courts faced the full rigor of justice, certainly when they were found guilty and were unwilling to recant. As the percentages in table 1.2 show, being a peaceful Mennonite did not really help when falling into the hands of the authorities. All that seemed to change was the likelihood of capture; which sharply decreased after 1535. (45)
Table 1.2: Percentage of Executed Anabaptists in Relation to
Percentage of Anabaptists Who Received Noncapital Punishments

            1530s              1540s              1550s
           Capital  Non-Cap.  Capital  Non-Cap.  Capital  Non-Cap.
Amsterdam     66.4      33.6     73.3      26.7     30.6      69.4
Leiden        81.5      18.5      100         0     84.6      15.4

Sources: DAN II, V; RAL, arch. nr. 508, inv. nr. 3, inv. nr. 4H.
Delft is omitted in this table since all captured Anabaptists
were executed in this city.

Clearly some of the harshness of the punishments was related to the legacy of Munster and the other Anabaptist attacks. In 1536 a decree of Amsterdam's municipal government stipulated that every year a procession should be held on May 11 to commemorate the victory over the Anabaptists, (46) and an engraved text was posted above the new door of Amsterdam's city hall to remind the citizens of the Anabaptist attack. (47) Eight paintings, all destroyed when the city hall burned in 1652, depicted the evil deeds of the Anabaptists along with their punishment. (48) The actions of the Anabaptists in the mid-1530s and a "culture of memory" help to explain the "extreme sensitivity [of authorities] to religious radicalism in subsequent decades." (49) Nonetheless, as this overview1 has shown, Anabaptists were not automatically executed.


One variable in the punishment inflicted on Anabaptists was residential status. The population of most Dutch cities in the sixteenth century was divided into three groups: "citizens," who were full members of the urban community; "inhabitants," who lived more or less permanently in a city but without full legal rights; and "strangers" or "foreigners," (50) Citizens enjoyed various rights, among which was a clear limit on the amount of their property that could be forfeited if they were convicted of a crime. In Amsterdam the limit was set at 100 pounds; in Leiden and Delft at 60 pounds. Furthermore, citizens were entitled to a "trial by their peers" before a local court. (51) It was also more difficult to bring a citizen to court, since the sheriff was required to investigate the credentials of the witnesses before a citizen with "a good name and a good reputation could be arrested." (52) If the evidence was sound, citizens could certainly be prosecuted. However, this process of preliminary inquiry (informatie precendente) protected citizens from reckless accusations and ultimately prevented judicial prosecution from becoming a tool of religious violence. (53)

Table 2.1 analyzes the extent to which citizenship influenced the punishments of Anabaptists. Unfortunately, the sources only distinguish between citizens and noncitizens, and generally do not differentiate between "inhabitants" and "strangers. (54) The table shows some significant differences. Clearly, the percentage of Anabaptist strangers who received capital punishment was higher than that of citizens, both in Amsterdam and in Leiden. The courts also convicted more Anabaptist strangers than citizens, probably because of their limited judicial status.
Table 2.1: Punishments Imposed on Anabaptist Citizens and Strangers
           Total         Capital         Non-Cap
            No.    %     No.     %     No.    %


Citizens      72  100       42   58       30  42

Strangers     82  100       58   71       24  29

Unknown       22  100        9   41       13  59

Citizens       6  100        6  100        0   0

Strangers     22  100       22  100        0   0

Unknown        2  100        2  100        0   0

Citizens       6  100        4   67        2  33

Strangers     41  100       36   88        5  12

Unknown        3  100        3  100        0   0

Sources: DAN TI, V; GAA, arch. nr. 5014 (Stadsrekeningen), inv. nrs.
1-22; RAL, arch. nr. 508, inv. nr. 3-1; arch. nr. 501, inv. nr. 21
(Poorterboek "C", 1459-83, 1509-32), inv. nr. 22 (Poorterboek "D",
1532-74); GAD, arch. nr. 13, inv. nr. 46; ARA, arch. nr., inv. nr. 5654.

Yet Anabaptist citizens did not escape the rigor not justice. In 1534 in Amsterdam, for example, all the Anabaptists who were executed were citizens. Three of them were leaders (principaelen) while the only woman who was sentenced to death, Griete Arentsdr, was banished but refused to leave the city and was eventually drowned. (55)

One explanation for these differences is gender--since women were generally punished less severely, both because of their role within Anabaptist groups and because of a gender bias. (56) A higher number of the Anabaptist citizens were men (compared with the captured Anabaptist strangers); but, contrary to the gender bias, this group received a milder punishment, suggesting that being a citizen influenced the punishment they received.
Table 2.2: Number and Percentage of Men and Women Among Anabaptist
Citizens and Strangers Who Were Prosecuted

           Male         Female
            No    %     No    %


Citizens     53   74      19  26

Strangers    51   62      31  38

Unknown       4   18      18  82

Citizens      4   80       1  20

Strangers    14   64       8  36

Unknown       2  100       0   0

Citizens          83       1  17

Strangers    28   68      13  32

Unknown       3   75       1  25

Sources: DAN II, V; GAA, arch. rtr. 5014, irtv. nrs. 1 - 22;
RAL, arch. nr. 508, inv. nr. 3-1; 501, inv. nrs. 21-22; GAD,
arch. nr. 13, inv. nr. 46; ARA, arch. nr., inv. nr. 5654.

In all these cities more strangers than citizens were involved in Anabaptism, In the 1530s many people, confronted by economic hardship, roamed from city to city, trying to find a job and a place to live. (57) The majority of these immigrants went to Amsterdam "because of its singular economic growth." (58) The city was especially attractive for the many Anabaptists who were artisans since their leaders had declared Amsterdam to be the "New Jerusalem" and the magistrates were relatively tolerant compared with other cities. (59) Because some Anabaptist groups within Amsterdam embraced an economic reform program similar to the Munsterites (i.e., communal ownership of property), moving to Amsterdam and converting to Anabaptism appealed to jobless non-Anabaptists as well. (60) Although in the end what mattered most was their behavior, these jobless strangers without rights were arguably the primary target of the magistrates when suspicions about heresy arose.


Anabaptist citizens were often better off when they were tried before local courts, in part because they were judged by their peers, a custom both the citizens and the ruling elite wanted to maintain. The magistrates and the city council (vroedschap) were not motivated to defend the privileges of their city primarily because of compassion for their citizens, but because they ardently wanted to safeguard the communal autonomy of their city. (61) As a result their stance sparked huge controversies and debates about the privileges of cities, such as the jus de non evocando (literally, the right not to be summoned), that continued well into the 1550s. (62).

Originally, and contrary to the notions of urban magistrates, the jus de non evocando was a privilege granted to the states of Holland and Frisia, not to the individual cities of these provinces --people living in these provinces could not be tried outside these lands. (63) Over time, however, the city magistrates considered this to be a privilege of the cities themselves. (64) This would not have been a problem if Charles V had not regarded heresy as high treason--a crime that could not be dealt with by the local courts. However, he did see it that way. (65) And crimes of high treason, the Habsburg overlord reasoned, rendered every privilege null and void. Therefore, no officer charged with the task of prosecuting heresy--the inquisitors, for example, or the officers of the provincial and national courts--should be impeded in their pursuit of justice.

Most magistrates did not agree with Charles's interpretation and protested loudly when some of their citizens were summoned to appear before the Hof in The Hague. The magistrates responded with a vigorous defense of the privilege., not only in cases of heresy. In 1538, for example, when a burgomaster was insulted, the secretary of Amsterdam went to Brussels to deliver the documents regarding the trial, but he was sent with clear instructions to argue that this case was in the hands of Amsterdam's local court. (66) A number of times cities were successful in defending their privilege, such as in 1544 when Leiden's sheriff was allowed to retrieve an Anabaptist who was locked away in The Hague. (67) At other times, however, cities had to accept defeat, proving that privileges were not unchangeable laws but legal principles whose status and influence were in a constant process of negotiation.

Another heavily debated privilege related to the confiscation of the goods of convicted heretics. Not surprisingly, both the local and national authorities were keen on this extra source of income. Yet citizens were partly shielded from greedy authorities because not all their possessions could be confiscated. On February 26, 1538, emissaries (gevouchden) from Amsterdam defended the privileges of the city when the Hof attempted to confiscate the goods of two convicted Lutherans, Aefgen and Geryt Listincx. The emissaries stated that the city of Amsterdam had enjoyed the privilege "without any infraction" for more than 100 years and "that no one could remember when this had not been the case" (dat geen memorie van menschenter contrarie en gedochte). (68) The attorney-general responded that this privilege could be claimed only when people forfeited their life and were executed, which was not the case since the Lutherans had fled. Furthermore, he argued, this privilege could not be invoked when dealing with Lutheranism or heresy in general. (69) In addition, the councilors of the Hof brought new charges. Ultimately, the Hof banished both of them for the rest of their lives and ruled that all their goods were to be confiscated in the name of His Royal Majesty. (70) Whereas Amsterdam tried to claim its privilege, the Hof defended what it believed to be the court's rights--in this case successfully.

On various institutional levels then, ranging from individuals (71) to the national court, a battle over privileges was unfolding. The relationships between these parties were dynamic, changing as circumstances changed. (72) Eventually, however, many cities like Amsterdam had to acknowledge the superiority of the central government: on March 6, 1549, the court determined that heretics "not only cut themselves off from their community, but from Christianity as a whole (geheelder Christenheyt)." (73) From that day onward all the goods of the heretics--as opposed to other criminals--were confiscated in favor of Charles V. (74)

Anabaptist citizens could thus benefit from the battles over jurisdiction between local authorities and the higher levels of government. In the end, however, the question was over who had the authority and the legal right to try a suspect, not whether a suspect should be tried. When tried, the specific actions of the suspect mattered most; but the differences in table 2.1 clearly show that being a citizen mitigated the punishment imposed on Anabaptists. (75) J. E. A. Boomgaard has argued that in the case of religious crimes "the verdicts were less diverse," since after 1535 the judges were not so flexible when dealing with religious criminals "and citizenship no longer constituted a measure of protection." (76) Our data, however, suggests that citizenship still offered some protection after 1535, since fewer citizens were captured or executed.

