Project Canterbury

A History of the So-Called Jansenist Church of Holland;
with a Sketch of Its Earlier Annals,
And some Account of the Brothers of the Common Life.

By the Rev. J.M. Neale, M.A.

Oxford: John Henry and James Parker, 1858.


VACANCY OF THE SEE, 1580 — 1602.



1. On the death of Schenk, the affairs of his province were in the wildest confusion. His suffragans were in vain endeavouring to collect some scattered remains of their flocks. Mierlo, Bishop of Haarlem, was in exile; Deventer was governed by a Grand-vicar[1]; at Leeuwarden the Bishop was deceased and the Chapter had fled; Nylen feebly maintained himself at Groningen; Stryen, a man of great talents and energy, was administering, as Grand-vicar, the diocese of Middelburg, to which he was afterwards consecrated. The sovereignty of Holland had been offered to the Duke of Alençon, and by him been accepted. Henry III. of France had engaged to assist his brother, and the Treaty of Delft had ratified the act; Philip of Spain had offered a reward of 25,000 crowns, a patent of nobility, and immunity for all past crimes, to the assassinator of the Prince of Orange. The complication of religion and politics, the wide-spread defection of Catholics, and the fierce placards of Protestant rulers, then in the first glow of their triumph, rendered a man of eminent piety and talents necessary for the government of the Church of Holland.

2. It had been ordered by the Council of Trent, [117] that, on the vacancy of a see the Chapter should, within eight days, nominate a Grand-vicar. But, by the peculiar statutes of the Church of Utrecht, it was arranged that, on the death of the Bishop, the Dean of the cathedral should, ex officio, assume the vicariate, — a law which had sometimes, however, been contested by the four other Chapters. John de Bruhezen[2], Dean of S. Martin’s, was therefore named Vicar; he was now in exile at Cologne, for having, in his capacity of President of the States, refused to put the question that William of Orange should be requested to assume the Government. “A man,” said he, “who has been false to his God will never prove true to his country.” This absence, however honourable to De Bruhezen, proving prejudicial to the Catholic interest, he appointed as his official, with nearly all the powers that he himself possessed, SASBOLD VOSMEER, whose name is ever to be had in veneration by the Church of Holland. Born at Delft, of noble parents[3], in 1558, he had studied first at Naeldwyck, and then at Louvain, till recalled to take orders in the metropolitical cathedral of his native country. He then became Dean of the collegiate church of S. Mary’s at the Hague; and thenceforward gave so many eminent proofs both of learning and ability that his nomination was hailed with general applause.

3. It would appear that De Bruhezen, though he retained the deanery till his death in 1600, exercised less and less frequently his functions as Grand-vicar, till, in 1583, Vosmeer was elected by the Chapters to that office. Their own very peculiar state rendered [118] a resident superior absolutely necessary to their existence. As I shall have occasion hereafter to state at greater length, the Chapters had neither been suppressed, nor had the Catholic canons been deprived, at the Reformation. The States interfered to a certain extent, and intruded nominees of their own, gradually protestantizing the body, and dispensing with the requisite of holy orders. The mongrel condition of the corporation is curiously illustrated in a placard issued by Monzyma[4], Catholic Dean of S. John’s, and as such, Lord of Mydrecht[5], in 1590. The inhabitants are ordered to attend church on Sundays, and where-ever else there is a sermon, on pain of forfeiting three Caroluses; and any one who blasphemes God or His service, is to have his tongue pierced with a red-hot iron. The Dean, one should think, would have found himself in an uncomfortable position, had a Catholic been brought before him on the charge of having spoken against the Reformed worship. So, while some of the convents were permitted to exist, the States confirmed the Abbess whom the sisters elected[6].

