Utrecht (Utrecht, Netherlands)

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Doopsgezinde Kerk Utrecht.
Photo by André van Dijk.
Source: Reliwiki.
Doopsgezinde Kerk Utrecht.
Photo by Rijksdienst voor het Cultureel Erfgoed.
Source: Wikimedia Commons

Utrecht, a city in the Netherlands, capital of the province of Utrecht (1958 population, 200,150, with 1,056 Mennonites, 2007 population, 288,731). In 1568 the States of Utrecht and the magistrates of the city wrote to the Spanish governor the Duke of Alba that until 1566 heresy was unknown in Utrecht and Catholicism flourished. This, however, is not true either of the city or the province.

In the city of Utrecht Anabaptist views were found by 1530, when some persons had to answer for heretical views, among whom was Dirk Weyman who harbored doubt as to the legality of infant baptism. But probably these views were Sacramentist rather than Anabaptist. In 1535 a few revolutionary Anabaptists from outside were executed at Utrecht, among whom was Walraven Herberts of Middelie, who had been sent to this town to propagate the Münsterite doctrines. Jacob Claesz and Govert Aertsz, citizens of Utrecht, also executed in 1535, seem to have been peaceful Anabaptists. In 1539 fifteen Anabaptists, probably all followers of David Joris and none of them a citizen of Utrecht, were put to death; a number of church robbers executed here in 1540, called Anabaptists in the records, had hardly anything to do with Anabaptism, and the same can be said of a number of followers of Jan Batenburg executed at Utrecht in 1544-45, one of whom was the notorious Appelman.

In general it is true that the early Anabaptist movement had little following in Utrecht before 1550. Yet there was a Mennonite congregation dating from about 1554 that was visited by the elders Leenaert Bouwens, Joost Verbeek, and Dirk Philips. Leenaert stayed at Utrecht several times, baptizing 14 persons in 1554-57, six (or nine) in 1557-61, and 28 in 1563-65. Joost Verbeek administered baptism here in the spring of 1561; among the persons baptized by him were Jan Hendriks, Hendrik Eemkens, who died as a martyr at Utrecht in 1562, and Willem Willemsz. Dirk Philips visited Utrecht about Christmas 1561. In the home of Cornelis van Voordt he administered baptism and the Lord's Supper. Shortly after his visit, in early February 1562, a meeting held in this home was surprised by police; some of those present escaped, but others were seized. Their trials give valuable information about the Utrecht congregation: meetings were held in the home of Aeltgen van Gent, where Joost Verbeek had baptized in early 1561, or in the stately patrician home of Cornelis van Voordt, who was not a Mennonite, but sympathized with the Mennonites, and whose wife and son Jan had been baptized into the church. Also other members received the congregation in their homes. For the sake of safety they assembled at four in the morning and remained until seven in the evening after night had fallen. The membership is said to have been rather small, not exceeding 30 or 40, including some members living in other towns of the province, e.g. at Vreeland. A meeting held in 1560 was attended by 14 or 15 persons. In these meetings they read the Scriptures, particularly the New Testament. One of their members possessed a copy of the martyr book Offer des Heeren, which he had bought at Utrecht. A number of those arrested were tortured. The sentences pronounced were rather mild; only Hendrik Eemkens was sentenced to death and executed on 10 June 1562. Others recanted and were banished or sentenced to public penitence. Cornelis van Voordt and his wife Anna were banished forever from the territory of Utrecht, Holland, and Zeeland, and their property was confiscated for the benefit of Philip II.

After this occurrence there is for a long time no clear information about the Mennonites at Utrecht. In 1568-70 six Mennonites were executed at Utrecht but none of them was a native of Utrecht. The congregation persisted in secrecy until the Reformed Church became dominant in Utrecht (1579) and the Mennonites were tolerated and exempted from strict military service (city decrees of 9 May 1581, 14 May and 14 August 1582). In 1592 mention is made of a Mennonite congregation "in which no person is admitted unless baptized by adult baptism, whose behavior is known [to the members] and of whom it is known that he does not use bad language and is not given to drinking, and who does not wrong anybody."

In the early 17th century Utrecht had at least three Mennonite congregations, due to the deplorable schisms among the Dutch Mennonites — Flemish, Frisian, and High German. Among the Flemish, who then seem to have been the largest group, Jan van der Voort was ordained as an elder in 1606 by Jacques Outerman and Simon Fyts. In 1611 van der Voort was still elder, Hans Wijtses the preacher, and Jan Joostes the deacon. The male membership then numbered 73 and the total baptized membership probably some 150. A house in the Jufferstraat (now Springweg) was bought in 1618; it was remodeled into a meetinghouse.