When looking at the punishments imposed on convicted Anabaptists it becomes even more clear that what mattered most to magistrates was their actual deeds. For example, eight of the thirty-three convicted citizens--and eighteen of the forty-one strangers--were women.
Table 2.3: Verdicts of Anabaptists in Amsterdam in 1535

           Total  Capital  Decapitated  Drowned  Other  Non-Capital

Citizens      33       28           20        1      7            5

Strangers     41       27            7        8     12           14

Unknown       12        7            0        7      0            5

           Banished  Penance

Citizens          5        0

Strangers        14        0

Unknown           4        1

Other = the most severe punishments, usually consisting of a
combination of other punishments, such as being strangled and
burned afterwards.

Sources: DAN V; GAA, arch. nr. 5014, in v. nrs. 1-22.

Generally, capital punishment for women was by drowning. But now a number of women received other penalties because of their specific actions. Thus, Aechen Jansdr, one of the so-called "naked runners," was "publicly hanged in front of her house, then strangled and killed." (77) It is not entirely clear why she was hanged in front of her house rather than before the local court (vierschaar), as was the case with Fye Daenen, who aided the Anabaptist bishop Jacob van Campen. (78) Possibly it was done to show her neighbors that the strong arm of the law could reach into every part of Amsterdam. Besides warning the neighborhood, the magistrates may have also intended to carry out a "ritual cleansing of the location through the shedding of blood" since several conventicles had been held at Aechen's house, further stressing the link between the crime and the punishment. (79) These public executions were not only judicial rituals, but also political rituals--ceremonies "by which power is manifested." (80) After all, crimes were a personal attack on the sovereign, the source of law and justice. Thus, public executions were meant to redress and to restore the sovereignty of the ruler. (81) The severity of the punishment was the result of a calculation: it had to be proportional to the crime committed; it had to set a clear example for the rest of the population; and it had to redress the injury done to the victims of the crime and to the sovereign, who was a victim as well.


The specific role an individual Anabaptist played in the movement also affected the punishment received. In some cases, aspects of the penalty referred directly to the actions of a convicted Anabaptist. The mitre that Jacob van Campen had to wear, for example, symbolized his leading role--he was a bishop, authorized to baptize people. For the authorities such bishops constituted the gravest danger, for they intentionally deceived people and maliciously led them astray. They were the ones who spread the poison of heresy. In 1534 Charles V issued an edict specifically directed against the "seducers and impostors, who rebaptize people and teach evil, infected errors and sects." It strictly forbade any aid to these teachers (leeraars) and declared each of them to be worth a bounty of twenty-five guilders, beyond the expenses of capture and transport. (82)

Besides bishops, other Anabaptists spread the alleged errors of Anabaptism by printing and selling heretical books. This was something authorities could not easily contain, since the borders between countries could never be sealed completely. (83) Active association with book publishing could be dangerous in the sixteenth century even if the books were not heretical. The reasoning behind this was that simple people easily fell victim to all kinds of errors, even when reading nonheretical books, since they lacked the intellectual capacities to fully understand theological treatises or other texts dealing with religious subjects. Charles V therefore forbade any references to "evil matters" (duystere material) in sermons, even if it was done to combat wicked doctrines. (84)

Anabaptists who actively disseminated their errors or were involved in acts of sedition, riots, and scandals were identified by the authorities as leaders, or principaelen. Regarding the specific form of punishment for Anabaptists in this category, national and local authorities were in agreement that all of them should be put to death. In Amsterdam, forty-two of the forty-four principaelen were executed; in Leiden, twenty-one of the twenty-two principaelen faced the death penalty. One of these principaelen had fled the city and was therefore banished. Another was not identified as a leader by the local authorities (and so was banished), but according to the attorney-general of the Hofhe was indeed a leader and should have been executed. Leiden's sheriff regarded Anthonis Hugensz as a leader, but contrary to the sheriffs demand for the death penalty, the court banished Anthonis for a period of fifty years --an interesting case to which we will return.

In general, Anabaptist leaders were punished more severely than their followers--the harshness of the penalties was related to the severity of their crimes. This distinction was clearly visible in Amsterdam where far more principaelen than non-principaelen received a form of capital punishment categorized under the header "other"-- including hanging, strangling, quartering, and some creative combinations of various punishments.
Table 3.1: Penalties Imposed on Principaelen and Non-principaelen

           Burned     Decap.  Drowned  Other  Ban.  Pen.

A'dam              1      19        2     20     2     0

Delft              0       0        0      0     0     0

Leiden            18       3        0      1     1     0


Decap.       Burned       Decap.  Drowned  Other  Ban.  Pen.

19                    19      24       19      5    57     7

0                      0      21       11      0     0     0

3                      0       5        9      8     5     0

Decap. = decapitated, ban. = banished, pen. = penance
Sources: DAN IT, V; RAL, arch. nr. 508, inv. nr. 3-1; GAD,
arch. nr. 13, inv. nr. 46; ARA, arch. nr., inv. nr. 5654.

Local judges distinguished between the different actions of the principaelen in determining the appropriate punishment. The Anabaptists involved in the attack on the city hall, for instance, were cut open and their hearts taken out, whereas the Anabaptists who "held a secret meeting, set something on fire and caused great tumult and commotion" were decapitated. (85) Remarkably, only one principael was burned in Amsterdam. This was Quirijn Pieterssen, who actively rebaptized other people. All the nineteen non-principaelen who were burned had refused to recant their heretical beliefs and were executed as staunch heretics. In Leiden the pattern was somewhat different. There the principaelen were burned immediately whereas in 1552 the Anabaptists who stuck to their errors were first strangled and then burned.

The difference in sentences speaks volumes: principaelen were executed primarily for their seditious and treacherous behavior. The fact that they rebelled or actively spread heresy was more important to the authorities than their heresy itself. To be sure, there was no fixed rule on this. In Leiden, for instance, all the Anabaptists involved in the "planned attack" were burned at the stake. Yet regardless of the differences in punishments between the cities, it is clear that all magistrates were more inclined to execute principaelen than non-principaelen.

As the same time, as table 3.2 shows, magistrates were also willing to kill non-principaelen. In Amsterdam and Leiden more than 50 percent of the non-principaelen forfeited their life, and in Delft all non-principaelen were executed. As noted, three of the four Anabaptists executed in Amsterdam in 1534 were principaelen, and one refused to leave the city after she was banished. If the Amsterdam magistrates would have stuck with the policy of only executing principaelen, far fewer Anabaptists would have been killed. The first Anabaptists executed in 1535 were principaelen. However, on March 6, 1535, nine Anabaptists were executed, only one of whom, Jan Paeuw, was a leader. The rest had merely been rebaptized. (86) Thus even before the attack of May 10 the distinction between principaelen and non-principaelen was breaking down. Although the differences in harshness of the punishments remained, the local court of Amsterdam now considered rebaptism itself to be a capital offense.
Table 3.2: Anabaptists Principaelen and Non-principaelen Who
Received Capital and Noncapital Punishments

           Total  Capital  %   Non-Cap  %

Amsterdam     44       42  96        2  5

Delft          0        0  00        0  0

Leiden        22       21  96        1  5


           Total  Capital   %   Non-Cap  %

Amsterdam    131       67   51       64  49

Delft         30       30  100        0   0

Leiden        28       22   77        6  21

Sourees: DAN II, V; RAL, arch. nr. 508, inv. nr. 3-1; GAD, arch. nr.
13, inv. nr. 46; ARA, arch. nr., inv. nr. 5654.

This was probably a consequence of developments inside and outside Amsterdam. Preceding the decapitation of Jan Paeuw and others, the naaktlopers and the Anabaptists who instigated a fire had caused tumult in Amsterdam. Outside Amsterdam an Anabaptist conspiracy was revealed in Leiden and the Anabaptists in Mtinster were causing havoc. These events quickly led to a somewhat distorted, though not completely false, image of the Anabaptist heresy in general. "For at least a decade," Alistair Duke has written, "heresy in Holland was equated with Anabaptism, and Anabaptism in turn with disorder, even rebellion." (87) The Anabaptist attack in May 1535 only confirmed the veracity of this equation.

Violently quashing a rebellion--as happened to the Peasants' Revolt in Germany in 1525, or in Munster in 1535, or at the Oldeklooster in the northern Netherlands in 1535--was a widely accepted response to social turmoil in early modern societies. A decree from Haarlem, another city in Holland, is particularly instructive: "In circumstances where commotion and riots lead to great danger" the sheriff was allowed to forgo the normal judicial procedure and to decapitate the first rioter he captured, since order had to be restored swiftly. (88) In Leiden, as far as we know, Anabaptists who were suspected of plotting an attack on the city were immediately executed. Peter Gael, an Amsterdam citizen who was involved in the attack on the city hall, was interrogated twice (on May 11 and 13) before he was executed on May 14. (89) Here, the delay in his execution was probably not to determine whether or not he was really guilty, but to gain more information about other rebellious Anabaptists. Nevertheless, the local judges at least partly adhered to the standard judicial procedure, not wanting to administer justice without due process. This policy would be continued in the following decades: Anabaptists were given a formal trial before they were punished and were not automatically executed. (90)

Between May 14 and 21, 1535, Amsterdam authorities executed thirty-two Anabaptists. Three days later, on May 24, the first Anabaptist to receive a milder punishment was Rem Garbrantsz, who was convicted for supporting Anabaptists as a result of his close contact with the leader Jan van Scellincwoude. He was banished from Amsterdam for ten years. (91) On the same day Anna Baelhuvs was banished from Amsterdam in perpetuity. Her husband was involved in the Anabaptist attack, though she apparently did not know this. (92) After 1535 the magistrates moved somewhat closer to the position of Charles V, executing not only the leaders but also the people who were "merely" rebaptized. But as these examples suggest, they were still not prepared to condemn mere followers to death.

