On July 9, 1572, nineteen priests and religious were put to death by hanging at Briel, the Netherlands. They had been captured in Gorkum on June 26 by a band of Calvinist pirates called the Watergeuzen (sea-beggars) who were opposed to the Catholicism of the Spanish princes of the country.
During their imprisonment, the priests were tortured, subjected to countless indignities, and offered their freedom if they would deny the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist and the primacy of the pope. Despite a letter from Prince William of Orange ordering their release and protests from the magistrates of Gorkum, the men were thrown half-naked into the hold of a ship on July 6, and taken to Briel to be killed in the presence of a Protestant nobleman, Admiral Lumey, who was noted for his hatred of Catholicism. Their bodies, mutilated both before and after death, were callously thrown into a ditch.
The scene of the martyrdom soon became a place of pilgrimage. Accounts of several miracles, performed through the martyrs’ intercession and relics, were used for their beatification. Most of their relics are kept in the Franciscan church at Brussels to which they were secretly conveyed from Briel in 1616.
Other Saints We Remember Today
- St. Augustine Zhao Rong , Priest, Martyr, and Companions, (1815) Chinese Martyrs
- St. Maria Goretti (1902), Virgin and Martyr [This is her traditional feast day in some areas.]