Soetken van den Houte (d. 1560)

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Soetken van den Hout(t)e, an Anabaptist martyr, secretly beheaded in the Gravensteen castle at Ghent, Belgium, on 20 November 1560 (not 27 November, as is stated in Martyrs' Mirror and Mennonitisches Lexikon), with Martha Baerts and Lynken Pieters. After the execution their corpses were thrown into a pit outside the Muide gate. Soetken van den Houtte, also called Avezoete, was forty years of age and mother of three children, David, Betken, and Tanneken. She was born in Oudenaerde in Flanders. Her husband, Ghislain de Meulenaere, who had died before she was put to death, was also a martyr, as may be seen from Soetken's letter to her children: "Your father has confessed the truth concerning baptism and the incarnation of Christ, and gave his life for it." Soetken wrote this letter in prison to her children as a "testament." It is often called a "Christelyke kindertucht." In this "testament" she wrote thus: "My dear children, since it pleases the Lord to take me out of this world, I will leave you a memorial, not of silver or gold; for such jewels are perishable: but I should like to write to your heart, which is the word of truth of the Lord .... Beware of bad company, and of playing in the streets with bad boys, but learn to read and write." She admonished her children to goodness, kindness, humility, obedience, patience, righteousness, chastity, peacefulness, firmness, mercy, and all Christian virtues.

Soetken also composed a song, "Godt ghy sijt myn Hulper fijn, Verlost my van de eewige pijn" (O God, Thou art my good Helper, Deliver me from eternal torment). This song is found in the Tweede Liedeboeck (Dutch hymnal of 1583). The "testament" and also a letter written in prison to her brother and sister are found in van Braght's Martyrs' Mirror. A separate edition of the "testament" was published as early as about 1565; the only copy extant is an incomplete copy, now found in the Royal library at The Hague. A second edition, to which is added Soetken's hymn, was printed in 1579 by Nicolaes Biestkens at Amsterdam. Of this edition also only one copy is extant, found in the city library of Hamburg. There are reprints of the "testament" and the song as follows: Delft 1586; no publisher and no date of publication indicated (circa 1605); Groningen 1636; Hoorn 1641; Groningen 1664; and Amsterdam 1679. Under the title Uyterste wille van Soetken van den Houte it was reprinted at Amsterdam in 1699 and 1748. Copies of a 16th-century German translation, Ein Testament vonn einer frommen Gott liebhaberin Soecken von Holtz genandt, are found in the Prussian State Library of Berlin and the city library of Zürich. The "testament" and the other letter by Soetken are also inserted in Thomas von Imbroich's Confession of circa 1560 in two editions, one of which is in the Mennonite Historical Library (Goshen, Indiana), and in the well-known devotional book of 1702 (1742 and 1745), Gueldene Aepfel.


Braght, Thieleman J. van. Het Bloedigh Tooneel of Martelaers Spiegel der Doopsgesinde of Weereloose Christenen, Die om 't getuygenis van Jesus haren Salighmaker geleden hebben ende gedood zijn van Christi tijd of tot desen tijd toe. Den Tweeden Druk. Amsterdam: Hieronymus Sweerts, 1685, Part II: 277-82.

Braght, Thieleman J. van. The Bloody Theatre or Martyrs' Mirror of the Defenseless Christians Who Baptized Only upon Confession of Faith and Who Suffered and Died for the Testimony of Jesus Their Saviour . . . to the Year A.D. 1660. Scottdale, PA: Herald Press, 1951: 646-51. Available online at:

Doopsgezinde Bijdragen (1870): 51.

Haeghen, Ferdinand van der, Thomas Arnold and R. Vanden Berghe. Bibliographie des Martyrologes Protestants Néerlandais, 2 vols. The Hague: M. Nijhoff, 1890: v. I, 171-91, 656-59.

Hege, Christian and Christian Neff. Mennonitisches Lexikon, 4 vols. Frankfurt & Weierhof: Hege; Karlsruhe: Schneider, 1913-1967: v. II, 352.

Verheyden, A. L. E. Het Gentsche Martyrologium (1530-1595). Brugge: De Tempel, 1946: 26, No. 75

Wolkan, Rudolf. Die Lieder der Wiedertäufer. Berlin, 1903. Reprinted Nieuwkoop: B. De Graaf, 1965: 70.

Author(s) Nanne van der Zijpp
Date Published 1959

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Zijpp, Nanne van der. "Soetken van den Houte (d. 1560)." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. 1959. Web. 16 May 2022.

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Zijpp, Nanne van der. (1959). Soetken van den Houte (d. 1560). Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 16 May 2022, from


Adapted by permission of Herald Press, Harrisonburg, Virginia, from Mennonite Encyclopedia, Vol. 4, p. 570. All rights reserved.

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