Ieper (Flanders, Belgium)

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Ieper (Yper, or Yperen), a town in West Flanders, Belgium (1949 pop. 17,154, 2005 pop. 35,000). The town has a rich history. In the Middle Ages it was very prosperous as a result of a flourishing weaving industry; in the 13th century there were more than 80,000 inhabitants. The town has been repeatedly struck by war; in World War I it was nearly completely destroyed. During the raid on 22 November 1914 when the beautiful old Cloth Hall was set on fire, the archives were destroyed. These archives without doubt contained some valuable material about the Anabaptist-Mennonite congregation existing here in the 16th century. Now the information about the Anabaptist movement here is very scarce. There was Anabaptist activity at leper as early as about 1538, and there may have been a congregation at this time. Leenaert Bouwens baptized 13 persons here in 1554-1556.

There are two important documents, both of 1561, which supplement one another, (a) A letter written by the inquisitor Titelman, at Ieper on 14 November 1561 to the vice-regent Margaret of Parma, informing her that he had destroyed a Mennonite congregation at Ieper, which had been meeting for 10 or 12 months in a woods between Ieper and Meenen, 80 to 100 persons being present at times. Sometimes they also held meetings in town with an attendance of 38 to 40 persons. A number of heretics had been taken prisoner and the law had taken its course. Most of the Anabaptists, however, had escaped and fled to Armentieres or Hondschoote, or were roaming about the country, still seducing the simple people. (This letter is found in P. Besson, Edicts de Persecutions, Berne-Neuchatel-Buenos Aires, n.d., 11-14.) (b) A hymn, found in the Lietboecxken van den Offer des Heeren (No. 23), composed by Anabaptists arrested in 1561 when a meeting was surprised by Titelman and his soldiers. The Dutch martyrbook of 1615 (the Groot Offerboek) and later martyrbooks, including van Braght's Martyrs Mirror, which contain this hymn in a prose version, give information which shows that these Mennonites had moved from elsewhere to leper to avoid persecution. They were all weavers. A certain Hendrik N. managed to escape, and one woman recanted. The arrested Mennonites, four in number, were strangled and burned at the stake on the market place of Ieper. The trial of the martyr Jacob de Rore, who was himself active in Ieper, reveals that a certain Lossche Coppen (concerning whom nothing more is known) was active in Ieper, preaching and performing marriages. Titelman's assertion that he had exterminated the Anabaptist congregation of Ieper is not true. Until about 1574 Mennonites were found here, and in 1566 they were said to have held their meetings rather publicly. The following martyrs died at Ieper: Jan Hulle, Maeyken Kocx, Anthonis Schoonvelt, Kalleken Strings, and Laurens van de Walk, all in 1561, Claudine le Vettre in 1568, Dirk Anoot and Willem de Zager in 1569.


Cramer, Samuel and Fredrik Pijper. Bibliotheca Reformatoria Neerlandica, 10 vols. The Hague: M. Nijhoff, 1903-1914: II, 603-607.

Verheyden, A. L. E. "Mennisme in Vlaanderen." Unpublished mss.

Author(s) Nanne van der Zijpp
Date Published 1959

Cite This Article

MLA style

Zijpp, Nanne van der. "Ieper (Flanders, Belgium)." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. 1959. Web. 12 Jul 2020.,_Belgium)&oldid=112082.

APA style

Zijpp, Nanne van der. (1959). Ieper (Flanders, Belgium). Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 12 July 2020, from,_Belgium)&oldid=112082.


Adapted by permission of Herald Press, Harrisonburg, Virginia, from Mennonite Encyclopedia, Vol. 3, pp. 3-4. All rights reserved.

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