In Leiden a similar pattern is visible. Walich Wijnantsz was present at the meeting of the Anabaptists who plotted to take over Leiden, but when tortured he revealed that he had not been rebaptized and "had no erroneous opinions" about the holy sacrament. He was therefore sentenced to walk in a procession with the "city's barrel" (stede tonne) around his neck, and to stand on a platform (up een hoechte) in front of the house in which he was captured. After that he was banished from Leiden for a period of 100 years. (93) Mere presence at an Anabaptist meeting was thus not regarded as a capital offence. Of course, there were exceptions. Albert Reyersz, for example, had lived among Anabaptists for years, organized conventicles in his own house, denied the holy sacrament, and was executed, even though he apparently had never been rebaptized. (94)

Thus, not every follower of the Anabaptists was executed as Charles V wished; but the closer the connection to the Anabaptists, the more magistrates were inclined to impose harsh punishments. This, and the fact that recantation after 1535 only served to change the manner of execution--for example, decapitation instead of burning--makes clear that the policy of the magistrates toward Anabaptists was becoming more stringent, though it never completely coincided with the policy advocated by Charles V.


Gender also played a role in determining the nature of Anabaptist punishment. The following table makes it clear that women were generally punished less severely than men, likely because of a gender bias but also because women were less likely to have leading roles within Anabaptist groups.
Table 3.3: Percentage of Non-capital Punishments Related to
Total Number of Anabaptist Men/Women Convicted

           Total         Barnished         Pen lance
            Men   Women     Men     Women     Men     Women

Amsterdam     28     53         27     44          2      9

Leiden        17      0         17      0          0      0

Sources: DAN II, V; RAL, arch. nr. 508, inv. nr. 3-1.

In the end, thirty-six of the sixty-eight convicted Anabaptist women (53 percent) received non-capital punishments. This probably had something to do with the nature of their activities, though we should not downplay the role of women in the Anabaptist movement. Despite their generally inferior position, writes Sigrund Haude, "women were essential for the maintenance, growth and survival of the religious movements--particularly since the communities lived under persecution."(95) Anabaptist women often provided shelter to their coreligionists and sometimes acted as messengers, warning others in times of danger. (96) Some of them hosted conventicles in their homes, or they allowed Anabaptists to hold their meetings there. Women thus clearly contributed to the infrastructure crucial to the survival and expansion of Anabaptism.

Many of the women who aided the Anabaptists were not rebaptized themselves and could sometimes pretend --as did Marie Jorysdr--not to know that the people living in their house were Anabaptists.97 Not being rebaptized was of crucial importance for sentencing, both for men and women. In Amsterdam in 1553 three women and one man who had been present at conventicles and discussed matters of religion with Anabaptists, but had not been rebaptized, were merely banished.98 Only four days earlier, on January 16, 1553, three men were executed with the sword because they were rebaptized.99

Gender prejudices--the result of widely shared opinions about women in general--often worked to the advantage of women when being prosecuted. Most women, for example, were seen as being "incapable of independent action."100 Women did not make a conscious decision to join the Anabaptists, but were lured into this false sect. Women with allegedly heretical husbands were even more liable to fall victim to heresy since households were traditionally headed by men. Therefore, "their ignorance preserved their innocence ... and punishment was meant to deter them from falling prey to such doctrinal error again."101 Not all women were so innocent, however, and many proved to master the act of pretending to be weak, ignorant, and reproachless in order to mitigate the punishment.102

Taking into account all these different variables, as the magistrates clearly did, was probably not a big issue for the imperial government in the 1520s and early 1530s. According to Brad Gregory, "ecclesiastical and secular authorities wanted to correct the heterodox, not to kill them."103 The fact that clergymen frequently went to captured Anabaptists to refute their wicked doctrines and persuade them to return to the church bears witness to this. Early on, authorities made a genuine effort to prevent heretics from dying as heretics. Even Charles V stated in the late 1520s that "he was not seeking the death of our subjects ... nor their goods, but only the maintenance of the faith and of the statutes, ordinances, and constitutions of the Holy Church and of our ordinances, and the suppression and reformation of errors, abuses, and endeavors to the contrary." (104)

By 1535, however, Charles V was taking another path, demanding the speedy execution of Anabaptists and their followers. Nonetheless, many of the verdicts in Amsterdam in the 1540s and 1550s still explicitly stated that the convicted Anabaptist had refused to recant. These Anabaptists would have had the option of returning to the Catholic faith, but since recantation after 1535 did not avoid death--both in Charles V's edicts and in the policy of the local courts--spiritual correction was no longer a primary aim of the magistrates.105 Such correction was reserved almost exclusively for those who passively supported Anabaptists or had passing contact with them, or for those who could benefit from the periods of grace as stipulated in earlier edicts of Charles V. Their punishments were mitigated, in spite of a local decree issued in 1537 that prohibited providing shelter to Anabaptists on the penalty of death, a punishment which the magistrates of Amsterdam regarded as excessive.106

Thus, as time passed, a growing number of actions qualified as capital offenses. Not only the principaelen were executed, but also those who were rebaptized but did not have leading roles within Anabaptists groups. The nature of the execution, however, differed according to the role they had held. And women were less liable to be put to death, both because of their lower positions within the Anabaptist movement and because of a gender bias. Thus, despite the fact that even non-principaelen faced the death penalty after 1535, magistrates still did not follow imperial edicts to the letter and continued to adhere to their own principle: namely, the closer the connection with Anabaptists or Anabaptist groups, the heavier the penalty. But not everyone connected with the Anabaptists deserved to be killed.


Two additional albeit less tangible, variables that influenced the punishments imposed on Anabaptists were: 1) the composition and policy of the magistracy in each city; and 2) the status (aanzien) that Anabaptists enjoyed in the urban communities where they lived.

In early modern Dutch cities the sheriff and his aldermen administered justice, but they were assisted by burgomasters who increasingly encroached on activities that had previously been confined to the former. (107) The picture that emerges from the rich source material is that the Habsburg government suspected many of the local magistrates of being "contaminated" by heresy. The weakness of justice (slapheyt van der jttsticie) in the cities was especially problematic. (108) According to two imperial memoranda drafted in 1536, one of Amsterdam's burgomasters had even dined with Jan Boekelsz, the later king of Minister. (109) On several occasions magistrates had obstructed the administration of justice by keeping judicial documents of Anabaptists to themselves, thus preventing Habsburg officials from, initiating a prosecution. (110) One reason for their unwillingness to humbly abide by the demands of the Habsburg authorities was clearly expressed by a burgomaster from Amsterdam in 1531--he refused to "deliver any prisoners or innocent Anabaptists to the butcher's block." (111)

The Habsburg government responded in 1536 by directly appointing seven new aldermen in Amsterdam, something that had never happened before. (112.) These new aldermen--not "suspected of any errors"--had to deal with heretics more forcefully and were expected to influence the outcome of the elections of new burgomasters through the "Old Council, " which consisted of former burgomasters and aldermen. (113) The plan succeeded. In 1539 Hendrick Dircksz, the main protagonist of the "sincere and Catholic" party, was appointed as burgomaster. (114)

So after the late 1530s Amsterdam enjoyed a "sincere" Catholic government. Yet in spite of this, prosecution of Anabaptists did not increase in Amsterdam (or in Delft or Leiden) in the 1540s and 1550s. This could hardly have satisfied the Habsburg government, which kept a close eye on the cities' magistracy. But the quantity of the letters sent to and from the cities regarding the activities of Anabaptists and the policy of the magistrates in these decades seems to indicate that even the central authorities were not as focused on catching heretics as they were in the 1530s.115

How is the policy of the local magistrates to be explained? Many historians have pointed, almost reflexively, to the influence of Erasmus. Thanks to the moderating voice of Erasmus, the argument goes, the upper stratum of Dutch society was weary of persecution and ready to advocate a moderate and relatively tolerant religious policy.116 This is hard to prove, however, because it is extremely difficult to demonstrate the precise impact of books and ideas, especially in the sixteenth century. A related interpretation regards tolerance as a unique characteristic of Dutch society.117 Attractive as it might be, however, we have many examples where tolerance gave way to intolerance in the Netherlands during the early modern era.118 Therefore, it is more helpful to consider a number of alternative explanations for the policy of the magistrates.

First, as we have already noted, magistrates wished to defend the privileges and autonomy of their city. Second, the religious outlook of magistrates was of great importance. In the first years of the 1530s Amsterdam's magistrates were clearly sympathetic to heretical movements, provided that heretics behaved appropriately. It is possible that magistrates did not mercilessly hunt down every last Anabaptist because it could implicate people in their own circles who sympathized with heretics, or worse.119 Occasionally, their religious outlook even inspired some authorities to rescue heretics, as was the case with the sheriff of Delfshaven who stirred up a mob to aid him in freeing some Anabaptists from the scaffold, thereby resulting in a siege of Rotterdam's city hall that forced the executioner and his servants to retreat.120

Yet another factor that could influence the stance of magistrates was their most important duty, namely "maintaining the harmony within the city walls (the stad$urede)." (121) The antiheresy laws of Charles V threatened this peace by nullifying the rights of the cities and its citizens. Already in the 1510s magistrates "came to appreciate that the conservative religious policy of Charles V could not easily he reconciled with the imperative of peace within the local community." (122) As a result the magistrates and the city council had to walk a thin line between the demands of the local community and those of the higher levels of government resulting in a pragmatic policy that alternated between the various interests of these pressure groups.

