We are getting near to the reign of Philips II. In this article I will discuss the arrival of the reformation in the Netherlands during the rule of his father Charles V.
From about 1520s Martin Luther’s teachings reached the Southern Netherlands, from about 1530s the first Anabaptists arrived and Calvinism, the teachings of the French reformer Jean Calvin, came to the Netherlands from about 1540.
Calvinism turned out to be the dominant Protestant religion in most of the Netherlands.
The Roman Catholics were absolutely convinced that theirs was the only right Church. Equally most Protestants, and especially the Calvinists, were absolutely convinced that they were right. More Protestants ended up martyred than Catholics in this religious conflict, but there were definitely Catholic martyrs too.
During the religious conflict in Flanders periods of relative peace were followed by periods of violent conflict. The persecuted Protestants attacked Catholic churches to remove the statues (Iconoclasm). They were strongly against any statutes of Jesus and the saints. They also killed priests who were suspected of betraying them to the authorities.
In periods when the Protestants had the upper-hand in certain areas, the Catholics did not have an easy time, and that included Catholics being killed. In the decrees issued against Protestants the punishment for those who did not want to return to the Catholic Church was to be buried alive (women) or to be burnt alive (men).
I have statistics for Protestant martyrs for the period from 1523 till 1556 in Antwerpen, Aalst, Brugge, Brussel, Doornik, Gent, Ieper, Kortrijk, Nieuwpoort and Oudenaarde. Most of these cities are in Flanders, some are in Brabant.
Philip II succeeded his father as Lord of the Netherlands in 1555 and left for Spain in 1559. From 1523 till 1559 289 Protestants were executed because of their faith. In March 1564 Cardinal Granville, an enthusiastic persecutor of Protestants, was forced to leave his post in the Brussel’s government.
From 1559 till March 1564 122 Protestants were martyred. In August 1556 systematic attacks on Catholic Churches started, destroying statues and other Catholic paraphernalia, and also killing priests and other functionaries of the church. From 1564 till the 1556 Iconoclasm 19 Protestants were martyred.
Harsh punishments were common, and both sides were convinced they were absolutely right, and that the other side was absolutely wrong.
And although Willem van Oranje tried to mediate, neither side listened to him.
1) Geuzen in de Westhoek; Roger~A.Blondeau; Uitgeverij Reinaert-Het Volk NV; ISBN 90 6334 108 3 p. 41
2) De Beeldenstorm, Unieboek bv, Bussum, Nederland. ISBN 90 228 4520 6 p.14