Groningen (Groningen, Netherlands)

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Doopsgezinde Kerk, Groningen.
Photo by CWKramer.
Source: Wikimedia Commons
Interior of the Doopsgezinde Kerk, Groningen, 1960.
Photo by G. Th. Delemarre, Rijksdienst voor het Cultureel Erfgoed.
Interior of the Doopsgezinde Kerk, Groningen, 1960.
Photo by G. Th. Delemarre, Rijksdienst voor het Cultureel Erfgoed.
Source: Wikimedia Commons
Organ, Doopsgezinde Kerk, Groningen.
Source: Groningen Orgelstad

Groningen, the capital (1955 population, 132,021, with 1,741 Mennonites; 2006 population, 181,119; coordinates: 53.216667, 6.55 [53° 13′ 0″ N, 6° 33′ 0″ E]) of the Dutch province of Groningen, situated on the Hunse and the Aa, connected by canals with Dollart and Lake IJssel (formerly Zuiderzee), is the seat of a very old Anabaptist congregation dating back to 1530-1534. A city record dated 3 May 1534 contains an order to all foreigners infected with Anabaptist doctrine to leave the city within 12 hours. The edict referred in particular to Obbe Philips, who was staying here in that year. Since the record speaks only of foreign preachers, and does not mention an Obbenite congregation, the group can not have been very extensive or a threat to the state. Furthermore, the magistrate was very lenient and favored the Reformation, even promoting such a Reformation in the Groningen church. The clergy, especially the inspector Willem Fredericks, was also very tolerant. This tolerance was no doubt the legacy of Wessel Gansfort, who had a marked influence in Groningen. There are no records for 1535-1536; in fact, there are large gaps in the known history of Groningen. There are no extant proclamations against the Anabaptists in this period. An edict of 3 May 1536 makes no specific reference to the city; hence it may be conjectured that the city congregation was relatively untouched by the Münsterite movement.

In January 1537 Menno Simons was ordained bishop (elder) of the Groningen Anabaptists by Obbe Philips, but it is not likely that he stayed here very much, though on 3 March 1539, he baptized Quirin Pieters here, who died as a martyr in Amsterdam in 1545. Menno Simons, who had close ties with the Groningen congregation, dedicated to this church two of his writings: Klaar bericht . . . van der Excommunicatie (1549 or 50) and Belydinge van den Drieëenigen God. An imperial proclamation of 31 August 1544 ordered that the followers of David Joris, Batenburg, and Menno Simons be imprisoned and punished by death. In 1544 a number of followers of the Anabaptist leader Johan Jansen (who is otherwise unknown) were put to death in Groningen. Menno and many of his followers had already betaken themselves to East Friesland; but the city magistrate was more tolerant to the followers of Menno than the Emperor. Again on 25 January 1548 the magistrate ordered the Anabaptists to leave the city or be subject to the death penalty, but this was never enforced, although many remained. Nothing is known of the inner development of the congregation. The number of Anabaptists is estimated at 23 or 24 (letter to the governor Maria), and also at 1,100 with two preachers (Cornelius). Most of the members were craftsmen. In 1551-1581 Leenaert Bouwens baptized 66 persons in Groningen (22 in 1551-1554). This figure is rather insignificant in comparison with the nearby city of Appingedam, where he baptized 129.

The city of Groningen, which was rather independent until 1576, now fell under the tyranny of Spain. Many "sectarians" who wished a reformation of the Catholic Church were banished and their goods confiscated. This fate struck Willem Lubberts "of the sect of the Anabaptists and Zwinglians." Following the difficult period of 1580-1594 under Spanish rule, during which Brixius Gerrits, elder of the Flemish congregation, was expelled from the city (1583), the city was taken by Maurice of Orange and with the surrounding area added as the seventh province to the united Netherlands. With respect to religion it was decided that the Reformed (Calvinist) religion should be practiced openly, "but no one should be tested and troubled in his conscience."