Concerning the Frisians and High Germans nothing is known but that they had united before 1630; on 19 May 1639, this united church merged with the Flemish congregation, which before in 1632 had participated in the general merger of the Flemish and Old Flemish in the Netherlands, accepting the Dordrecht Confession of Faith; Herman Segers, Jan Hendricksen Hooghvelt, and Daniel Lhorens (probably Hovens) signed for the Utrecht congregation.

After the merger of 1632 the Utrecht Mennonite congregation increased in membership; in 1649 it numbered 292 baptized members. It developed in peace until the quarrels of 1661-62. The elders were Abr. Spronck 1639-52, Harmen Segers 1639-63, Daniel Hovens 1640-52, Arent van Heuven 1646-74, Robert J. van Hooghveldt 1646-63, Goris van Aldendorp 1649-72, Jan Andriesz van Aken 1652-1706, Willem van Maurik 1658-73, and Frans Andries 1660-82.

In 1659-64 severe controversies between a conservative part of the congregation led by the preacher van Hooghveldt and a more progressive faction led by the preachers van Maurik, van Aldendorp, van Heuven, and van Aken caused unpleasant strife. This conflict described by W. J. Kühler in Doopsgezinde Bijdragen, 1916, which ran parallel with the dissension at Amsterdam (see Lammerenkrijgh), resulted in an initial victory for the conservatives; van Maurik and his group were suspended on 31 July 1661, by 17 elders from outside, among whom were T. J. van Braght and Bastiaan van Weenighem; for nearly three years they abstained from serving. Gradually the authority of the conservative leaders declined, particularly after the death of van Hooghveldt (1663). New preachers chosen after his death were not as aggressive as van Hooghveldt had been. Moreover the majority of the members favored the progressive views. For a number of years the progressives had held separate meetings, but finally peace was restored in 1675. In the meantime van Maurik had moved to Amsterdam. During the first years of this conflict a number of writings were published concerning the controversy, including a confession by van Maurik and his friends.

In 1674 the Utrecht congregation joined the Zonist Sociëteit, but a number of most strict conservatives left the church and joined the Reformed. The Utrecht congregation was now led by Jacobus van Griethuysen, a rather conservative man, who however was able to satisfy the moderate progressives. Van Griethuysen served 1674-1713. A period of peace and prosperity had dawned, though throughout the 18th century some friction persisted between the more liberal and the more conservative elements of the congregation. The ministers then were A. van Dulken 1681-88, Pieter Noordijk 1685-1704, Christoffel Tirion 1704-10, Teyme van Hilten 1711-15, Isaak Franken 1713-38, G. de Wit 1714-29, Gerardus van Heyningen 1739-58, Marten Schagen 1741-70, Joannes Cuperus 1758-77, Cornelis de Vries 1771-86, Abr. Wijnands 1777-85, and J. A. Hoekstra 1786-1803.

Only half of these men had received a special training for the ministry; Tirion and Franken were trained by Galenus Abrahamsz, whereas van Heyningen, Cuperus, and Wijnands studied at the Amsterdam Lamist seminary, and Hoekstra at the Zonist seminary. Since then the Utrecht congregation has been served only by ministers trained at Amsterdam Theological Seminary: Petrus Brouwer 1786-1827, Jan Kops 1816-43 (part-time; he was also a professor of agriculture at the Utrecht University), Wopco Cnoop Koopmans 1823-1827, Jan Visscher 1828-1861, Jan Hartog 1861-1894, Sytze de Waard 1894-1911, P. J. Glasz 1911-1934, J. J. G. Wuite 1934-    , and C. F. Brüsewitz 1946-    .

In the 18th century, doubtless through the influence of liberal ministers like van Heyningen and Cuperus, the congregation began to admit nonmembers to the Lord's Supper and to accept persons into the congregation without (re) baptism. Baptism was then often administered privately in the homes of the candidates.

The old (originally Flemish) meetinghouse on Jufferstraat, a simple building, was equipped with a pipe organ in 1765 (dedicated 4 August); this was the first organ placed in a Mennonite church in Holland. This valuable instrument was the gift of four members of the congregation. A new church, still in use, was dedicated on 7 November 1773, by Pastor Cuperus. This was once a beautiful building; some of its beautiful rococo style can still be seen in the interior (pulpit and benches for the church board). The organ from the old meetinghouse was installed in the new one and used until 1870, when a new one was built. The church was remodeled in 1867 and 1922, and enlarged for church activities in 1922.

It is not known which hymnal was first used by the congregation; in 1684 the Psalms Laus Deo were introduced and used until 1896. Until then the congregation also sang from the Groote and Kleine Bundel, introduced in the early 18th century. These hymnals were replaced in 1896 by the Protestantenbond-bundel, whereas also the Leidsch Bundel was used. In 1944 these hymnals were replaced by the new Mennonite hymnal.

