Horror on the Amsterdam ice

Frozen RiverThe Martyrs Mirror begins this story with an account of an early schism. Apparently, in the mid-15th Century, the Anabaptists of Amsterdam got into one of their usual snits with each other (the Mirror does not say what the issue was this time). A group led by someone named Gillus of Aix-la-Chappelle broke off from the rest of the churches, leaving his flock dangerously exposed to the prowling authorities. They solved this problem by living out on the water in boats, away from the constables.

Well, not completely away. In 1555, six members of this group were snatched off their boat, sentenced to death and strangled at the stake … but not burned. It was the beginning of winter and a bit to cold in those parts to get a roaring fire going.

There was freezing weather for thirteen weeks from this time on, and, what is remarkable, during all these thirteen weeks a light like a candle stood over each stake to which the bodies of the six brethren were fastened, and burned all night. After the expiration of the thirteen weeks, a violent storm and rain arose, and, consequently, a great thaw ensued so that the water rose very high, and the ice was rent asunder by the wind. Around the body of one of the six brethren the water stood so high, that the stake, through the force of the ice pressing against it, was broken in two, and fell down upon the ice. His body drifted hither and thither on the ice, with the tide, between Sparendam and Volewijk.

Two young members of the church spotted this wandering body, who was known in life as Jaapje Maet. They tried to get help to recover it, but no other church members would come out. So the two went back out to find Maet’s body, guided by the eerie will o’ the wisp above him.

In the meantime, said light came drifting on the ice. They rowed up to it and saw that it stood on Jaapje Maet. They took him into their boat, and brought him to the other brethren who also kept themselves in a boat in the field. These took the body into their own boat. But as soon as they touched it … the dried up and frozen body, which had stood at the stake for thirteen weeks waiting to be burned, burst, so that the blood flowed copiously into two or three baskets which were at the bottom of the boat.



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