But in 1601 the Mennonites were troubled when the government, no doubt at the instigation of the Calvinist clergy, forbade the Mennonites to have religious meetings and to perform marriages, made rebaptism punishable, and excluded unbaptized children from the rights of inheritance. Also in the ensuing period the magistrate occasionally opposed them, although they were on the whole tolerated. Not until 1672, after the Mennonites had assisted in the difficult siege, were they permanently left in peace.

After the divisions in 1556 and the following years that split the brotherhood into several parties, there were in the city of Groningen at least three congregations—Old Flemish, Flemish, and Waterlander. In addition in 1640-1673 another arose, most closely associated with the Old Flemish, viz., the Ukowallists, against whom a proclamation was issued in 1662. They were the followers of Uko Walles, of whom we hear at the great conference of the Old Flemish in 1637 in Groningen (see Groningen Sociëteit). In the city" accounts of 1663-1675 the Ukowallist congregation is listed as independent of the others, and as the largest. It was the bearer of the old unabridged uncurtailed tradition; it was the most determined to hold to the ways of Menno Simons and Dirk Philips. Later it again united with the Old Flemish, or perhaps the latter united with a moderate wing of the Ukowallists. This happened in 1675; two years later they collectively built a church in the name of the Old Flemish on Oude Boteringestraat, where the Old Flemish conference met annually from that time on, and where the Groningen Sociéteit still met in the 1950s. The chief promoter of this unification was Arent Jans (1610-1679), an elder of the Old Flemish congregation since 1636. During the late 17th and early 18th centuries this congregation was very active in giving both moral and material support to the Mennonites of Prussia, Poland, and Lithuania, as well as to the Palatine and Swiss refugees.

This Groningen Old Flemish congregation had some excellent leaders, such as Derk Alles and his son and successor in office, Alle Derks. The former baptized 1,832 persons in 307 baptismal services. Another man of great influence was Aldert Sierks Dyk, a preacher 1733-1779. The Old Flemish congregation used the Biestkens Bible and as hymnals the Veelderhande Liedekens, the Veelderhande Schrijtuerlyke Liedekens, and the Lusthof des Gemoets. In 1733 the membership was 291, in 1767 about 200; in 1784, 152, and in 1800 only 138. They had held too tenaciously to the old tradition—even though in the end they had yielded. The office of elder had lost its authority; but to employ trained ministers was contrary to the institutions of their fathers. But the old had also passed away in this respect; the new period following the French Revolution brought new vigor and the Groningen Old Flemish congregation, though weak, was preserved.

The Waterlander congregation, which was represented by Popko Popkes at the well-known conference of the Waterlander congregations at Amsterdam in 1647, and which held its meetings in a house in Pelsterstraat, united with the larger part of the Flemish shortly before 1700.

The Flemish congregation belonged to the Sociëteit of Friesland from the founding of the Sociëteit in 1695 until 1791. Before it merged with the Waterlanders the Flemish congregation held its meetings in a house behind the A-Church. In 1696 they acquired a church on Pelsterstraat. It was a small congregation. In 1695 the congregation numbered about 100 members, in 1721, 123; 1752, 86; and 1809 only 48 members. Eppo Botterman was its learned and capable pastor in 1700-1714 and 1725 until at least 1752. His being also supervisor of the Collegiants, who met on the Caroli-Weg, involved his congregation in disputes, especially with his colleague Jacobus Rijsdijk.