Fourth, heresy was not the magistrates' only problem. They also had to contend with finances. As a result, they were often motivated to restrict expenditures as much as possible, certainly when the expenses were more or less imposed by higher levels of government. The cities themselves had to pay the costs of the executions, which in some cases could amount to nearly twenty-four pounds. (123) It is not surprising that many magistrates thought it more wise to invest this money in the city's economy if only to maintain harmony and peace within the city. (124)

In the end, then, magistrates who wished to prosecute heretics were bound by the means available to them. This, and the fact that they had to take into account the interests of many pressure groups, forced them to adopt a policy of political pragmatism--different circumstances called for different solutions. Defending the interest of their city was often their highest priority. But this could be done in many ways, sometimes leading to resistance against the uniformity expected by the central authorities and at other times--especially when heretics jeopardized the stadsvrede--resulting in punishments as strict as the Habsburg authorities wanted them to be. Clearly, the way authorities reacted to Anabaptism was based on many considerations, with religion being just one of them.

Finally, the behavior of magistrates was also influenced by the social status of a suspect. In general, the authorities were far more willing to prosecute people of "inferior standing" than their "social equals." (125) Anabaptists, as recent research has shown, were to be found in all layers of society. (126) Most of the prosecuted Anabaptists during this period, however, were artisans. (127) Apart from a sheriff and a former sheriff no members of the political elite were convicted, likely because they--thanks to their status and social networks--were better shielded from the arms of the law. Cornelis Jansz de Vlaminck, a former aldermen and patrician of Amsterdam, was aided by his friends who tried to convince the stadholder, albeit unsuccessfully, that he was a respectable but deceived man. (128) That status made a difference can also be inferred from the edicts specifically admonishing magistrates not to "treat wealthy people differently than the poor." (129)

On the other hand, people coming from the lower strata of society could also benefit from the fact that they were part of a local community. This became clear in the case of Anthonis Huygensz, who, according to the sheriff of Leiden, was rebaptized, had been present at conventicles, and had even sold gunpowder (boschcruyt) to various sectarians.130 In the interrogations that were part of the investigation some of Anthonis's colleagues maintained that he was a good and obedient militiaman, while his neighbors reported that he was "a good Christian," an "honest and reliable young man," and an "honorable burgher." (131) All of those interrogated denied that Anthonis had anything to do with the Anabaptists and, in the end, the aldermen, contrary to the demands of the sheriff, decided merely to banish him.

Another example can be found in the so-called "letters of remission." Anna Lenaertsdr, one of the "naked runners/7 was defended by the president of the Court of Holland, Gerrit van Assendelft, and by the attorney-general, Reynier Brunt, in a letter they sent to the stadholder. Because no evidence was found that she had been rebaptized--combined with the fact that she was pregnant, had received a good recommendation from the pastor of the Old Church, had an honorable reputation, and was young, "beautiful and graceful"--they thought she should be exempted from punishment.132 Anna was pardoned and only had to do penance and pay the "costs of justice."133 It is telling that her letter of remission was registered on December 1, 1535, when Anabaptists were causing so much havoc in parts of Europe. Already then, albeit only in extremely rare cases, the Habsburg overlord himself (or his representative) was willing to take into account a number of extenuating circumstances and to mitigate the punishment.

This selection of examples shows that when Anabaptists were integrated into the rest of society, it became much harder to simply outlaw and execute them. Even when Anabaptists were depicted as archheretics and intensely rebellious, many people who knew them in person refused to reduce their identity to this religious core. Their civil status and the fact that they still were part of a social network shielded them, at least partly, from the full extent of the law.


Perhaps more suited than the local courts to carry out the antiheresy policy of the central government was the Hof The Hof after all, was in close contact with the central authorities, who scrutinized the proceedings of this court. Second, the councillors were appointed directly by the Habsburg overlord,134 which, in theory, reduced the chance that magistrates would be elected who were sympathetic toward heretics. Third, people in the cities or towns were judged by their peers. This was not the case when they were summoned before the Hof Not surprisingly, Charles wanted the Grote Raad and the Hof to oversee all heresy trials instead of the local courts. Although this did not happen, the Hof was still very active in prosecuting Anabaptists, as table 5.1 shows.
Table 5.1: Prosecution of Anabaptists by the Hof
       Capital                             Non-Capital
       Princ.   %   Non-principael   %     Princ.     %

1530s       19  23              64   76            7   1

1540s        1  10               9   90            0   0

1550s        0   0               4  100            1   7

1560s        0   0               2  100            3  50

Total       20  20              79   80           11   1
       Non-principael   %

1530s             727   99

1540s              12  100

1550s              14   93

1560s               3   50

Total             756   99

Princ. = principael

Sources: DAN V; ARA, arch. nr., inv. nrs. 5653-5654.

Between 1530 and 1570 the Hof convicted an astonishing number of Anabaptists (866). In the early 1530s, a large number of Anabaptists received non-capital punishments. Most of them were Anabaptists stopped by the authorities while traveling to Mimster in March of 1534.135 Given these large numbers, it was impossible for the authorities to prosecute them all. Thus many, except for the leaders, were simply sent home. Anabaptists living in Holland, however, had to appear before the Hof before they could be released.

Many in this group benefited from an edict issued on February 27, 1534, granting Anabaptists a period of twenty-four days in which they could recant and would be pardoned. The edict was issued after a councillor of the Hof traveled to Brussels and explained that the Hof had no problems executing the leaders, but that putting to death all those who were simply deceived would be too harsh.136 This policy of clemency continued through the Munster debacle--even in September of 1535 Claes Jacobsz managed to be pardoned by appealing to this decree.137

It appears that the Hof determined the punishment of the Anabaptists only after they had been carefully categorized. In general, Anabaptists who came directly to the Hof and could prove that they had already had done penance were released after paying a fine. (138) Anabaptists who appeared before the Hof several weeks after they were captured, but could prove that they had already done penance, had to beg the court for forgiveness, go to a church to do penance in a ritual before the holy sacrament, and pay a fine. (139) The people who travelled with Anabaptists, but had not been rebaptized, were only required to appear before the Hof, beg for forgiveness, and pay a fine even though they had not yet done penance. (140) Those who already had done penance had only to pay a fine. (141) Of course, there were always exceptions. In some instances, for example, Anabaptists had to go to the church several times and do penance. (142) In general these seem to have been the distinctions councillors made in assessing the different cases.

When people had to be punished strictly but not too severely, banishment was added so that the penalty would be "an example for others" (143) Banishment was the common punishment of the Hof and the local courts for those who did not appear before the Hof when summoned. It was especially common as an additional punishment when the Ho/held court outside The Hague. (144)

Punishment, however, was not the only goal of the Hof Transgressors had to redress the wrong they had done (heteringe) to society by paying a fine, and they also had to be reconciled (amende honorable). (145) Begging forgiveness from the judges was one part of the beteringe. (146) The goal was to restore these wandering souls into the loving arms of the Holy Church, with the ultimate aim of healing the shattered unity of Christendom.

Yet in spite of these lofty goals the Hof did indeed sentence many Anabaptists to death--especially those who did not want to recant or who had committed crimes that the authorities believed could only be expunged by death. Not surprisingly, among those executed were several principaelen. In the 1530s nineteen principaelen were executed; but the same year also saw sixty-four non-principaelen share that fate since many of them refused to recant and to do penance. In 1534 this could still make a difference. Thus, on April 15 some Anabaptists who had demonstrated no remorse (geen leetzuesen) and refused to recant were burned accordingly. (147) Six days later two Anabaptists who admitted that they were led astray and were willing to recant only had do to penance and pay a fine. (148) The principaelen who received non-capital punishments all were on the run. Jan Mathijsz van Haarlem, for instance, preferred to be king in Miinster instead of facing the judges at The Hague. The fact that his verdict is dated on July 14, 1534, made his appearance in person impossible, since he died on April 5 of that year. (149)
Table 5.2: Punishments Imposed on Principaelen and bion-principaelen

        Total  Capital  Burnded  Decap.  Drowned  Other  Non-Cap

Princ.     31       20        2      17        0      1       11

Non-      835       77       22      42       11      2      758

        Banished  Penance  Fine  Other

Princ.        11        0     0      0

Non-         391      222   144      1

The Anabaptists who had to pay a fine had already done penance and
had proof of this.
Sources: DAN V; ARA, arch. nr., inv. nrs 5653-5654.

Almost all the principaelen sentenced by the Hof were decapitated. Although in some cases the Hof decided to decapitate unrepentant Anabaptists, burning was the preferred mode of execution for staunch heretics who were unwilling to recant.

As in the cities, the number of Anabaptists executed by the Hof rapidly decreased after the 1530s. In 1536 fifteen Anabaptists were put to death by the Hof, compared with just one Anabaptist in the cities. Twelve of these Anabaptists were executed because they were present or somehow involved with meetings held in Poeldvck, in which Adriaen Adriaensz van Hazerswoude, a self-proclaimed king who "received a sword and crown from heaven to punish the unjust," told his followers that he would use this sword "to kill all those who were not elected by God" (150) The councillors of the Hof must have recognized the resounding voice of the Miinsterites when hearing this and, since these ideas "tended to [inspire] revolt, sedition, perturbation of the general prosperity and destruction of the country," the people involved were to be executed. (151)

Yet even during this episode the Hof still resorted to what is called "arbitrary correction" (arbitrate correeiie)--that is, taking into account the circumstances and the "quality" of the transgressor. A different range of punishments was inflicted on the people present at the meeting in Poeldyck compared with those arrested in transit to the gathering, reflecting the extent to which they were involved in this meeting and the roles they had played. (152) It is telling that in the case of Claes Jansz--who had been involved in the riots in Hazerswoude--his heart was cut out of his body, he was decapitated, and his body quartered, a punishment that clearly resembles the penalty inflicted on the Anabaptists who assaulted Amsterdam's city hall. (153) In 1536, the Hof responded just as the local courts had responded. Furthermore, the prosecution of Anabaptists by the provincial and local courts reached its peaks in the years of burgeoning Anabaptist activity (figure 5.1).

According to the Dutch historian Serge ter Braake the councillors of the Hof punished heretics more harshly than did local judges.134 Yet a careful comparison of the penalties inflicted on Anabaptists by three local courts and the Hof do not support his conclusion. In the period 1530-1566 the Hof executed fewer Anabaptists than did the city of Amsterdam alone, with more Anabaptists also receiving non-capital punishments.


