BSR Online Lecture | Forcing the papacy’s hand: the unlikely but inevitable beatification of the martyrs of Gorkum, 1572–1675

WEDNESDAY 14 OCTOBER, 18.00-19.30

Jan Machielsen (Cardiff)

This event will take place via Zoom and requires advance registration. Please click here to reserve your place.

The early modern period was a new golden age of martyrdom, with Protestants, Catholics, and Anabaptists all dying again for their faith. In England and the Low Countries in particular Catholic minorities commemorated their many co-religionists who died as a result of state persecution or amidst the turbulence of revolt respectively. In England, the cult of the martyrs, the preservation of their relics and their memory have been a cornerstone of Catholic identity. Yet the beatification and canonisation of martyrs such John Fisher, Thomas More and Edmund Campion had to wait until the 19th and 20th centuries. The situation in the Netherlands was different. In 1675, the papacy beatified the martyrs of Gorkum, a group of nineteen Catholic priests who were killed in 1572 by a group of rebels called the Sea Beggars. They are unique. They are the *only* martyrs killed in Europe’s religious wars to be beatified by the papacy before 1700 – none were canonised. What made this group exceptional? This paper argues that decisions made at the local level unwittingly forced the papacy’s hand. As the exception to the rule, the martyrs of Gorkum can tell us a great deal about Catholic attitudes towards martyrdom, the politics of sanctity, and the balance of power between local churches and Rome.

Jan Machielsen is Senior Lecturer in Early Modern History at Cardiff University. He is the author of Martin Delrio: Demonology and Scholarship in the Counter-Reformation (2015) and the editor of The Science of Demons: Early Modern Authors Facing Witchcraft and the Devil (2020)