Franeker (Friesland, Netherlands)

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Interior of the Doopsgezinde Kerk, Franeker.
Photo by André_van_Dijk.
Source: Reliwiki
Interior of the Doopsgezinde Kerk, Franeker.
Photo by André_van_Dijk.
Source: Reliwiki.

Franeker (1947 population 9,050 with 211 Mennonites; 2006 pop. 12,996) is an old town in the Dutch province of Friesland, about 10 miles (16 km) west of the Frisian capital Leeuwarden. It is the seat of a Mennonite congregation which has had a varied and interesting; history. Of its oldest history there are only a few bits of information from direct sources; of the rich archives of the Franeker congregations not much has been saved; the membership list begins with 1722; the children's book dates a few years later; the earliest minutes of the church board date only to 1800.

There must have been Anabaptists here from the earliest times: an edict of 9 March 1535 orders that owners of land and houses are forbidden to lease them to Anabaptists, and if this had happened those Anabaptists should be driven out; and in a second edict of 7 July 1537, the magistrate of Franeker is charged to exercise close supervision on "Lutherans, Sacramentists and Anabaptists." But the city government seems to have been rather tolerant, for there are no martyrs from this town.

In the second half of the 16th century, when the Mennonites were organized into a congregation, they must have been very numerous. For the year 1560 they are estimated at about 620 members (1,300 souls). The number of members had largely increased, especially by the activity of Elder Leenaert Bouwens, who baptized at Franeker 16 persons in 1551-1554; 45 in 1554-1556; 37 in 1557-1561; 381 in 1563-1565; and 360 in 1568-1582; total, 839. But in this period Franeker played a not very admirable, though important role in Mennonite history. First of all in 1555 or 1556 a group of more progressive members, who were averse to strict banning and shunning and disappointed by the fact that Menno Simons at a conference in nearby Harlingen agreed with Leenaert Bouwens and the stricter wing of Mennonites, separated from the main body. Their leader was Hendrik Naeldeman, and their adherents in other congregations were at first called Franekeraars; later on they were usually called Waterlanders.

After ten years it was again in Franeker that a new quarrel arose. From Flanders many Mennonites had fled to the Netherlands and a number of them had settled in Franeker; in the Mennonite congregation, the Flemish at first were accorded a brotherly welcome, but soon both Flemish and native Frisians mutually considered one another as much deviated from the old Mennonite plain style of living, the Frisians looking upon the less plain dress and manners of the Flemish as worldly, and the Flemish regarding the care the Frisians bestowed upon their houses and furniture as a great evil. In the congregation the Frisians outnumbered the Flemish. (In 1566 there were only 30 brethren from Flanders.) Then it happened that Leenaert Bouwens, because of a fault he had committed, was suspended from his service of elder (1565), and Ebbe Pietersz, elder at Harlingen, was also unable to travel about the churches. So the Franeker congregation decided to choose a preacher. The Flemish succeeded in having Jeroen Tinnegieter, a Flemish immigrant, chosen as a preacher. But he was not accepted by the Frisians. This was the origin of the Flemish-Frisian schism, which divided (1567) the Mennonites throughout the Netherlands, and even in West Prussia (see Flemish Mennonites).

Twenty years later, in 1586, Franeker was the scene of a new schism. Thomas Bintgens, elder of the Flemish congregation, bought a house intended for a meetinghouse, but when it became clear that the deal had not been above reproach, a quarrel arose in the congregation. By this Huiskooper dispute the Flemish church was divided into Huiskoopers or Old Flemish Mennonites and Contra-Huiskoopers or (Mild) Flemish. The leader of the Huiskoopers was Thomas Bintgens, and leader of the other party was the deacon Jacob Keest. This conflict too was not limited to Franeker only; nearly all the Flemish congregations were divided.

So after the Huiskooper dispute there were at Franeker at least four congregations: (a) Waterlanders, (b) Frisians, (c) Huiskoopers (Old Flemish), (d) Flemish. At the beginning of the 17th century there must have existed here at least three more congregations: (e) Jan Jacobsgezinden, (f) a congregation of unknown type, presumably a separated Frisian church, maybe of Pieter-Jeltjesvolk. Finally mention is made of the existence of (g) a High German congregation in 1614, which still existed in 1640, in which year it was involved in a quarrel.