4. “The harvest,” to use Vosmeer’s own quotation, “was great; the labourers few.” The ferocity with which the war raged rendered the position of Catholics precarious in the extreme; and when the battle of the Dyke of Couvestein threw Antwerp into the hands of the Spaniards, and the fabric of the United Provinces seemed tottering to its base, fresh placards were issued against the professors of the old religion, and the persecution became exceedingly hot. The residence of the Earl of Leicester at Utrecht necessarily [119] excited the populace, and Sasbold was more than once in danger of his life. The placard put forth at Utrecht, July 11, 1588, forbade all secret exercise of the Roman Catholic religion; a second offence, on the part of ecclesiastics, subjected them to perpetual imprisonment. That published in the succeeding year, by the States of Holland and West Friesland, banished all ecclesiastics, and made their return a capital crime. These difficulties and dangers shewed that a Church so perilled could not safely be left without a vigilant pastor, who could act in his own name, and not by delegated rights. The Count de Renenberg was first nominated; but, more anxious for the situation and emoluments when Spanish arms should again prevail, than for the privation and labours of a missionary bishop, he was neither confirmed by the Roman See nor consecrated at his death in 1592. John de Bruhezen was next elected, but he died also before consecration. While he yet lived, a proposition was made that Sasbold should be raised to the See of Haarlem; but the Jesuits opposed the scheme with such warmth that it fell to the ground. And here we find the first instance of their inveterate hatred to the Church of Holland. Two of the Society had entered that country in 1592, and their numbers rapidly increased.

5. Sasbold had been made Vicar-apostolic through the United Provinces in 1592[7], but he never ceased to urge the re-establishment of the Archiepiscopate of Utrecht, representing to the Pope and to the Archduke Albert, that no effectual progress could be made without a national bishop. In the meanwhile the clergy were diminishing; six hundred existed after the “abolition” of the Catholic religion; but the [120] ensuing thirty years reduced them to one hundred and seventy. It was this declining state of the Church, and the pressing invitation of the Archduke, which determined him on paying a visit to Brussels in the autumn of 1598. He here employed all his eloquence to procure an episcopate; the nuncio was favourable to his views; “though I dare not,” said he, “openly support them, for I have no mind to give the Jesuits a handle for calling me a Sasboutian.”

The letters[8] and diaries of Sasbold are full of bitter complaints against them; and, having met with but little success at Brussels, he determined on visiting Rome in person, and imploring the assistance of the Pope.

6. While meditating this journey he was seized with an illness which bore every appearance of poison. He himself constantly attributed it to his opponents; and some of their subsequent proceedings render the accusation by no means incredible. The Archduke Albert was extremely anxious that Sasbold should be raised to the archiepiscopate, and his brother Tilman to the see of Haarlem. He declined the former elevation, but offered to accept the latter, if his brother might be put in possession of the other. This arrangement did not please. Antwerp was next offered to Vosmeer. “No,” replied he: “if God absolutely calls me to the episcopate, I had rather govern those among whom I have so long lived, who know me and who love me.” On this, the Archduke entered into negotiations with Cardinal Aldobrandini, nephew of Clement VIII.; and the result was a journey undertaken by Sasbold, principally on foot, to Rome. He arrived in that city, April 17[9], 1602.

[121] 7. Clement VIII. received him with the courtesy due to his reputation and his labours, and proposed to him to accept the archbishopric of Utrecht. Sasbold in vain represented his age and his broken health, and urged the appointment of a younger man. The Pope would listen to no objection, and Sasbold was consecrated by the Cardinal Bishop of Albano[10], Sep. 22, 1602. It had been recommended by the Archduke, and was insisted on by Clement, that the title should not be that of Utrecht, in order to avoid unnecessary offence; and that of Philippi was accordingly substituted in its place. But, as soon as the Archduke should be willing, Sasbold was to be at liberty to assume his genuine title. This point is one of the most vital importance in the history of the Church of Holland. If Vosmeer were really Archbishop of Utrecht under the title of Philippi, her cause stands good against the efforts of her enemies; and therefore the Jesuits, and the whole host of Ultramontane writers, have always endeavoured to prove that he was merely a Vicar-apostolic, with a title in partibus.