The Rijnsburger Collegiants had already met Calvinist opposition in Groningen. In 1660-1670, 12 questions (see Geuzenvragen) were formulated to be used in warding off erroneous doctrine—collectively usually classified as Socinianism. But Christoffel Wensing, a member of the Old Flemish, had established a "college" (about 1680) and defended a Christianity independent of the church "after the manner of the Socinians." Opposition soon arose, but Wensing did not yield. Apparently there was a rather large number of members who agreed with him (surprising in view of the conservatism of the Old Flemish). The outcome was that Wensing was banned in 1687 with a number of followers. The expelled members now held more closely together than ever; soon the government intervened, urged by the Reformed clergy (1700). The Collegiants drew up a confession of faith which they presented on 19 December 1701. It was declared unsuitable on the grounds that the answers to the questions on the Deity of Christ, etc., were inadequate. On 15 February 1702 the college was closed, and could not be reopened until 1712 in spite of much effort. In 1715 they organized a church. Their elder was the above Botterman who sought to promote his ideas in the Flemish congregation. But because of the accompanying disunity he resigned his office with the Flemish in 1714, but resumed it in 1725 at the request of the congregation. Now his colleague Jacobus Rijsdijk (called from Zwolle in 1728) opposed him. A bitter struggle ensued, which did not end until Rijsdijk moved to Almelo in 1742. The fact that Botterman remained with the congregation until at least 1752 shows that most of the congregation at least tolerated his views, even if they were not in agreement with him. It is therefore not surprising that after the death of Steven J. van Geuns, the Collegiant supervisor, in 1757, when the colleges began to dissolve, most of the Collegiants came into the Flemish congregation.

A new increase came to the Mennonites of Groningen at the end of the 17th century and the beginning of the 18th by an influx of Mennonite refugees from the Palatinate and Switzerland. In 1694 Mennonites expelled from the Palatinate settled in the Netherlands, principally at Groningen. In 1711 and the following years Swiss Mennonites found a friendly reception here. Both Derk Alles and Alle Derks took an active interest in them. The first group coming to Groningen consisted of 30 families, and more arrived in the course of time. An offering was taken and the proceeds used to buy farms in the neighborhood of Groningen for the refugees. As early as 1716 a Swiss congregation, which had merged with the Palatine congregation, was large enough to have an elder of its own. There was also a Swiss congregation at Sappemeer. Strife within the congregation caused a division into the Old Swiss and the New Swiss about 1720. The immediate cause was actually a minor point, viz., the furnishing of a home; but the basic cause was no doubt deeper. Both parties held their services in a hall located "Achter de Muur" (behind the City Wall) in the "Paltzergang," one in the German language, the other in Dutch. When it was no longer possible to find a German preacher, and David Ricken, the preacher at Sappemeer, had become too old to undertake the troublesome trips to Groningen, the two congregations were again united. Many members had already transferred their membership to the Old Flemish congregation. Their preachers were Izaak Jannes Leutscher until 1810, and Christiaan Jacobs Leutscher 1810-1824. In 1809 occurred the union of the "United Flemish and Waterlander congregation of Pelsterstraat with the Old Flemish of Oude Boteringestraat. Until 1815 both churches were used. At that time they decided to build a new church on Oude Boteringestraat since both the old churches were too small. The first service in the new church was held on 20 October 1815. The church on Pelsterstraat was given to the Swiss, who had by this time united and who used it until 1824. Its membership was only 34. In that year it merged with the United congregation. There was now only one congregation in the city. In 1809, at the time of the merger, the membership was 228; in 1838, 365. They now had a considerable growth corresponding with the growth of the city. In 1870 the membership was 566, and in 1900, 1,017; it declined to about 850, but by 1920 was 1,200, of whom 250 lived outside the city; in 1953 the membership numbered 1,208, of whom 173 lived outside the city.

The development in the 19th century proceeded rapidly. When the two congregations united in 1815, the ministers were Pieter Klomp (d. 1832, formerly of the Old Flemish church) and Jacobus David Vissering (d. 1846, formerly of the Flemish and Waterlander congregation). Klomp was the first chairman of the Groninger Sociëteit, which was founded in 1826. Next came Klaas Sybrandi, serving in 1832-1838, who wrote a number of hymns, some of which are found in the Haarlem and Leiden songbooks; Wilhelm Gerhards, serving in 1839-1864; J. G. de Hoop Scheffer, 1846-1849, who later became a professor at the Mennonite Seminary at Amsterdam; J. W. Straatmen, 1850-1867, who was a radical modernist like his colleague Cornelis Corver, 1865-1867, which displeased  the congregation, causing both to resign. Their successor J. van Gilse, 1869-1906, was a capable preacher and a noted Old Testament scholar. During his pastorate the Groote Bundel of Haarlem was discarded and the Leidsche Bundel adopted. Van Gilse was succeeded by Pastor Folkert van der Ploeg 1906-1931, O. L. van der Veen 1931-1934, L. D. G. Knipscheer 1935- , K. T. Gorter 1942-1945, H. Bremer 1946-4199, and W. I. Fleischer 1949-   .