The wav the councillors reacted to the event in Poeldvck--and the fact that they too resorted to arbitrary correction, and discriminated between the various actions of Anabaptists and their supporters--suggests that their treatment of Anabaptists was rather similar. As table 5.3 shows, in the 1540s and 1550s a higher percentage of male Anabaptists convicted by the Hof did not forfeit their life. Thus, in most cases the Hofs sentences were even milder than those of the local courts in these decades.

The fact that the Hof dealt with heretics in a manner similar to the policies of the local courts made them vulnerable to the critique of the central government. Reynier Brunt blamed the Council (Rciad) of Holland--the most important body of the Court of Holland--for sticking to the "right to alter or moderate penalties, as had been explicitly authorized by heresy edicts published in Holland before 1531." (155)

Another precedent claimed by the Hof was the judgment by the president of the Grotc Raad, who maintained in 1527 that the penalties regarding heresy as stipulated in the edicts could be mitigated depending on "the circumstances of the case, the quality of the person, whether he be responsible for a wife and children, and whether [by execution] he might be eternally damned." (156) Of course the Habsburg authorities thought that later edicts superseded the earlier ones, but the discussion of whether everyone should be subjected to the same punishment was carried out even in the upper echelons of the central government. (157)

In some cases, as noted above, the Hof was willing to revoke the death penalty for Anabaptists who recanted. In 1544, for instance, the court sentenced two followers of David Joris from Delft to penance and banishment because they had acknowledged their errors. However, Hippolitus van Persijn, who was appointed attorney-general in 1534, lodged an appeal against these verdicts. Eventually both of them were decapitated. (158) Persijn supported the Habsburg policy that "denied the provincial courts the usual judicial latitude in passing sentences," a stance that created "a rift between Brussels and The Hague."(159) Like the local judges, the councillors saw this policy as an infringement on their authority and an unjustified breach with the traditional judicial practice they were trying to maintain.

Tracy is correct to insist that the Raad "never was a faceless panel of bureaucrats" who unconditionally obeyed the central government. (160) The claims of historian Piet Visser to the contrary, Holland did not "[carry] out the directives of Brussels faithfully." (161) Indeed, the Hof was quite often more lenient than were the local courts, since they were far more willing to mitigate the punishment of repentant Anabaptists. (162) What mattered most was the actual deeds of the accused Anabaptists. When necessary the Hof was just as severe as the local courts; but in the end all the courts frequently resorted to arbitrary correction, giving rise to the many parallels in their antiheresy proceedings. Neither the Hof nor the local courts proved to be the well-oiled machine dealing with heresy that the Habsburg overlords wished them to be.

The figures for Anabaptist prosecution in Holland can be put in a somewhat broader perspective by comparing them with the execution of Anabaptists in the neighboring cities of Antwerp, Bruges, and Ghent. Table 5.4 shows that more Anabaptists were executed in the southern Netherlands than in the province of Holland. Indeed, the difference is quite significant. Compared with the 183 Anabaptists executed in the three cities in Holland between 1530 and [570, 244 Anabaptists were put to death in Antwerp, Bruges, and Ghent--a difference of 61.
Table 5.4: Number of Executed Anabaptists in Amsterdam, Delft,
Leiden, Antwerp, Bruges, and Ghent, and by the Hof

           1530s  1540s  1550s  1560s  Total

Amsterdam     70     23     15      0    108

Delft         30      2      0      0     32

Leiden        22     10     11      0     43

Total        122     35     26      0    183

Hof           83     10      4      2     99

Antwerp       24      0    100     17    141

Bruges         7      0     18      0     25

Ghent          9      0     31     38     78

Total         40      0    149     55    244

Sources: DAN II, V; RAL, arch. nr. 508, inv. nr. 3-1;
GAD, arch. nr. 13, inv. nr. 46; ARA, arch. nr. 3.03.(11.01, inv. nrs.
5653-5654; Waite, Eradicating the Devil's minions, 108, 110,122.

Table 5.4 also suggests wide differences among cities in the number of Anabaptists executed. This discrepancy could have resulted from numerous variables, including the availability of sources and the relative size of the Anabaptist movements. Unfortunately, it is almost impossible to reconstruct an urban Anabaptist community based on prosopo-graphical research since the court records are not extant for cities such as Leiden and Delft. It is likely that the biggest Anabaptist communities were to be found in the two largest cities, Amsterdam and Antwerp, which, in turn, could explain the high number of executions in these cities.
Table 5.4: Number of Executed Anabaptists in Amsterdam, Delft,
Leiden, Antwerp, Bruges, and Ghent, and by the Hof

           1530s  1540s  1550s  1560s  Total

Amsterdam     70     23     15      0    108

Delft         30      2      0      0     32

Leiden        22     10     11      0     43

Total        122     35     26      0    183

Hof           83     10      4      2     99

Antwerp       24      0    100     17    141

Bruges         7      0     18      0     25

Ghent          9      0     31     38     78

Total         40      0    149     55    244

Sources: DAN II, V; RAL, arch. nr. 508, inv. nr. 3-1;
GAD, arch. nr. 13, inv. nr. 46; ARA, arch. nr. 3.03.(11.01, inv. nrs.
5653-5654; Waite, Eradicating the Devil's minions, 108, 110,122.

Figure 5.2 highlights another significant difference. In the southern Netherlands the execution of Anabaptists also started in the 1530s; but the majority of executions occurred in the 1550s and 1560s. Even in the 1570s many Anabaptists faced the death penalty: seventy in Antwerp, seventy in Bruges, and thirty in Ghent, (163) Anabaptists in Holland, by contrast, were executed only sporadically in the 1570s, with the last execution of an Anabaptist in the northern Netherlands occurring in 1574; (164) It is likely that prosecution continued into the 1590s in the southern Netherlands since these provinces, in contrast to the northern provinces, remained firmly under the control of the Spanish Habsburgs.


Just as in the northern Netherlands, the prosecution of Anabaptists in the southern cities was partly a reaction to the violent actions by-Anabaptists themselves. In addition, Charles V and Philip II refused to distinguish among the various Anabaptist groups, be they Mennonites, Davidjorists, or Batenburgers.165 Peaceful or not, all Anabaptists had to be executed. Thus, the legal basis for Anabaptist prosecution remained intact throughout these decades and could be exercised by zealous magistrates. But regardless of the local nuances, the violent takeover of the city of Munster in 1534-1535 triggered something like an international wave of Anabaptist prosecution. In Antwerp, Ghent, and Leiden executions started in 1535. Prosecution in Bruges began a bit later (1538), and still later in Delft (1539). Seen from this perspective, Amsterdam and the Hof reacted more swiftly.


Although Mennonite historians acknowledge that not all their religious predecessors were executed, their attention has focused overwhelmingly on the martyrs, cherishing them, as did the martyrologies, as the champions of the faith. But as this research has shown, the policies of the authorities toward the Anabaptists and the punishments they meted out were less straightforward than the martyrologies and the imperial decrees suggest. On the local and provincial level, Anabaptists enjoyed a measure of judicial latitude shaped by traditional legal notions. Magistrates generally stuck to their standard legal procedure and "customized" a wide variety of punishments that were based on a careful analysis of the actual deeds of the captured Anabaptists. As a result, any Anabaptist whom the local and provincial courts regarded as a "mere follower" benefited from more lenient treatment.

Viewing the prosecution of Anabaptists from the perspective of the authorities has made it clear that their punishments closely reflected the perceived crimes. The fierce prosecution in the 1530s can be attributed largely to the rebellious activities of Anabaptists in various cities in the northern Netherlands and in neighboring territories, such as Munster. Because of the panic caused by these events, the policies of city magistrates moved a bit closer to the course of action demanded by Charles V. Whereas municipal authorities usually had to take into account the interests of various local pressure groups, these sometimes divergent interests coincided in the mid-1530s thanks to the violent actions of certain Anabaptists, For example, whereas the quest to track down heretics could easily come in tension with the city's legal customs, in 1535 securing the stadsvrede and prosecuting heretics meant virtually the same thing in Amsterdam. The panic of the 1530s also explains why magistrates started to execute non-principaelen as well.

Assorted variables continued to influence the punishment inflicted on Anabaptists throughout this period. This followed largely from the fact that the edicts of the Habsburg rulers were regarded as an infringement on the power of the municipal authorities and an outright attack on the jurisprudence rightfully wielded by local and provincial--and even national--courts. This explains why even "sincere" Catholic magistrates defended what they perceived to be their privileges. Magistrates often simply refused to heed the demand by the central authorities that everyone should be prosecuted regardless of their status and rights. Even though they were heretics, Anabaptists were not simply condemned or executed without trial--they were still seen as family members, colleagues, neighbors, fellow citizens, and sometimes even as "good Christians." Citizenship continued to offer a measure of protection, as did the social networks in which Anabaptists participated. And although the magistrates eventually began to execute non-principaelen, the punishments they imposed show that they still distinguished between staunch heretics and "mere" followers.

Several years ago a Frisian historian, Samme Zijlstra, concluded that Anabaptists "thought worse of the persecution than it actually was." (166) This research has confirmed his conclusion: prosecution was hard, sometimes even severe. But an examination of the sources beyond the unrepentant Anabaptist martyrs included in the martyrologies reveals that authorities imposed a wide array of sentences on Anabaptists, both capital and noncapital punishment, and that these judgements were often tailored to the specific actions and behavior of individual Anabaptists. Moreover, even though the prosecution of Anabaptists could be severe, magistrates frequently "relaxed normal judicial rules." (167) Arbitrary correction, often resulting in a mitigation of the punishments stipulated in the imperial decrees, was applied to Anabaptists as well.

(1.) A. F. Mellink, Documenta Anabaptistica Neerlandica (hereafter cited as DAN) (Leiden: E.J. Brill, 1985), 5:72.

(2.) DAN 5:239-242.

(3.) DAN 5: 217. The Haarlemmer Gate was one of the city's main gates (principale poerte). -DAN 5:24.