8. Volumes on volumes have been written in defence of the Church of Holland, and have triumphantly made good the claim of Vosmeer to the real and diocesan archiepiscopate of Utrecht. It will here be necessary to give a brief resumé of their principal arguments, the matter being one of life and death to the Church whose history I am writing. The claim, then, is proved: 1. By the report which Vosmeer[11] gives of the negotiations at the time, long before any momentous consequences appeared to be attached to [122] it, which report has never been contradicted. 2. By the fact that the States-General proceeded against him for assuming the title, and exercising the office, of Archbishop of Utrecht; with an Archbishop of Philippi they would not have concerned themselves. 3. That it was given to him without the least scruple or doubt by his enemies the Jesuits. 4. That he constantly assumed it himself, sometimes singly, sometimes in conjunction with his other title of Philippi. Twenty such examples are given by his apologists. 5. That by the biographers and historians of that time he is constantly so designated. 6. That in official acts of the Archduke he is so characterized. But the question being one of such infinite importance, I have discussed it at length in Appendix II.

9. The manners and habits of the Court of Rome were exceedingly distasteful to the new Archbishop. “To the last day of my sojourn there,” he writes to a friend, “I was shocked by the morals of the court, the abandonment of the times, the confusion of truth; I looked upon honours as burdens, and it was this which impelled me to leave Rome. I remember that I used sometimes to say to my friends, that, born as I was for labour, I shrank from dignity.” Of Clement VIII. he writes in a different strain; he mentions to his faithful and affectionate correspondent, his brother Tilman, a conversation he had held with the Pope respecting the Molinist controversy, then raging, and reports that Clement had said, “I am ready to die in defence of the doctrine of S. Augustine.” Six weeks after the Archbishop’s consecration, a placard was issued by the States-General, in which they banished him from Holland as guilty of high treason. There seems every reason to believe that the Jesuits had denounced him to the government, [123] eager, by any means, for ever fully to deprive the Church of its legitimate head. He therefore retired to Cologne, finding that the Bishops of Antwerp and Bois-le-Duc had some objection to his residing within their dioceses. He was also frequently at Lingen, which then formed a part of the king of Spain’s dominions; and while residing in that place, he demanded leave from the Archduke to assume the title of Archbishop of Utrecht, and at the same time requested a pension to enable him to carry on his functions. Both requests were granted. A pension of 500 florins was bestowed; and Philip de Croy, Governor of Overyssel, authorized him, in the Archduke’s name, to assume the title that had hitherto been kept, as it were, in petto.

10. The Jesuits, who were rapidly increasing, were a cause of the most serious uneasiness. Two had arrived in 1592, another came in 1593, a fourth in the following year, and in 1609 there were eight; and the truce concluded at that date gave them fresh opportunities of multiplying their numbers and spreading their influence. From the very commencement it seems to have been their fixed design to subvert the hierarchy of the Church of Holland; and it is not wonderful that her defenders should have employed language which, unless all the circumstances are taken into consideration, must appear unreasonably strong. “Where well, none better; where ill, none worse,” is the true description of that famous society; and the latter clause will be developed to its full extent in the course of this history. “To pay every appearance of deference to Sasbold, and to do what we can for our own freedom[12],” was the avowal of one of the Fathers; nor is it strange that the Prelate should have written [124] confidentially to his brother: “The inconvenience caused by the Protestants is less than the affliction originated by the Jesuits.”

11. The apostacy or flight of the religious orders had, at the first outbreak of the Reformation, been almost universal. Out of a hundred and sixteen Houses of Monks or Canons Regular, and fifty of the mendicant orders, the Franciscans alone remained faithful to their missionary work. Many openly apostatized; many married; and, in such a time of distress, those who had not abjured the Catholic religion seemed bent on enriching themselves, to the exclusion of all other aims: —

“It is difficult to say or to believe,” wrote Sasbold to Tilman, March 9, 1588, “how much they are vexed with covetousness of worldly wealth, and yet they regard themselves as satisfying their vow of poverty. No long time since, a Dominican, thinking himself dangerously ill, was anxious about the disposal of 400 and more florins, and when the danger was past, he was not ashamed to complain of the difficulty of procuring daily food to those very persons to whom a few days before he had committed this treasure. Another, who had pretended great wants for a long time, entrusted to a person with whom I am acquainted the sum of 1,600 dollars[13].”