The church was remodeled and enlarged in 1843; in 1915 two stained glass windows representing Biblical scenes were put in. In 1932 the Mennohuis (rooms for church activities) was built near the church. In 1854 one of the members, G. van Calcar, Jr., presented the congregation with an expensive gift: bread plates, jars, 20 large cups for the communion services, and a jug and vessel for baptismal services, all of silver.

A Sunday school for children was started in 1909, a ladies' circle in 1910, a youth group in 1923. After 1910 the women of the church could also vote; after 1923 they could also be members of the church board.

A meeting of members on 23 February 1879 resolved that the catechumens (aankomelingen) could obtain membership without baptism; though this resolution is still in force, nearly all young members are baptized now. In a meeting of 26 December 1918, it was resolved that not only members of other churches (non-Mennonite) could receive membership without being rebaptized, but also that unbaptized persons who are in sympathy widi the church could be accepted as members without baptism.

The congregation has made provisions for its poor and its aged. In 1847 an orphanage was opened and in 1872 a Gasdiuis (old people's home), in 1928 followed by a rest home.

During the mid-20th century in some surrounding towns where there were a sufficient number of Mennonites, as at Haren, Zuidlaren, and Roden, Mennonite fellowship groups (Kring) were founded, which with the assistance of the church board of Groningen were developing into independent congregations.


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: II, 73 f.

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: 474. Available online at:

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

Dassel, H., Sr. Menno's volk in Groningen: geschiedenis der Doopsgezinde Gemeenten binnen de stad Groningen. Groningen: Schut, 1952.

Doopsgezinde Bijdragen (1861): 148 f.; (1864): 135, 140 ff.; (1868): 167 f.; (1869): 157; (1870): 112; (1875): 100; (1879): 3 f., 140; (1883): 72 ff.; (1895): 4 f.; (1901): 15, 28; (1906): 14, 20 f., 23, 27, 139 f.

Hege, Christian and Christian Neff. Mennonitisches Lexikon, 4 vols. Frankfurt & Weierhof: Hege; Karlsruhe: Schneider, 1913-1967: v. II, 183-185.

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: I, Nos. 36, 143, 201, 223, 267, 289, 303, 448, 594, 597, 796 f., 1056-1058, 1069, 1074, 1164, 1180, 1329; II, Nos. 1833-1847; II, 2, Nos. 49 f.;

Naamlijst der tegenwoordig in dienst zijnde predikanten der Mennoniten in de vereenigde Nederlanden (Amsterdam, 1810): 80; (1815): 103 f.; (1829): 61.

Pathuis, A. Inventaris van het Oud-Archief den Ver. Doopsgez. Gemeente te Groningen. Groningen, 1940.

Additional Information

Congregation: Doopsgezinde Gemeente Groningen

Address: Oude Boteringestraat 33, 9712 GD, Groningen, Netherlands

Telephone: 050-3123053

Church website: Doopsgezinde Gemeente Groningen

Denominational affiliation:

Algemene Doopsgezinde Sociëteit


Map:Groningen (Groningen, Netherlands)

Author(s) Nanne van der Zijpp
Date Published 1956

Cite This Article

MLA style

Zijpp, Nanne van der. "Groningen (Groningen, Netherlands)." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. 1956. Web. 12 Jul 2020.,_Netherlands)&oldid=145338.

APA style

Zijpp, Nanne van der. (1956). Groningen (Groningen, Netherlands). Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 12 July 2020, from,_Netherlands)&oldid=145338.


Adapted by permission of Herald Press, Harrisonburg, Virginia, from Mennonite Encyclopedia, Vol. 2, pp. 592-595. All rights reserved.

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