Peter van Coelen (16th century)

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Peter van Coelen (Pieter van Keulen, van Ceulen, or Peter of Cologne) was by 1568 an elder of the Flemish Mennonites. He is known especially for the public disputations he held with the Reformed clergy. Already in 1578 at the disputation at Emden, Germany, when the elders were worsted by the Reformed preachers, he had saved the honor of the Mennonites. In 1587 he held a disputation with Henricus Antonides at Franeker.

Better known is the public disputation held at Leeuwarden in 1596. When Ruardus Acronius, the Reformed preacher at Cornjum near Leeuwarden, molested the Mennonites, the States of Friesland ordered a public disputation to be held at the Reformed Galileër Church, in which Acronius and Peter participated and which lasted from 16 August to 17 November. In 156 sessions they discussed 11 points set up by the Reformed side (including the Incarnation, the Scriptures, grace, over-estimation of human ability, the church). The record (though one-sided) shows that Peter defended his opinions forcefully and with great ability and wide knowledge of the Bible. The only result was an increase in mutual bitterness. The wish of the Reformed synods in the following years to have the Mennonite churches closed is also one of its fruits.

Meanwhile Peter had gone over to the Frisian Mennonites. The Flemish had expelled him because he opposed the strict ban (1589). After the discussion with Acronius he was in Sneek, where he courageously met the violent preacher Bogerman in 1600. A severe edict against the Mennonites resulted. But on the whole the government did not carry it out very rigorously - to the great annoyance of the Calvinists. The date of Peter's death is not known. He died at an advanced age; that he was still active in 1603 is shown by a petition of the Harlingen Reformed Synod to the States of Friesland of that date.


Cate, Steven Blaupot ten. Geschiedenis der Doopsgezinden in Friesland. Leeuwarden: W. Eekhoff, 1839: 132-37.

Cramer, Samuel and Fredrik Pijper. Bibliotheca Reformatoria Neerlandica, 10 vols. The Hague: M. Nijhoff, 1903-1914: v. VII, 65, 550.

Doopsgezinde Bijdragen (1873): 84-88; (1910): 20 ff.; (1917): 132.

Hege, Christian and Christian Neff. Mennonitisches Lexikon, 4 vols. Frankfurt & Weierhof: Hege; Karlsruhe: Schneider, 1913-1967: v. II, 524.

Kühler, Wilhelmus Johannes. Geschiedenis der Nederlandsche Doopsgezinden in de Zestiende Eeuw. Haarlem: H.D. Tjeenk Willink, 1932: v. I, 431, 445, 447 ff.

Mennonitische Blätter (1851): 28-31.

Protocol, dat is de gantsche handelinge des ghesprechs, gehouden tot Leeuwarden. Leeuwarden, 1597.

Author(s) Nanne van der Zijpp
Date Published 1959

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Zijpp, Nanne van der. "Peter van Coelen (16th century)." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. 1959. Web. 27 Oct 2020.

APA style

Zijpp, Nanne van der. (1959). Peter van Coelen (16th century). Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 27 October 2020, from


Adapted by permission of Herald Press, Harrisonburg, Virginia, from Mennonite Encyclopedia, Vol. 4, pp. 149-150. All rights reserved.

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