Similar complaints[14] abound in the same series of letters; and it is evident that nothing could be more desperate, nothing more forlorn, than the state of the Regulars towards the close of the sixteenth century. A stringent rescript from the Nuncio at Brussels, Sept. 7, 1588, put a stop to some of these abuses. The secular clergy, though not without some shortcomings [125] and some scandals, remained faithful in a far higher degree, to their office. At Sasbold’s accession to the Vicariate, there were, as we have said, about six hundred who continued their pastoral duties. Of these, two hundred resided in or near Utrecht; one hundred at Haarlem; the other large towns had, in some instances, as many as twenty or thirty. Few were to be found in the villages, on account of the difficulty of escaping the vigilance of their persecutors. But the care of a certain district was nevertheless entrusted to some one priest; he paid his pastoral visits from the neighbouring town, and was, in point of fact, the pastor of the parish. In many instances, even during the worst of times, the succession of parish priests was kept up as regularly as before the overthrow of the Church; and the list and dates of their institution have been preserved, and may be seen in the great ecclesiastical works. During Sasbold’s administration, seventeen archipresbyteries still existed, six in the diocese of Utrecht, five in that of Haarlem, three in that of Deventer, and one in each of those of Leeuwarden, Groningen, and Middelburg.

12. The Regulars, however, soon commenced a system of the most vexatious interference; for the mendicant orders generally followed the steps of the Jesuits in ignoring parochial rights and the diocesan hierarchy. They established their missions where they could, but, for the greater part, not where heresy was the most rife, but where Catholics were the most abundant. In 1609, these disputes came to a head. The Nuncio at Brussels, Guido, Archbishop of Rhodes, laid a formal complaint before Sasbold of the conduct of the secular priests; the Jesuits, he said, were annoyed and vexed in every possible way; their [126] ministrations were hindered, their doctrine was rendered odious; they were scouted as intruders, instead of being welcomed as fellow-labourers in the Lord’s Vineyard. “My answer will be easy,” replied Sasbold: “but I cannot send it till I have heard from Holland; I have made all necessary enquiries, and shall soon be in a condition to give the fullest information.” The next post from the United Provinces brought a flood of letters for the Archbishop. The tenor of all was the same: “our adversaries are imputing to us the very things of which they themselves are guilty.” Stephen Cracht, Pastor at Amsterdam, whose name, after the lapse of two centuries and a-half, is not forgotten in that city, thus writes: —

“This is not the form of brotherly correction which Christ ordained. The larger part of that which is objected to our priests, seems to me, if I am to speak the truth, made up of mere calumny. In those matters which have some shadow of reason, a fly is turned into an elephant. There is nothing here which would not be at once amended at the least word of a superior on the spot: there can be no possible occasion to cross the Alps, and to trouble his Holiness, weighed down with the care of all the Churches, about these matters of our own. And how absurd is it to speak of the Society as laying itself out in undertaking all the labour here! This praise is neither due to it nor to me: it is such priests as Sextius, Martinus Regius, and others, who deserve it. In the greater number of particulars which are objected to our priests by the Society, that saying of the apostle’s is most true, ‘Wherein thou judgest another thou condemnest thyself; for thou which judgest doest the same things[15].’”

13. Sibrand Sextius well deserved the character which is here given him. He was Vicar-general of Haarlem, Groningen, and Leeuwarden, and chaplain to the Béguines [127] at Amsterdam. Being a native of Friesland, his labours were more abundant in that province; and it is recorded of him that, without intermitting his toils by day, he once preached on twenty-eight nights in succession, to such auditories as could be gathered together in the violence of the persecution. Worn out with his labours, he died the death of the righteous, Jan. 9, 1631[16], and is gratefully commemorated in the Haarlem Necrology. Martinus Regius was even yet more eminent. He laboured in Zealand, by the States of which Province he was proscribed. It is related[17] that he was once seized near Flushing by a rabble of the lowest mob, who forthwith dragged him to the sea-side, intending to drown him. Without evincing the least alarm, he merely quoted the text, Through the greatness of Thy power they shall be as still as a stone, till Thy people pass over, O Lord; and was, at the very last moment, set free by the interposition of some better-disposed persons. “If I had five and twenty Martins,” Sasbold used to say, “Holland should be converted in six months.” “Martin performs alone,” wrote a Jesuit Father, “more than a hundred of us.” From these men, and such as these, the Archbishop now heard. “If the Jesuits,” wrote Sextius, “would go into the villages, or into the towns where there is no pastor, we should honour them, and bless their labours; but they only work where we are already successful; they only sow where we have already sown. They willingly surrender to us the labours and the dangers; and even now they have forsaken their posts to avoid the plague.” Cornelius Arnoldsen, director of the convent in den Hoek at Haarlem, one of the most zealous pastors in Holland, bears similar testimony; and [128] particularizes several intrigues which had come under his own knowledge[18].

