Tuesday, November 3, 2015

America as a Religious Refuge - 16C - Mennonites

The Mennonites are a Christian group based around the church communities of Anabaptist denominations named after Menno Simons (1496–1561) of Friesland (at that time, a part of the Holy Roman Empire). Through his writings, Simons articulated & formalized the teachings of earlier Swiss founders. The early teachings of the Mennonites were founded on the belief in both the mission & ministry of Jesus, which the original Anabaptist followers held to with great conviction despite persecution by the various Roman Catholic & Protestant states. Rather than fight, the majority of these followers survived by fleeing to neighboring states where ruling families were tolerant of their radical belief in believer's baptism. 

Murder of David van der Leyen and Levina Ghyselins, Ghent, 1554  Engraving by J. Luyken, from T. J. V. Bracht (or Thieleman van Braght), Het Bloedig Tooneel De Martelaers Spiegel...Amsterdam: J. van der Deyster, et al., 1685.

Execution of Mennonites

The above engraving depicts the execution of David van der Leyen & Levina Ghyselins, described variously as Dutch Anabaptists or Mennonites, by Catholic authorities in Ghent in 1554. Strangled & burned, van der Leyen was finally dispatched with an iron fork. Bracht's Martyr's Mirror is considered by modern Mennonites as second only in importance to the Bible in perpetuating their faith.

1560 Persecution of the Mennonites from John Fox, The Ecclesiastical History containing the Acts and Monuments of Martyrs.  John Foxe (1516/17-1587) was an English historian & martyrologist, the author of Actes & Monuments (popularly known as Foxe's Book of Martyrs).

The Guernsey Martyrs were 3 women who were burned at the stake for their Protestant beliefs, in Guernsey, Channel Islands, in 1556 during the Marian persecutions.  Guillemine Gilbert & Perotine Massey were sisters, who lived with their mother, Catherine Cauchés (sometimes given as "Katherine Cawches"). Perotine was the wife of a Norman Calvinist minister, who was in London, possibly to avoid persecution. The 3 women were brought to court on a charge of receiving a stolen goblet. Although they were found to be not guilty of that charge, it emerged that their religious views were contrary to those required by the church authorities. They were returned to prison in Castle Cornet & later found guilty of heresy by an Ecclesiastical court & condemned to death. The execution was carried out on or around 18 July 1556. All 3 were burnt on the same fire; they ought to have been strangled beforehand, but the rope broke before they died & they were thrown into the fire alive. John Foxe recorded that Perotine was "great with child" & that "the belly of the woman burst asunder by the vehemence of the flame, the infant, being a fair man-child, fell into the fire." The baby was rescued, but the Bailiff, Hellier Gosselin, ordered that "it should be carried back again, & cast into the fire"