Nun on the run

Nun+Running_newOn P. 546 of the Martyrs Mirror, I found a three-column yarn that has just about everything – an unhappy nun, two fugitives, three daring escapes, a drunken drummer, a retarded would-be rapist, divine intervention and two flavors of execution. The story is written in a stream-of-consciousness style that was common before writers learned the proper care and feeding of an audience. Therefore, it veers wildly through the timeline with flashbacks and sidebars wherever the author fancied them. I’ll try to recount it with a bit more sanity.

We’ll start with Hadewijk, a pragmatic woman who was married to a drummer employed by the city of Leeuwarden in 1549 in what is the northern end of the modern day Netherlands. One of this drummer’s friends was accused of being an Anabaptist by the Catholic authorities and ordered to be burned. The drummer and his company were ordered to surround the place of execution and manage the rabble. The drummer was not happy to see his friend burned alive, so he, understandably, got piss drunk. Then, as drunks are wont to do, he began telling the crowd that his friend was a pious and virtuous man and that the clergy who condemned him were “wicked men, whoremongers, adulterers, unrighteous and such like.” Once he sobered up, the drummer realized that he would probably be the next to the stake, so he split town, leaving Hadewijk when she refused to go with him.

Whether it was out of fear or loneliness, the Mirror doesn’t say, but Hadewijk eventually fell in with the Anabaptists, which is how she came to meet Elizabeth. According to the Mirror, Elizabeth was a noblewoman who had been sent to a convent in Tieng (no reason given, but this was a common fate for women who got knocked up before marriage). Elizabeth did not want to be in the convent, so she convinced the milk maid to switch clothes with her, and she escaped, just like in the movies. Elizabeth also found some friendly Anabaptists, and they put her up with the now-single Hadewijk.

Eventually, the authorities caught up with Elizabeth, arresting her and Hadewijk and throwing them in jail. Elizabeth was later drown in the river by the authorities, but Hadewijk was rescued … apparently by either God or a defective lock. Praying in her cell one night, Hadewijk heard a voice call, “Hadewijk!, I tell thee, come out!” She looked up to see that the door of her jail cell was open. So she waltzed on out.

The city launched a manhunt for Hadewijk, promising a reward for anyone who turned her in and a fine for those who wouldn’t. She sought shelter at her former master’s house, but was turned away. So she went to the house of “a certain half-witted fellow,” who gave her quarter.

…But in the night he came to here and made indecent advances to her. Here the embarrassment was greater than ever; she had to deal with one who was strong of body and passions with whom reasoning had no influence.

Hadewijk managed to fight off her attacker with, get this, the threat of hellfire waiting for adulterers. The frustrated perv muttered, “The jade is too wise in the scriptures; I have no chance with her.” But he redeemed himself by letting her brother-in-law know that he was hiding her. Her brother-in-law then rescued her by boat and took her out of town to freedom. The end.


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