As to the membership, in 1649 the congregation numbered 292 baptized members, in 1700 about 270; in the 18th-19th centuries the number decreased considerably, in 1836 reaching its lowest point with only 80 members; from then there was a steady and even rapid growth: 102 in 1847, 110 in 1861, 450 in 1895, 553 in 1901, 875 in 1926, reaching its peak with 1,064 in 1941, then decreasing to 752 in 1958. Many old family names found among the membership in former centuries like van (der) Voort, Broekhuizen, van Geleyn, Boogaert, Blank(a)ert, van Heuven, van Aken, Hovens, van Oosterwijk, van Maarseveen, Spronck, Fremery, van Dul(c)ken, van Hengelaar, van Pesch, van Singel, van Swigtenheuvel, Verbeek, Wijlik, van Arkel, Oortman, van Maurik, etc., are no longer here.

In the 17th-18th centuries the Utrecht church generously supported, both financially and with the service of its ministers, a number of small congregations in the neighborhood like Bunschoten, Spakenburg, Huizen, Veenendaal, Vianen, Gorinchem, Schoonhoven, and Asperen, all now extinct except Huizen (at present called the Hilversum congregation). Liberal help was given not only to its own needy members but also to other Mennonite churches; in 1702, when the Bunschoten meetinghouse was badly damaged by a flood, the Mennonites of Utrecht had it restored, and in the same year gave 832 guilders to the Krommenie congregation, whose meetinghouse had burned down in 1701. To the Prussian Mennonites Utrecht contributed 885 guilders in 1733 and 800 guilders in 1736.

Formerly the Utrecht congregation owned a considerable library of Mennonite books, the gift of its minister Marten Schagen in 1777; in 1834 this library was sold for 250 guilders to the Doopsgezinde Bijdragen to be placed in the Mennonite library of Amsterdam.

Since 1936 the Utrecht and Amsterdam congregations have operated the Brotherhood Home (Broederschapshuis) at Bilthoven. The Mennonite circle (kring) of Bilthoven is in the care of the pastors of Utrecht; this circle organizes religious services every two weeks in the Broederschapshuis as well as other activities. The church activities at Utrecht now (1958) include two ladies' circles, a youth group, and a Sunday school for children.


Berghuys, H. B. Geschiedenis der Doopsgezinde Gemeente te Utrecht. 1926.

Cate, Steven Blaupot ten. Geschiedenis der Doopsgezinden in Holland, Zeeland, Utrecht en Gelderland, 2 vols. Amsterdam: P.N. van Kampen, 1847: v. I and v. II, passim.

Cramer, S. "De Doopsgezinde gemeente te Utrecht van 1560 tot 1562." Doopsgezinde Bijdragen (1903): 1-53.

Doopsgezinde Bijdragen (1863): 78, 80 ff., 83-94, 96-98, 100, 102; (1868): 100-5; (1881): 107 ff.; (1888): 124; (1897): 166; (1916): 145-95; (1917): 140.

Kühler, Wilhelmus Johannes. Geschiedenis der Nederlandsche Doopsgezinden in de Zestiende Eeuw. Haarlem: H.D. Tjeenk Willink, 1932: 270.

Kühler, Wilhelmus Johannes. Geschiedenis van de Doopsgezinden in Nederland II. 1600-1735 Eerste Helft. Haarlem: H.D. Tjeenk Willink & Zoon n.v., 1940: 199.

Mellink, Albert F. De Wederdopers in de noordelijke Nederlanden 1531-1544. Groningen: J.B. Wolters, 1954: 231, 232, 234 ff., 236 ff., 238-40.

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. I, Nos. 33 ff, 102-4, 106 ff., 128, 209 ff., 212, 237a, 238, 265, 269, 279, 327, 329, 366, 398a, 402a, 403, 408, 559, 594, 786, 788, 1025, 1071, 1790; v. II, Nos. 2288-99; v. II, 2, Nos. 494-96, 645.

Additional Information

Congregation: Doopsgezinde Gemeente Utrecht

Address: Oudegracht 270, 3511 NV Utrecht, Netherlands

Telephone: 030-2311501

Church website: Doopsgezinde Gemeente Utrecht

Denominational affiliation:

Algemene Doopsgezinde Sociëteit


Map:Utrecht (Netherlands)

Author(s) Nanne van der Zijpp
Date Published 1959

Cite This Article

MLA style

Zijpp, Nanne van der. "Utrecht (Utrecht, Netherlands)." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. 1959. Web. 25 Mar 2019. http://gameo.org/index.php?title=Utrecht_(Utrecht,_Netherlands)&oldid=132790.

APA style

Zijpp, Nanne van der. (1959). Utrecht (Utrecht, Netherlands). Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 25 March 2019, from http://gameo.org/index.php?title=Utrecht_(Utrecht,_Netherlands)&oldid=132790.


Adapted by permission of Herald Press, Harrisonburg, Virginia, from Mennonite Encyclopedia, Vol. 4, pp. 793-794. All rights reserved.

©1996-2019 by the Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. All rights reserved.