Miniature Lives of the Saints – The Martyrs of Gorcum

Martyrs of Gorkum, Cesare Fracassino, 1838-1868, Vatican CityArticle

In 1572, during the Dutch War of Independence, the fortress of Gorcum was surrendered to the insurgents under the express stipulation that its occupants should have their freedom. No sooner, however, was the town in the hands of the Protestants than the Catholic clergy were cast into prison. The holy company consisted of eleven Franciscan Recollects, two of whom were lay-brothers, one Augustinian, one Dominican, two Premonstratensians, and four secular priests. The Friday following, though faint with hunger, they refused the meat offered them, and were therefore subjected to torments and insults of every kind. Some of them were over sixty, and one ninety years of age. Twice they were brought to the foot of the gallows, in the hope that the fear of death might induce some at least to apostatize; but their enemies knew not how God perfects His strength in man’s weakness. Bleeding and half naked as they were, the old men did but rejoice the more in their tribulation, singing hymns of praise to Christ and His Mother. When artifices and threats had alike been used in vain, the final sentence was executed. Not even then was the fury of the soldiers satisfied. Mutilating the bodies as they hung, they cut off the noses, ears, and other members; then binding them to their hats, they returned in triumph to the city. The martyrs were canonized by Pope Pius IX.

Faith and obedience are the conditions of eternal life. The holy martyrs obtained their crowns not only because they believed, but because they proved their faith by obedience.

Obedience alone plants in the soul the other virtues, and guards them when they are planted. — Saint Gregory

The Church allows meat to be eaten on Friday when it is necessary for health or life. But the martyrs refused it because it was offered them by apostates in contempt of religion, and because, had they eaten of it, the act would have been taken as a denial of their faith, and as a triumph therefore of the heretics. One only of the prisoners, in spite of the warning of his companions, ate the forbidden food, and, though he underwent some torments afterwards, he did not complete the course of his passion, and failed to win his crown.

If thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments. – Matthew 19:17

MLA Citation

  • Henry Sebastian Bowden. “The Martyrs of Gorcum”. Miniature Lives of the Saints for Every Day of the Year, 1877. CatholicSaints.Info. 24 February 2015. Web. 28 May 2017. <>