But little is known of these congregations because of lack of documents. Of the Jan-Jacobsgezinden we know that Elder Joris Jacobsz baptized 29 persons here in 1640-1644. Soon the membership decreased. In the 18th century it had strong contacts with the Jan-Jacobsgezinden at neighboring Menaldum. Wybe Jans (d. 1778) was its last preacher, from 1729 on. In 1762 it merged with the only other then existing congregation; it then numbered 13 brethren, the number of sisters being unknown. About most of the other Franeker congregations there is still less information. The Waterlanders (a) sent a representative to the Waterlander conference held at Amsterdam in 1647. About 1670 this congregation must have united with one of the other churches. The Huiskoopers or Old Flemish (b), of whom Jelle Daniel Keest was a preacher in 1640 and Agge Classen in 1648, had their meetinghouse, called "het Valkje," in the Schoolsteeg.

In 1663 there were three Mennonite congregations in Franeker, one, of which Jouke Wybes was a preacher (membership 30), a second, of which Watse Watses was a preacher (membership 50), and a third, of which Isbrant Japiks (or Jacobs) was a preacher (membership 41). The membership of those three churches had in one century decreased from 620 to 121. (In a census of the town of Franeker of 1667 there are found, however, 107 Mennonite family names; names of non-taxpayers— wives, minors, and poor people not being included in this number. If the total number of Mennonites of the census list is true, the membership must have been much more than the 121 mentioned in 1663.) These three churches, which are said to have met in het Valkje, in the Eerste Noord, and in ,the Tweede Noord, are not easy to identify; the one meeting in het Valkje was that of the Huiskoopers (c), of which either Isbrant Japiks or Watse Watses was the preacher. Jouke Wybes was preacher, of the Waterlanders (a), for he was in 1647 in Amsterdam as a representative. The third congregation must have been that of Jan Jacobsgezinden  (c).

In 1695 at the founding of the Conference of Mennonite Churches in the province of Friesland (see Friese Sociëteit), there were only two congregations at Franeker, one called Old Flemish (the Jan-Jacobsgezinden) and the other called the United Flemish-Frisian-Waterlander and High German congregation, later usually called Flemish and Waterlander church, or simply United congregation. This united church, whose membership numbered 216 in 1695 (this number must be a mistake; it must have been lower), joined the Conference of Mennonite congregations in Friesland. Paulus Tiesma and Tiepke Abbema, both members of it, were members of the first board of the conference. From now the information is more frequent and clearer. In 1711 the United congregation, which held its meetings in the old church on the Tweede Noord, requested permission to rebuild the meetinghouse, but the States of Friesland refused. Preachers of this congregation were Melle Takema 1721-ca. 1750, and Ate Sierds of Poppingewier (died 20 August 1770) 1720-1765. In 1760 the meetinghouse was enlarged and on 22 July 1762, the Jan-Jacobsgezinden merged with this congregation. Shortly before, on 1 July 1766, the congregation of nearby Tjummarum had also united with it. Until this time the congregations had been served by untrained ministers. In 1765 Franeker wished to call an educated minister, for whom the church board obtained a yearly subsidy from the Lamist congregation at Amsterdam, and on 29 July 1765 Jan Lippens, a ministerial candidate who had finished his study at the Amsterdam Mennonite Theological Seminary, preached his induction sermon at Franeker. He stayed here only one year, receiving a call to the Amsterdam congregation in December 1766. Wopko Molenaar, his successor, served here 1767-70, then moved to Krefeld. Pieter Stinstra (born 1743 at Franeker), nephew of Johannes Stinstra) minister of Harlingen, served his native church 1770-1800. Whether Wepke Tyssen Feenstra (died 1779), who in the [[Naamlijst der tegenwoordig in dienst zijnde predikanten der Mennoniten in de Vereenigde Nederlanden|Naamlijst]] of 1775 is listed as having been a preacher at Franeker since 1773, but who is not mentioned in the following Naamlijsten, served this church as a minister or not, cannot be determined. Stinstra was followed by Bern. Cremer 1801-1811, Klaas J. Overbeek 1812-1847, Matthys E. van Delden 1848-1872, H. Boetje 1873-1879, C. J. Bakker 1879-1899, M. Honigh 1900-1932, G. J. W. den Herder 1933-1939, C. C. de Maar 1940-1946, A. J. de Kam 1947-1950, and G. Kater since 1951.