14. The reply of the Clergy of Utrecht is very full and satisfactory: —

“We,” say they, “have never yet found that the Jesuits go and labour where they find the greatest destitution. Which of them was ever known to attend a case of plague? Which of them is in the habit of going forth and preaching in the villages, and enduring the labour and fasting consequent? The whole people, the whole province, can testify that the parish priests are indefatigable in these things, and make no difference between the rich man’s mansion and the poor man’s cottage. If we have done wrong, we submit ourselves humbly, and are ready to amend. The scar has scarcely begun to heal, and here are new wounds.”

All these replies were forwarded by Sasbold to the Internuncio, and involved him in an abyss of correspondence. We find him writing to Gravius, his agent at Rome, to Cardinal Borghese, and to Florentini, Provincial in the United Provinces; from the latter he received some kind of apology.

15. At length, in March, articles of agreement were drawn up[19] and signed, which, though exceedingly favourable to the Jesuits, and invading the province of the Ordinary to an almost unprecedented degree, were soon violated and openly ridiculed by the Society. Finding that all ecclesiastical order was more and more subverted, Sasbold, after months of patient [129] waiting, at length, Dec. 16, 1609, published his celebrated Pastoral against the intruding society. It is short, but very much to the point: —

16. “Since the progress of the Church consists in the observation of the sacred canons, and all order is confounded if her pastors are hindered in their office, it is intolerable that certain religious who profess themselves sent for the assistance of the pastors, should not only violate their rights, but should also, at the solicitation of some few persons, presume to ordain fresh priests over those who have been rightly appointed by us, in contempt of us and of the apostolic see, which we represent. We, therefore, desirous to remedy the increasing schism, and to provide, as we may, for the quiet and profit of the faithful, do by the aforesaid apostolic authority, in those places which have their appointed pastors, suspend all seculars and religious, of whatever condition, even mendicants and Jesuits, from all administration of the sacraments, and from preaching the Word of God. And since it is well known that at different times, and in this very year, many have come to these provinces from other parts with an offer of the ministrations of religion, and on that pretext collecting alms from the faithful, — men who called themselves doctors or priests from the mendicant orders or from the Jesuits, although they had taken no degree, and had received no orders, — whence much evil and sacrilege necessarily followed; we, in order that we may betimes provide against such ills and impieties, and against the factions of unjust men, forbid all the faithful committed and entrusted to us, in virtue of holy obedience, and under the penalty of excommunication, and other fitting animadversion, to receive, without the consent of us, or of the pastors constituted by us, or to introduce into ecclesiastical functions, priests coming from other quarters, — or to gather congregations, or in any way make contributions to that end. Paternally admonishing and conjuring them that, mindful of the apostolical doctrine, they submit themselves with pious simplicity to their superiors, and obey them, and rest in their direction; knowing that those who hear them hear Christ, and those who [130] reject them reject Christ, Who hath promised to be with them, even to the end of the world.

“Given from the place of our residence, the 16th day of December, 1609.

“Sasbold, Archbishop, Vicar-Apostolic[20].”

17. It was natural that the Jesuits should be enraged by this Pastoral. They denounced the Archbishop to Rome as having, ipso facto, incurred excommunication, and demanded that he should be at once declared suspended from his functions. Sasbold was himself spending the winter in Holland, with no small risk; and from hence he wrote to his agent at the Papal court temperately, but firmly, and declared that he neither could nor would retract a syllable that he had said against the Jesuits. Cardinal Mellini replied to Sasbold, informing him that he must revoke his Pastoral, and must consider himself suspended from his vicariate apostolic. Vosmeer returned an elaborate defence. Mellini answered, that his Holiness was satisfied, that the suspension was at an end, but that the Pastoral must be recalled. The Archbishop still refused, and finally the Court of Rome gave way.