(4.) Hans-Jiirgen Goertz, The Anabaptists (London: Routledge, 1996), 118-119. Michael Driedger, "Anabaptists and the Early Modern State/' in A Companion to Anahaptism and Spiritualism., ed. John D. Roth and James Stayer (Leiden: Brill, 2008), 516.

(5.) Gary Waite, Eradicating the Devil's Minions (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2009), 18.'

(6.) Recantations were not only driven by a fear of death but also by the fact that the restoration of freedom made it possible to continue supporting an Anabaptist community. --Sigrun Haude, "Gender Roles and Perspectives," in Roth and Stayer, A Companion to Anahaptism and Spiritualism, 457. John Oyer has also explored the complex dynamics of recantation in "Nicodemites among Wiirttemberg Anabaptists," Mennonite Quarterly/ Review 71 (Oct. 1997), 487-514, and They Harry the Good People Out of the Land: Essays on the Persecution, Survival and Flourishing of Anabaptists and Mennonites (Goshen, Ind.: Mennonite Historical Society, 2000), 42-43, 313-314.

(7.) Piet Visser, "Mennonites and Doopsgezindcn/' in Roth and Stayer, A Companion to Anabaptism and Spiritualism, 316.

(8.) For example, see William R. Estep, The Anabaptist Story, 3rd ed. (Grand Rapids, Mich.: W. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1996), 171, 190, or the description of Anabaptist historiography in John D. Roth, "Recent Currents in the Historiography of the Radical Reformation," Church History 71/3 (2002), 523-535. For another example of a comparable vision, see VV. J. Kiihler, Geschiedenis der Nederlandsche doopsgezinden in de zestiende eeuw, 2nd ed. (Haarlem: Tjeenk Willink, 1961), esp. 245 and passim. This impulse has deep precedents. Hans de Ries's History of the Martyrs of 1615, for instance, jumps from "1533 to 1536, skipping the "Miinster years" and the Anabaptist martyrs associated with this "aberration."--Hans de Ries, Historie der martelaeren ofte zvaerachtighe getaygen jesu Christi... (Haarlem, 1615). In Thieleman van Braght's Martyrs Mirror one will find only one martyr from the year 1534 and six from 1535 (all executed in Holland and Friesland). Furthermore, van Braght explicitly notes that Pieter Kofter, sentenced to death in 1535, was no seditious person.--van Braght, Het bloedig toneel of martelaers Spiegel (Diemen: De Bataafsche Leeuw, 1984; originally published in 1685), 2:36. And van Braght's Martyrs Mirror goes to curious extremes by editing the birthplace of Peter Jansz (executed in 1549 in Amsterdam) to replace the location "in the county of Miinster" (tot Luninckhusen in den gestichte van Munster) with an ellipsis.--DAN 2:141 (note 96). Apparently seventeenth-century Anabaptists had the idea their history should also be without a spot or wrinkle.

(9.) See, for instance, Samme Zijlstra, Om de ware gemeente en de oude gronden. Geschiedenis van de dopersen in Nederiand 1531-1675 (Hilversum: Verloren, 2000).

(10.) Thomas A. Brady Jr., "Limits of Religious Violence in Early Modern Europe/' in Religion und Gezoalt. Konflkt, Rituale, Deutungen, 1500-1800, ed. Kaspar von Greyerz and Kim Siebenhiiner (Gottingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 2006), 133.

(11.) Kiihler, Geschiedenis der Nederlandsche doopsgezinden, 93. Greta Grosheide, Bijdrage aan de geschiedenis der Anahaptisten (Ililversum: J. Schipper, 1938), 19.

(12.) " ... dat alio offe degene, die bovenden sullen vvorden, besmet te zyn, met de vervloektte secte der Anabaptisten ofte Wederdoopers, van wat staet ofte conditie datse zyn, hunne oproerders, aenhangers, medepleghers, sullen vervallen in de verbeurte van lijf ende goet, ende sullen tot de uyterste straffe gebracht warden, sonder eenigh vertreek."--De Ries, Historie der martelaeren, 4r.

(13.) Ibid., 4r-v.

(14.) For such an example, see ARA (Aigemeen Rijksarchief), arch. nr. [archive number], inv. nr. [inventory number] 5653, f. 194v. Cornelis Meenenz claimed that he did not know he was not allowed to buy one of Luther's books because he had not heard the officials proclaim the placards out loud (aflesen).--ARA, arch. nr., inv. nr. 3545 (Interinementen van remissies, March 17,1529-Feb. 21, 1531) f. 42v. Between 1544 and 1550 the heresy placards were reissued six times.--James D. Tracy, Holland under Habsburg rule, 1505-1566 (Oxford: University of California Press, 1990), 171.

(15.) Johan van de Wiele, "De overheidspolitiek ter bestrijding van de reformatie in Vlaanderen in de zestiende eeuw voor de beeldenstorm. Een verhaal van warm en koud blazen," in Beleid en bestuur in de oude Nederlanden (Gent: Vakgroep Nieuwe Geschiedenis Universiteit Gent, 1993), 416.

(16.) The inquisition, although invigorated by Charles V in the 1520s, never really got off the ground in the northern Netherlands.--P. E. Valvekens, De inquisitie in de Nederlanden (Amsterdam: De Kinkhoren, 1949), 171-175, 179, 182; and Aline Goossens, "Karel V en de onderdrukking van de wederdopers," Doopsgezinde Bijdragen 27 (2001), 22.

(17.) For a clear example of the questions asked during an examination, see DAN 2:64 or N. van der Zijpp, Geschiedenis der doopsgezinden in Nederland (Arnhem: Van Loghum Slaterus, 1952), 60-61.

(18.) Zijlstra, Om de waregemeente, 98.

(19.) They were executed in The Hague and their heads were sent to Amsterdam.--DAN 5:2-3. One of them, a priest, remained imprisoned.--Jochen A. Ftihner, Die Kirchen-unci die antireformatorische Religionspolitik Kaiser Karls V. in den siebzehn Provinzen der Niederlande 1515-2555 (Leiden: Brill, 2004), 267. According to Gary Waite, in 1532 one Anabaptist was executed in Amsterdam. I have not been able to trace this verdict, however.--Waite, Eradicating the Devil's Minions, 82.

(20.) Albert F. Mellink, Amsterdam en de wederdopers in de zestiende eeuw (Nijmegen: SUN, 1978121.

(21.) ARA, arch. nr. 3.03.0L0I, inv. nr. 5653, f 40v-42v.

(22.) By capital punishments I mean the death penalty.

(23.) A pensionary (Raadspensionaris or Landsadvocaat) gave advice to the states of Holland and acted as its first official. Some cities in Holland, such as Leiden, also had a pensionary, an official appointed by the city who advised the city council.

(24.) RAL (Regionaal Archief Leiden), arch. nr. 501, inv. nr. 384 (Vroedschapsboek, 1522-53) i 59r (meeting on Oct. 20,1534).

(25.) RAL, arch. nr. 501, inv. nr. 1185 ("Stukken der Anabaptisten").

(26.) K. Vos, "De in 1535 te Leiden ter dood gebrachte Anabaptisten," Leids jaarboekje 15 (Leiden, 1918), 24-25.

(27.) See table 2.3. According to Gary Waite, fifty-four Anabaptists were executed in this year.--Waite, Eradicating the Devils Minions, 82.

(28.) DAN 5:140.

(29.) Ibid, 130.

(30.) Regarding contemporary notions about the "lower" and "upper" body, see Edward Muir, Ritual in Early Modern Europe, 2nd ed. (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2005), esp. 89-154.

(31.) Reinier Boitet, Beschrijvinge der stadt Delft... (Delft 1729), 773.

(32.) ARA, arch. nr., inv. nr. 5653, f. lv. In secondary literature one often finds that twenty-seven people were executed in Delft in 1539. See, for instance, I.V.T. Spaander and R.A. Leeuw, De stad Delft: Cultuur en maatschappij tot 1572 (Delft: Stedelijk Museum Het Prinsenhof, 1979), 109; Wijbenga, Delft (Rijswijk: Elmar, 1984), 120. However, Katrijn Wittendr. is listed twice in the vonnisboek.--GAV (Gemeentearchief Delft), arch. nr. 13 (Oud-rechterlijk archief), inv. nr. 46 (Crimineel boeck, Oct. 1539-Dec. 1591) f 173 v. Besides that two Anabaptists were executed in Aug. 1539, making a total of twenty-eight executed Anabaptists in that year.

(33.) The first one was Quinjn Pieterssen in 1544--DAN 2: 65.

(34.) Mellink, Amsterdam en de zuederdopers, 72; I. J. Brugmans, Geschiedenis van Amsterdam, deel 1,2nd ed. (Utrecht: SUN, 1972), 284.

(35.) Brugmans, Geschiedenis van Amsterdam, deel 1, 284. Gary K. Waite, "David Juris' Thought in the Context of the Early Melchiorite and Miinsterite Movements in the Low Countries, 1534-1536," The Mennonite Quarterly Reinezv 62 (1988), 314-316.

(36.) DAN 2:149.

(37.) Thus, Aelbrecht Thaems, for example, one of the Batenburgers captured in 1544, was "strangled and burned while copies of a chalice and ciboria hung on a gallows above him/' clearly stressing the criminal nature of their offense (robbing churches). --L. Knappert, De opkomst van het protestantisme in eerie Noord-Nederlandsche stud (Leiden: Van Doesburgh, 1908), 182. The Hof also identified Aelbrecht Taems is also identified as a Batenburger.-ARA, arch. nr., inv. nr. 5654* f. 127v. In Amsterdam, Batenburgers were hung.-DAN 2:36

(38.) Tracy, Holland under Habsburg Rule, 173.

(39.) Tracy listed only four instead of thirteen.--Ibid.

(40.) J. J. Woltjer, "Het conflict tussen Wiliem Bardes en Hendrick Dirkszoon," Bijdragen en Mededelingen betreffende de Geschiedenis der Nederlanden [BMCN] 86 (1971), 196-197.