On 29 May 1863 a new church on the Voorstraat was dedicated; the old characteristic meetinghouse, was then sold to the Baptists. The Voorstraat church of 1863 was in use by the Mennonites until 1960; the organ was renovated in 1899.

In 1899 Miss Sytske Stinstra, a member of the congregation, bequeathed her stately house to the church (now parsonage) and willed in addition a considerable amount of money, which is managed by the church board as the Stinstra Fund.

During the last quarter of the 19th and the first part of the 20th centuries (preachers Boetje, Bakker, and Honigh) the congregation turned to a rather radical modernism (theological liberalism). Even the Lord's Supper was not observed here from 1915 to 1934.

The membership, which is said to have been 212 in 1695, was about 90 in 1796, 49 in 1812, 95 in 1838, 114 in 1861, 128 in 1900, and 140 in 1953, of whom 90 lived in the city of Franeker and 50 in neighboring towns and on farms in the neighborhood. Church activities were a Sunday school for children, youth group called "Hendrik Naeldeman," ladies' circle, choir.

The city of Franeker was the seat of a university from 1585 to 1842. At first there was no contact between the Mennonites and the university, the Mennonites having lay preachers (untrained ministers) and being averse to scholarly theology, and the professors of the university, who were all Calvinists, regarding the Mennonites more or less as heretics, like Prof. Henricus Antonides, who in 1585 orated against the Mennonites and their "false doctrines." But in the 18th century many Mennonites studied at the Franeker University, especially medicine. From about 1730, 25 young men attended the theological lectures of this university before finishing their study at the Amsterdam Mennonite Seminary, among whom were a number of outstanding Mennonite ministers, such as Klaas de Vries, Heere Oosterbaan, Hoito Tichelaar, Pieter Stinstra, Pieter Feenstra, and Jan ter Borg.


Cate, Steven Blaupot ten. Geschiedenis der Doopsgezinden in Friesland.  Leeuwarden: W. Eekhoff, 1839: 67, 88, 91, 104, 133, 157, 169, 188, 191, 220, 224, 246, 247, 254.

Delden, M. E. van. Leerrede, uitgesproken bij gelegenheid der laalsle godsdienstoefening in het oude kerkgebouw. Franeker, n.d., 1863. 

Doopsgezinde Bijdragen (1864), 163; (1879), 2, 89; (1893), 1-90 (passim); (1900), 225.

Hege, Christian and Christian Neff. Mennonitisches Lexikon, 4 vols. Frankfurt & Weierhof: Hege; Karlsruhe: Schneider, 1913-1967: v. I, 674 f.

Hoop Scheffer, Jacob Gijsbert de. Inventaris der Archiefstukken berustende bij de Vereenigde Doopsgezinde Gemeente to Amsterdam, 2 vols. Amsterdam: Uitgegeven en ten geschenke aangeboden door den Kerkeraad dier Gemeente, 1883-1884: I, Nos. 477, 479, 557, 558-III; II, Nos. 1721-35.

Kühler, Wilhelmus Johannes. Geschiedenis der Nederlandsche Doopsgezinden in de Zestiende Eeuw. Haarlem: H.D. Tjeenk Willink, 1932: passim.

Kühler, Wilhelmus Johannes. Geschiedenis van de Doopsgezinden in Nederland II.  1600-1735.  Haarlem: H.D. Tjeenk Willink & Zoon, 1950: passim.

Additional Information

Congregation: Doopsgezinde Gemeente De Lytse Streek: Franeker

Address: Hofstraat 1c, 8801 MA, Franeker, Netherlands

Telephone: 0517-394244

Church website: Doopsgezinde Gemeente De Lytse Streek: Franeker

Denominational affiliation:

Algemene Doopsgezinde Sociëteit


Map:Doopsgezinde Gemeente De Lytse Streek: Franeker

Author(s) Nanne van der Zijpp
Date Published 1956

Cite This Article

MLA style

Zijpp, Nanne van der. "Franeker (Friesland, Netherlands)." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. 1956. Web. 19 Oct 2018.,_Netherlands)&oldid=145060.

APA style

Zijpp, Nanne van der. (1956). Franeker (Friesland, Netherlands). Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 19 October 2018, from,_Netherlands)&oldid=145060.


Adapted by permission of Herald Press, Harrisonburg, Virginia, from Mennonite Encyclopedia, Vol. 2, pp. 370-372. All rights reserved.

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