Giethoorn (Overijssel, Netherlands)

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Doopsgezinde Kerk, Giethoorn.
Photo by Weefemwe.
Source: Wikimedia Commons

Giethoorn was a town in the Dutch province of Overijssel (1955 population about 2,500, of whom about 500 were Mennonites; 2013 population, 2,620; coordinates: 52.739722, 6.0775 [52° 44′ 23″ N, 6° 4′ 39″ E]). Giethoorn was a separate municipality until 1973, when it became a part of Brederwiede. Giethoorn has long been the seat of a Mennonite congregation. Between 1563 and 1565 Leenaert Bouwens visited this congregation and baptized five persons. It is striking that many family names at Giethoorn consist of two syllables and end in a silent e: Doze, Haxe, Gorte, Hase, Kleine, Wuite. Blaupot ten Cate (Groningen II, 220-21) was of opinion that the congregation descended from the Flagellants. (The Flagellants were a medieval sect, which laid much stress upon asceticism and mortification of the flesh; in the 14th century they marched in large groups through Western Europe, flagellating their bodies; a number of them are said to have been directed to Giethoorn by the Bishop of Utrecht in order to break up die peat-moors here.) This is not very likely, but it is a fact that the congregation of Giethoorn, a picturesque village situated in a lake district, with its canals, its numerous small and high bridges, its old-fashioned houses, both by its history and the characteristic manners and customs still in use in this town, took an exceptional place among the Dutch congregations. In former times Giethoorn was a predominantly Mennonite town. As late as 1838, 50 per cent of the population was Mennonite, but 1955 only 20 per cent.

By the end of the 16th century the congregation of Giethoorn was divided in two congregations, South Giethoorn and North Giethoorn. The smaller North congregation then belonged to the conservative Huiskoopers; in the 17th and 18th centuries it belonged to the Danzig Flemish Mennonites, and maintained close connections with the church of Danzig. Sometimes elders came from Danzig to Giethoorn to perform baptism and the Lord's Supper. This North congregation maintained the old practices of the ban and the simple life and clothing and never admitted trained and salaried ministers. In 1631 and again in 1646 its members were exempted from serving in government offices on paying a fee.

It maintained some contacts with the conservative congregation of Balk. In 1834 its membership numbered about 60. It possessed a small meetinghouse, which was damaged in 1825 by a flood of the Zuider Zee. The last elders were Hendrik Sijmens Bakker (?-1852) and Gerrit Sijmens Bos, elder from 1838 until his death 14 January 1875. From then on the pulpit was vacant, and the remaining members, only nine, joined the congregation of South Giethoorn in 1890. The meetinghouse, restored in 1854, was torn down in 1894.

The congregation of South Giethoorn always was the larger one. It belonged to the Flemish branch, and was sometimes, called the New Flemish Church. It was less conservative than its sister congregation, but in the 18th and early 19th centuries more conservative than other Dutch congregations. Silent prayer was in use until about 1780, and in 1811 the congregation adopted the principle of strict nonresistance, asking absolute freedom from military service. The last unsalaried preacher was Harm W. Dam (1778-1873), who served ?-1850, assisted by K. Hovens Greve, preacher of Zuidveen, who served from 1826 to 1851. In this year Greve's son A. K. Hovens Greve became the first trained pastor of South Giethoorn. He was followed by W. Jesse 1858-1862, A. van Gulik 1863-1866, J. A. Oosterbaan 1866-1876, J. F. Bakker 1877-1881, H. Koekebakker 1881-1886, A. van der Goot 1889-1892, H. Schuurmans 1894-1910, T. O. M. H. Hylkema 1911-1929, M. J. Kosters Gz 1929-1933, A. J. van der Sluis 1936-1939, Abr. Mulder 1941-1946, and F. H. Sixma after 1948.

Concerning the meetinghouse not much is known. The old meetinghouse was remodeled in 1856. A new one, still standing in 1955, was built in 1871 and dedicated on Christmas Day of this year. Statistics of membership were not available before 1834, when the membership numbered 314. It must, however, have been much more numerous in the 17th and 18th centuries. In 1861 the membership was 468, in 1900, 490, in 1955 about 365. About 1870 modernism (liberalism) entered the church. Most members of the church were farmers in the mid-20th century, but the farms were usually small. Besides the farmers there were a larger number of farm laborers, who formerly were often unemployed in winter. Hence the congregation had to take care of them; in 1915 it spent 4,000-5,000 guilders for the care of the poor. About 1920 the church board at the instigation of Pastor Hylkema carried out some plans of providing work, e.g., poldering swampy fields. By the 1950s conditions were much better because of the government unemployment benefits. Near Giethoorn were found two Mennonite recreation centers, "Samen Een" and "Kraggehuis," both situated on the lake.

Church life was very active here in the mid-20th century. Giethoorn was among the first Mennonite congregations to start a Sunday school for children, opened in 1895. In 1955 there were two, one in South Giethoorn, one in North Giethoorn, comprising 200 children. A choir, founded 1914, consisted of 40 members in 1955; Bible circles, both in South and North; youth clubs; a gymnastic club (300 members), a basketball club, etc. The number of catechumens in 1955 was 177.


Cate, Steven Blaupot ten. Geschiedenis der Doopsgezinden in Groningen, Overijssel en Oost-Friesland, 2 vols. Leeuwarden: W. Eekhoff en J. B. Wolters, 1842: v. II, 220-221, passim.

Doopsgezind Jaarboekje (1850): 40 f.

Doopsgezinde Bijdragen (1861): 173; (1872): 195; (1873): 196; (1878): 2, 10, 14 ff., 23, 27; (1890): 142; (1892): 79, 81 f.; (1897): 83; (1898): 71; (1901): 2, 16, 47.

Hege, Christian and Christian Neff. Mennonitisches Lexikon, 4 vols. Frankfurt & Weierhof: Hege; Karlsruhe: Schneider, 1913-1967: v. II, 113-114.

Hoefer, F. A. "Historische Aanteekeningen omtrent Giethoorn." Verslagen en mededelingen: Overijssels Recht en Geschiedenis 30: 33-53.

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: v. II, No. 1736.

Additional Information

Congregation: Doopsgezinde Gemeente Giethoorn

Address: Binnenpad 50, 8355 BS Giethoorn, Netherlands

Telephone: 0521-362488

Website: Doopsgezinde Gemeenten Giethoorn, Steenwijk en Blokzijl

Denominational affiliation:

Algemene Doopsgezinde Societeit


Giethoorn, Overijssel, Netherlands

Author(s) T. O. Hylkema
Nanne van der Zijpp
Date Published 1956

Cite This Article

MLA style

Hylkema, T. O. and Nanne van der Zijpp. "Giethoorn (Overijssel, Netherlands)." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. 1956. Web. 12 Apr 2024.,_Netherlands)&oldid=145243.

APA style

Hylkema, T. O. and Nanne van der Zijpp. (1956). Giethoorn (Overijssel, Netherlands). Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 12 April 2024, from,_Netherlands)&oldid=145243.


Adapted by permission of Herald Press, Harrisonburg, Virginia, from Mennonite Encyclopedia, Vol. 2, pp. 517-518. All rights reserved.

©1996-2024 by the Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. All rights reserved.