18. Age and infirmities now beginning to press on Sasbold, he cast his eyes around him with the hope of finding some ecclesiastic who might be consecrated his coadjutor, and might succeed on his own death. It happened that in the year 1605, when Oldenzaal, in Overyssel, had been reconquered by the Marquis Spinola, and Sasbold, as charged with the diocese of Deventer, had reconciled the collegiate church of S. Plechelm, he had made choice of Philip Rovenius, then President of the college of S. Willebrord, at Cologne, as a suitable person to resettle the Church in a province which had so long been under Calvinist [131] rule. Rovenius was speedily made Vicar-General of Deventer; shortly afterwards Canon, and then Dean of Oldenzaal. Here he rendered the most essential service to Sasbold; and a large collection of letters from the dean to the prelate is still preserved in the archives of the Church at Utrecht. They shew the zeal with which he administered the affairs of the diocese, and the affectionate veneration with which he regarded the Archbishop, directing from his retirement at Cologne the distracted Church of Holland[21]. It was now Sasbold’s endeavour to procure the nomination of Rovenius from the Court of Rome; but difficulties intervened. The Jesuits threw every obstacle in the way; the Archduke was cautious; and during the lifetime of Sasbold the proposed plan never took effect. It is a pleasing picture which is presented by the last letters and journals of this prelate, the latter commencing with the prayer of Nehemiah, — “Remember me, O my God, for good, and wipe not out my good deeds that I have done for the house of my God, and for the offices thereof.”

19. When the plague broke out at Oldenzaal and at Lingen in 1610, he was indefatigable in ministering to the sick, and enfeebled his already declining health by the fatigues and watchings which he then underwent. In 1611 we find him at the Hague, where, at the hazard of his life, he held a confirmation, and administered that sacrament to James de [132] la Torre, his future successor. To his brother Tilman, during the course of a long correspondence, he seems to unbosom himself with the greatest freedom. Thus we find him desirous of diminishing the number of Festivals of Obligation; instituting a guild under the invocation of S. Boniface; expressing his belief that, of all medicines recommended to him, trust in God and cheerfulness were the best; and more than once lamenting the facility with which absolution was granted to penitents, in compliance with the new system of confession, even then introduced by the Jesuits. His sentiments on this point are the more worth our notice, as so entirely coinciding with those by which his successors were afterwards animated, and which more than anything else branded the Church of Holland with the suspicion of Jansenism. “I have noticed,” he writes to Tilman, “that on account of the great ease with which absolution is granted, men are encouraged to sin against their consciences, and are absolved without any signs of penitence. Thus religion and discipline become a farce; the common people learn to believe nothing; and priests, while they desire to become popular, simply expose themselves to ridicule.”

20. The last years of the Archbishop were embittered by a contest with the Papal Nuncio at Cologne, which arose from the following circumstances. The Chapter of the collegiate church of Emmeric had suspended their Vicar, by name Stappart, on account of certain violent and outrageous conduct of which he had been guilty. Stappart appealed to Sasbold as his metropolitan; and by him the sentence of the Chapter was confirmed. On this the Vicar, without observing any of the usual formalities, appealed again to the Nuncio at Cologne, who reversed the former sentences [133] and reinstated Stappart in his functions. A double injustice was thus committed: the Church of Emmeric did not lie within the nunciature of Cologne; and if it had, we have already seen the peculiar privilege of the province of Utrecht, by which all cases of appeal were to be heard and determined on the spot. The Archbishop therefore confirmed his first sentence, declared Stappart irregular for having celebrated after his suspension, and bitterly complained by his agent at Rome of the conduct of the Nuncio. The reply was cautious and evasive; it was for the interest of all parties that peace should be preserved; above all, it was inexpedient that any question of jurisdiction should arise between the Ordinary and a Nuncio. Sasbold replied, that a compromise was impossible; that the whole principle of episcopal jurisdiction was at stake; and that he was resolved to defend himself and his Church to the very last. After twenty-one months of wearisome contestation, the Nuncio was compelled to give way, and Stappart submitted himself, confessed his crime, and was absolved. These litigations were the more vexatious, because the Archbishop might otherwise have availed himself of the truce then subsisting between the United Provinces and the Archduke, for the purpose of visiting his diocese with greater freedom and security[22].