(41.) Driedgcr,"Anabaptists and the Larly Modern State," 519-520.

(42.) DAM 5:207. A.F. Mellink, De wederdopers in de noordelijke Nederlanden, 1531-1544 (Leeuwarden: Uitgeverij Gerben Dykstra, 1981), 127-131; Waite, "The Anabaptist Movement in Amsterdam and the Netherlands 1531-1535: An Initial Investigation into its Genesis and Social Dynamics," The Sixteenth Century journal 18:2 (1987), 263-264.

(43.) RAL, arch. nr. 501, inv. nr. 1185, Letter from Deventer to Leiden (1535).

(44.) GAD, arch. nr. 13, inv. nr. 72b, Jan. 14, 1569, and June 3, 1570.

(45.) This impression is supported by the fact that in all three cities the number of heresy trials dropped after the 1530s, and by the fact that the central authorities sent fewer letters to the cities demanding that they prosecute Anabaptists (or heresy in general).

(46.) Herman Roodenburg, Onder censuur: de kerkelijke tucht in de gereformeerde gemeente van Amsterdam, 1578-1700 (Ph.D. Diss., Hilversum: Verforen, 1990), 69. In Leiden, in Jan. 1536, a procession was held to remember the prevented attack.--RAL, Aflezingsboek "B", f.51v-52r.

(47.) Mellink, Amsterdam en de wederdopers, 74.

(48.) Ibid.A

(49.) Gregory, "Anabaptist Martyrdom," in Roth and Stayer, A Companion to Anabaptism and Spiritualism, 478.

(50.) On the different ways to become a citizen, see: Wagenaar, Amsterdam in zyne opkomst, aanwas, geschiedenissen, voorregten, koophandel, geboitwen, kerkenstraat, schoolen, schutterye, gilden en regeeringe (Amsterdam, 1780), 1:142, 154-155; and Maarten Prak and Erika Kuijpcrs, "Burger, ingezetene, vreemdeling: Burgerschap in Amsterdam in de 17e en 18e eeuw," in Een geschiedenis van het begrip 'burger' in de Nederlanden van de Middeleeitwen tot de 21ste eeuw, ed. Joost Kloek and Karen Tilmans (Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press, 2002), 119,123.

(51.) Prak,"The Politics of Intolerance: Citizenship and Religion in the Dutch Republic (Seventeenth and Eighteenth Centuries)," in Calvinism and Religions Toleration in the Dutch Golden Age, ed. R. Po-chia Hsia and Henk van Nierop (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2002), 161; J. G. Van Dillen, Bronnen tot de geschiedenis van het bedrijfsleven en gildwezen in Amsterdam (The Hague: Nijhoff, 1.928), I: XXIII; Wagenaar, Amsterdam in zyne opkomst, 142; RAL, arch. nr. 508, inv. nr. 3-1, f. 62r; and Grosheide, Bijdrage tot de geschiedenis der Anabaptisten, 262, 272-287.

(52.) Alistair Duke, Reformation and Revolt in the Lozv Countries (London: Hambledon Press, 1990), 159.

(53.) About accusations used to prosecute minority groups, sometimes described as "judicial persecution," see David Nirenberg, Communities of Violence: Persecution of Minorities in the Middle Ages (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1996), esp. 93-126. On "street level" enmity that could arise because people were accused of being Anabaptists.--ARA, arch. nr., inv. nr. 3351 (Interinementen van remissies, Sept. 3,1534 -Sept. 27,1546), f. 160r-163r.

(54.) When proclaiming a keur against Anabaptists the city fathers of Amsterdam made a distinction between citizens and noncitizens.--Tracy, Holland Under Habsburg ride, 163. For the keur see DAN 5:37-8. In other decrees, however, they conflated citizens and inhabitants into one group.--Van Dillen, Bronnen tot de geschiedenis, 101.

(55.) DAV 5:40, 91-92.

(56.) Sigrun Haude, "Gender Roles and Perspectives" in Roth and Stayer, A Companion to Anahaptism and Spiritualism, 425-465, esp. 455-456.

(57.) See the complaints of Leiden's city council about the bad economic situation.--RAL, arch. nr. 501, inv. nr. 384, f. 2v-3v (Dec. 12,1530), f. I3r (March 1, 1536), f. 84r-v (22-8-1540).

(58.) Waite, "The Anabaptist Movement in Amsterdam and the Netherlands," 260.

(59.) One Anabaptist declared that many of his brothers went to Amsterdam because the population of this city was "merciful and would receive them with open arms."--DAN 5:226. See also Hamilton, "The Development of Dutch Anabaptism in the Light of the European Magisterial and Radical Reformation," in From Murky? to hiuppy. A Historical Introduction to Cultural Assimilation Processes of a Religious Minority in the Netherlands: The Memumites, ed. Alistair Hamilton, et al. (Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press, 1994), 9,11.

(60.) Waite, "The Anabaptist Movement in Amsterdam and the Netherlands," 258-260.

(61.) Letters sent by municipal authorities to other cities, asking about the whereabouts of their cities, should be interpreted in this light. For some examples, see SAL, arch. nr. 501, inv. nr. 1185, letter from Dordrecht to Leiden (Jan. 25, 1535); letter from Deventer to Leiden (Shrove Tuesday [dinxdach op den vastenavond] 1535).

(62.) Grosheide, Bijdrage tot de geschiedenis der Anabaptisten, 274-276.

(63.) In a few cases the Great Council (Grote Raad) of Mechelen was allowed to intervene--Ibid., 272-273.

(64.) About the various privileges and their legal status, see J. ]. Woltjer, "Dutch Privileges, Real and Imaginary," in Britain and the Netherlands, ed. J.S. Bromley and E. H. Kossmann (The Hague: Nijhoff, 1975), 5:19-35.

(65.) Grosheide, Bijdrage tot de geschiedenis der Anahaptisten, 274, 280

(66.) Ibid., 275.

(67.) Ibid., 278.

(68.) ARA, arch. nr., inv. nr. 5653, f. 322v.

(69.) Ibid., f. 323r-v.

(70.) Ibid., f. 324v-325v. About a similar conflict between the Court of Holland and the city of Delft see ARA arch. nr., inv. nr 5654, f. I v-3r.

(71.) For an individual defending her rights, se: ARA, arch. nr., inv. nr. 5653, f. (127v-129r.)

(72.) For instance, when in 1523 certain citizens of Amsterdam were summoned to appear before the "spiritual judge" (geestelijke rechter) of the bishop of Utrecht, Amsterdam pointed at the jus de nan evocando. In this case their claim was supported by the Habsburg government, for Utrecht (and the bishop in his capacity as a temporary ruler) were opponents of the central government. --Mellink, Amsterdam en de wederdopers, 12.

(73.) Grosheide, Bijdrage tot de geschiedenis der Anabaptisten, 266.

(74.) The city of Delft had already lost this privilege a decade earlier, in 1538. --Ibid., 265.

(75.) The historian J. E. A. Boomgaard, who has investigated Amsterdam's local court between 1490 and 1552, also concluded that the penalties issued varied depending on whether the accused was a citizen or stranger. In some cases judicial officers even distinguished between strangers "who came to the city with a clear goal [e.g., a temporary job] and those who did not." --Boomgaard, Misdaad en strafin Amsterdam: een onderzoek naar de strafrechtspleging van de Amsterdamse schepenbank 1490-1552 (Amsterdam, Zwolle: Waanders, 1992), 216.

(76.) Ibid., 224.

(77.) DAN 5: 203.

(78.) Ibid., 218. The only difference was that she was publicly hanged in front of the local court (vierschaar).

(79.) Muir7 Ritual in Early Modern Europe, 117. For the link between the location of the crime and the execution, see Michel Foucault, Discipline and Punishment. The, Birth of the Prison (London: Penguin Books, 1991), 44.

(80.) Foucault, Discipline and Punishment, 47. Pieter Spierenburg, The Spectacle of Suffering (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1984), 201-202.

(81.) Foucault, Discipline and Punishment, 47-48; Spierenburg, Spectacle of Suffering, 78.

(82.) " ... verleyders oft bedriegers ...die luyden wederdopen ende quade geinficeerde dvvalinghen ende secten leeren...."--DAN 1:10-11.

(83.) In 1544, for example, Jan Claesz. and Lucas Lambertsz printed some 600 books written by Menno Simons in Antwerp and sold around 200 of them in Holland. The rest were sent to Frisia.-DAV 2:47-48.

(84.) RAL, arch. nr. 501, inv. nr. 451, letter from Charles V to Leiden (Sept. 26,1539).

(85.) DAN 5:113-4.

(86.) DAN 5:118. Although, of course, being rebaptized required a death sentence according to the edicts of Charles V.

(87.) Duke, Reformation and Revolt, 89. In 1538 councillors of the Hof maintained that "all Anabaptists tried to raise tumult and revolt."--ARA, arch. nr., inv. nr. 5654, f. 2r.

(88.) RAL, arch. nr. 501, inv. nr. 370.

(89.) DAN 5:130-131, 135, 140. Other Anabaptists were also interrogated before they were executed.

(90.) This bears resemblance to the policy advocated by magistrates in other parts of Europe. See, for instance, Claus-Peter Clasen,"Nuernberg in the History of Anabaptism," MQR 39 (Jan. 1965), 25-39, esp. 34.

(91.) DAN 5:193-194.

(92.) Ibid., 194.

(93.) RAL, arch. nr. 508, inv. nr. 4, I 107r, March 23, 1535. For the use of the city's barrel see Rnappert, De opkomst van het protestantisme, 21.

(94.) DAN 2:9.

(95.) Haude, "Gender Roles and Perspectives," 431.

(96.) DAN 5:194-5, 213, 223,287.

(97.) DAN 5:236-7. It did matter whom the women aided. The two women helping Jacob van Campen were gruesomely put to death.--DAN 5:217-218.

(98.) DAN 2:227.