21. From the last report presented by Sasbold to the Nuncio at Brussels, we have a complete picture of the state of the Church of Holland in 1614. Of the 140 canons who composed the Five Chapters of Utrecht, about forty priests in all now survived. There were sixty different places in the city, and about 500 in the province, where service was performed at irregular [134] intervals, for the purpose of eluding the vigilance of the magistrates. In the other towns of the province of Utrecht there might also be forty priests; in Guelderland and the duchy of Cleves the public exercise of the Catholic religion was allowed, and the Chapter of Emmeric existed as before the Reformation.

The Church was also flourishing in the dioceses of Haarlem and Deventer; in the latter, the Chapters of the cathedral and of Oldenzaal maintained themselves; the latter town and the neighbouring territory being indeed, as we have seen, under the dominion of the Archduke. In the dioceses of Groningen and Leeuwarden there were but seventeen priests in all; in that of Middelburg not one; the very few Catholics who resided in Zealand being supplied from Utrecht itself. Far greater havoc had been made among the religious houses. Of these, before the Reformation, the six dioceses had contained in all, 440. Up to the year 1613, eighteen abbeys and convents had partially retained their revenues. But in that year the States, irritated by the imprudence of a Jesuit named Leeuw, had suppressed all, only allowing a pension to nuns of above thirty years’ profession. In the next year, out of eighteen religious who still remained in the country, two only rendered any service to the Church, while some of the others were a disgrace to their profession.

22. Among the seculars, distinguished as a body by great zeal, there were some in particular whose names ought not to be forgotten. Adrian Van Dorschot had been imprisoned and threatened with the rack, in order to induce him to reveal the hiding-places of some of his brethren. “I am in the hands of God,” he said, “and I trust that He will give me patience to suffer.” As soon as he was dismissed from prison, he betook himself [135] to the service of those who were attacked by the plague. John Wachtelaer, or, as he Latinized his name, Vigilius, Vicar-general of Utrecht, was one of the most laborious missionaries in Holland, and was banished by the Provincial States, being condemned also to a fine of 6,600 florins. When his sentence was pronounced, and he was reduced to beggary, he merely said, like S. Cyprian when condemned to the block, “Thanks be to God;” he solaced his exile by writing an Abridgment of the Doctrine of S. Augustine and a Harmony of our Lord’s Passion. Rumold Medenblick was another zealous labourer at Leyden and in Rhijnland. Of him it is recorded that, in the course of his missionary tours, he would sometimes pass twenty-four hours in one church, occupied in baptizing and confessing, without a moment’s pause in his labours; and that, on being reproached with wearing himself out, he replied, “Christ came not to do His own will, but the will of the Father Which sent Him.” He also died in exile. Sasbold might point to these and many such in reply to the calumnies of the Jesuits; and though they lived not to see the fruit of their own labours, the prodigious stride made by the Church of Holland in the next half-century shews how deeply she was indebted to them.

23. On the 25th of April, 1614, Vosmeer was suddenly seized with an illness which the physicians assured him from the very first would prove mortal. “And so it is time,” he replied: “I had always reckoned on forty years of labour. It is now forty-two years since I received the priesthood; I would that they had been spent more profitably; and now it is high time that I should depart and be with Christ.” On the evening of the 3rd of May he went to his rest, as the 31st Psalm was being read to him. He was [136] attended to his grave, on the 13th of the same month, by a vast concourse of people, who had venerated him as a saint; and even the bitterest enemies of the Church of Holland have never denied the merits of this her first archbishop since she ceased to exist as an establishment. His memory was honoured by the affectionate testimonies of the greatest theologians of his time; and Paul V. expressed to his brother Tilman his grief for the “loss of the excellent endowments and singular merit of that true prelate.” By this same brother, who had so long enjoyed his correspondence, a splendid monument of alabaster was erected to him in the church of the Franciscans at Cologne, in which he is designated by his true title of Archbishop of Philippi and Utrecht, and Vicar-Apostolic.

His remains in the archives of S. Gertrude consist of five folio volumes of letters written by, and eight addressed to, him, besides one which contains the correspondence of Tilman Vosmeer[23].



[1] Hist. Ep. Davent. 21.

[2] All the account of De Bruhezen’s proceedings is given at length, but not very clearly, in Tract. Hist. i. 1 — 10.

[3] From his father’s name, Michael, he frequently adopted the signature of Sasbout Michaelsen; and so, in the archives of S. Gertrude, he sometimes signs himself S. Mich. Archps. His nom-de-guerre, in letters where it would have been perilous to speak more plainly, is Bonifacius.

[4] This document is given in Tract. Hist. i. 26.

[5] Mydrecht is a pretty village about five leagues from Utrecht to the west. They still shew the site of the Proostenhuis, the official residence of the Dean of S. John’s.

[6] See an example in Tract. Hist. i. 13.

[7] This date is strongly disputed. Compare Bellegarde, p. 82; Tract. Hist. v. 242; and Batav. Sac. ii. 47.

[8] They may be seen at full length in Tract. Hist. v. 80 — 90.

[9] Copious extracts from Sasbold’s own letters, with reference to this journey, are given in Tract. Hist. iii. pp. 17, seq. See also Def. Eccl. Traject., pp. 4, 5.

[10] Simon Tagliavia, Ital. Sacr. 1. 219.

[11] Sasbold’s own words, in a letter to Gravius, dated Jan. 6, 1609:

Nominavit me quidem Archidux ad Utreg. Eccles.; et scribit, Archivescovo de Utreg.: attamen dedit clausas liberas ad Sacratissimum, qui tempore ordinationis, &c.” Tract. Hist. iii. p. 25.

[12] Tract, Hist. v. 29.

[13] Tract. Hist. v. 20.

[14] An account of the early proceedings of the Jesuits may be found in a relation of Sasbold himself, (Tract. Hist. v. 23,) and in a document written by Peter Purmerend, archpriest of Delphland, annexed to it.

[15] Tract. Hist, v. 136

[16] Bat. Sacr. ii. 403.

[17] Bat. Sacr. ii. 126.

[18] E. g. “Accidit pridem ut Arboreus (one of the most active Jesuits) ex meis [virgunculis] clam me, juvenculam ad se duci curaverit, a quâ extorquere omnibus modis nitebatur, ut fateretur inter meas inhonestam disciplinam exerceri; dicens (ignoscat ille Deus tale mendacium!) certo scire se, quod talia fierent; sed confessionem fictam a virgine, licet juvenculâ, impetrare non potuit. Objeci ego idipsum eidem Arboreo coram Patre Nicolao istic Guardiano, quod in eum modum honestam virginem vexasset. Ad quod respondit, tentandi causâ se fecisse illud.” Tract. Hist. v. 137.

[19] They are given in Tract. Hist. v. 161.

[20] This Pastoral is printed in Hist. Episc. Traj. 44.

[21] These letters, most of which I have read, commenced in 1608. Some of them are sufficiently curious. That of Feb. 28, 1609, gives a long account of a priest at Lichtenvoert, near Grolle, suspected of magic on account of the numerous cures which he effected. That of June 4 in the same year relates an outbreak of Calvinism, which for some time put the Chapter in imminent peril. The earlier of these letters are always directed to Yosmeer as Archiepiscopus Philippensis et Vicarius Apostolicus. After July 26,1612, they are usually addressed to him as Archiepiscopus Philippensis, et Ultrajectensis necnon Hollandie, Zealandie, &c., Vicarius Apostolicus; the comma being clearly and distinctly after Philippensis, as Hoynk gives it.

[22] All these negotiations are related at great length in the Tract. Hist., iii. pp. 58 — 71.

[23] Sasbold Vosmeer’s Life is given in Bat. Sac., vol. ii. pp. 44 — 73; Bellegarde, pp. 81 — 112; Tractatus Historicus, v. pp. 23 — 240; and Defensio Ecclesiae Trajectinae, pp. 1 — 33. There also exist two MS. lives of this prelate — the one by John Trutius, Dean of Oldenzaal, the other by Anthony Plaet.


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