(99.) DAN 2:226. They were not burned because they recanted.

(100.) Haude, "Gender Roles and Perspectives," 455.

(101.) Ibid., 456.

(102.) Ibid. 456-457.

(103.) Brad S. Gregory, Salvation at Stake. Christian Martyrdom in Early Modem Europe (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1999), 81.

(104.) Ibid., 79.

(105.) Of course, there are always exceptions that prove the rule. --See, DAN 5:225.

(106.) For the keur see Grosheide, Bijdrage tot de geschiedenis der Anabaptisten, 203-204. Also, in Utrecht magistrates often granted milder punishments than they should have according to their keuren.--J. van Beurten, "Ham met mosterd: de 'kracht' van de Lftrechtse wereldlijke overheden bij de bestrijding van ketterij" (M.A. thesis, Utrecht Universitv, 2007), 48-19.

(107.) J. L Price, Holland and the Dutch Republic in the Seventeenth Century, The Politics of Particularism (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1994), 8, 20. In the fourteenth century, Amsterdam's burgomasters started to issue keuren (decrees), for instance.

(108.) DAN 5:46, 48-51. Kiihler, Geschiedenis der Nederlandsche doopsgezinden, 156.

(109.) DAN 5:251-260.

(110.) Mellink, Amsterdam en de zoederdopers, 42. Mellink, De xvederdopers in de noordelijke Nederlanden, 116. This was a tactic that was used more often by Amsterdam's magistrates.

(111.) DNA 5:257, 264.

(112.) Wagenaar, Amsterdam in zyne opkomst, 336.

(113.) DAN 5:106. Tracy, "Habsburg Grain Policy and Amsterdam Politics: The Career of Sheriff Willem Dirkszoon Baerdes, 1542-1566,"The Sixteenth Century journal 14:3 (1983), 294.

(114.) Woitjer, "Het conflict tussen Willem Bardes en Hendrick Dirkszoon," 180. Similarly inspired purges of political offices did not take place in Delft and Leiden during the period under study.

(115.) In the period 1544-1550 there was "hardly any mention of heresy" in the correspondence between The Hague and Brussels.--Tracy, Holland under Habsburg Rule, 171.

(116.) See, for instance, Sherrin Marshall, Tire Dutch Gentry, 1500-1650 (New York: Greenwood, 1987), 84. See also, H.F.K. van Nierop, Van ridders tot regenten. De Hollandse adel in de zestiende en eerste helft van de zeventiende eeuio (The Hague: De Bataafsche Leeuw, 1984), 189; Enno van Gelder, Getemperde vrijheid (Groningen: Wolters-Noordhoff, 1972), 65; and Knappert, De opkomst van het protestantisme, 102.

(117.) For an essay about Dutch religious tolerance and the ways it has been perceived throughout the ages, see Benjamin J. Kaplan, "Dutch Religious Tolerance: Celebration and Revision," in Po-Chia Hsia and Van Nierop, Calvinism and Religious Toleration in the Dutch Golden Age, 8-26.

(118.) It is therefore not surprising that more recent studies of Dutch tolerance characterize it as being "Janus-faced."--Judith Pollmann, "The Bond of Christian Piety: The Individual Practice of Tolerance and Intolerance in the Dutch Republic," in Po-Chia Hsia and Van Nierop, Calvinism and Religious Toleration in the Dutch Golden Age, 53.

(119.) This fear inspired magistrates in Overijssel to be "tolerant."--Waite, "Dutch Nobility and Anabaptism," 464.

(120.) ARA, arch. nr., inv. nr. 5634, f. 329v-334r.

(121.) Duke, Reformation and Revolt, 74.

(122.) Ibid., 75.

(123.) Grosheide, Bijdrage tot degeschkdenh der Anabaptisten, 298.

(124.) According to Sterling Andre Lamet, economic problems mattered most to Leiden's city council before 1566. See his Men in Government. The Patriciate of Leiden 1550-1600 (Ph.D. diss., 1979), 71, 272. The lack of resources further restricted the capabilities of the sheriff and aldermen to administer justice, and sometimes the judicial apparatus almost collapsed under the weight of popular pressure or outright violence.--ARA, arch. nr., inv. nr. 5654, f. 33v-35r. Knappert, De opkomtt van lief proteshwtisme, 153. ARA, arch. nr., inv. nr. 5653, f. 216v-222v. Also reprinted in DAN 5:237-242.

(125.) Gregory, Salvation at Stake, 96.

(126.) Zijlstra, Om de ware gemeente, 103.

(127.) This conclusion confirms the findings of Gary Waite in his article "The Anabaptist Movement in Amsterdam/' The sources used to analyze the professions of convicted Anabaptists are: DAN 2 and DAN 5; RAL, arch. nr. 508, inv. nr. 3-1; 501, inv. nrs. 21-22; GAD, arch. nr. 13, inv. nr. 46; ARA, arch. nr., inv. nrs. 5653-5654.

(128.) Mellink, De wederdopers in de noordelijke Nederlanden, 116.

(129.) Ibid., 82, 287.

(130.) RAL, arch. nr. 508, inv. nr. 3, f. 9r, lOr.

(131.) RAL, arch. nr. 501, inv. nr. 1185; interrogation of Cornells Dircxsz., Nov. 27, 1d3d; Willem Dircxs and Mouwerijn Jacobs, Nov. 17, 1535; Dircxs and Heynrick Jansz. and others, Nov. 16,1535.

(132.) DAN 5:233-4. According to Vrolijk, having a "good name" was essential for being pardoned. Marjan Vrolijk, "Recht door gratie. Gratie bij doodslagen en andere delicten in Vlaanderen, Holland en Zeeland (1531-1567)" (Ph.D. diss., Uni. of Nijmegen, 2001), 316. For Anna's letter of remission, see ARA, arch. nr., inv. nr. 3548.

(133.) ARA, arch. nr., inv. nr. 3548, f. 19r.

(134.) Though in practice the regent often took care of this.--Ter Braake, Met recht en rekenschap, 96.

(135.) Although, according to James Tracy, the contemporary estimate of 3,000 Anabaptists was too high, there were thousands of Anabaptists on their way to Munster.--Tracy, Holland under Habsburg Rule, 163.

(136.) Ter Braake, Met recht en rekenschap, 239.

(137.) ARA, arch. nr., inv. nr. 5653, f. 2I3v-214v.

(138.) ARA, arch. nr., inv. nr. 5653, f. 61v-62r; 81v-82r. Anabaptists who were too poor did not have to pay a fine. Idem., f. 61v.

(139.) Ibid., f. 71r-v.

(140.) Ibid., f.84r.

(141.) Ibid., f. 68v.

(142.) Ibid., f. 73v.

(143.) ARA. arch. nr., inv. nr. 5654, f. 378r-v.

(144.) ARA, arch. nr., inv. nr. 5653, f. 62v. On the same day those who were rebaptized were convicted to do to penance and were banished, also for the period of six weeks.-Ibid., f. 65r, 66r-v. Some were banished for a longer period. Ibid., t 69r, 74r, 76r.

(145.) ARA, arch. nr., inv. nr. 5653, f. 79v, 83r. In France the amende honorable could even be a part of the "rite of execution." -Foucault, Discipline and Punishment, 65.

(146.) Boomgaard, Misdaad en straj, 226. For example, a Davidjorist had to pray for forgiveness to those he had "scandalized" (gescandaliseert).--ARA, arch. nr., inv. nr. 5653, f. 143v.

(147.) ARA, arch. nr., inv. nr. 5653, f. 43r-v.

(148.) Ibid., f.44r-v.

(149.) Ibid., f.!20r-121v.

(150.) ARA, arch. nr., inv. nr. 5653, f. 233r, 235r.

(151.) Ibid., f. 233r.

(152.) ARA, arch. nr., inv. nr. 5653, f.234r, 235r-v; f. 236r-v; f. 237v-238r.

(153.) Ibid., f.233v.

(154.) Braako, Met recht m rekenschap, 236.

(155.) Tracy., "Heresy Law and Centralization," 294. This was ruled out in the placards issued in 1529 and 1531.--Tracy, Holland under Habsburg rule, 167. In an instruction from the Secret Council (from May 1535), magistrates who resorted to arbitral justice had to appear before the Hof and it was forbidden to mitigate the punishment of Anabaptists.--Ibid., 168.

(156.) Ibid., 293-294, 300.

(157.) Fiihner, Die Kirchen- and die antireformatorische Religionspolitik, 315.

(158.) ARA, arch. nr., inv. nr. 5654, f. 141r-143v.

(159.) Tracy, "Heresy Law and Centralization," 304-305; Boomgaard, Misdaad en straf, 108.

(160.) Tracy, Holland under Habsburg Rule, 46-47.

(161.) Visser, "Mennonites and Doopsgezinden," 316.

(162.) The same goes for the Hof van Utrecht compared with Utrecht's local court.--Van Beurten, Ham met mosterd, 43-44, 48-49.

(163.) Waite, Eradicating the Devil's Minions, 108, 110, 122. in Amsterdam the execution of Anabaptists was continued in 1569 and lasted to 1572.-Ibid., 82. DAN 2: 286, 295-298, 300, 306,318-319.

(164.) Gregory, Salvation at Stake, 235.

(165.) See the placard of Charles V proclaimed on Aug. 31,1544.--Mellink, De wederdopers in de noordelijke Nederlanden, 268-269.

(166.) Zijlstra, Om de ware gemeente, 110.

(167.) Gary VVaite argues that this was the case--Waite, Eradicating the Detail's Minions, 4.


* Jaap Geraerts is a doctoral student at University College London. The article is drawn from his similarly-titled M.A. thesis (Utrecht University, 2010). The author would like to thank Ben Kaplan and Jo Spaans for supervising the thesis, and John D. Roth for his generous assistance with the preparation of the article.
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Author:Geraerts, Jaap
Publication:Mennonite Quarterly Review
Article Type:Essay
Geographic Code:4EUNE
Date:Jan 1, 2012
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