FROM THE ARCHIVES: How North and South in the Low Countries Switched Religions
Left Luggage

FROM THE ARCHIVES: How North and South in the Low Countries Switched Religions

Once in a while, editor-in-chief Luc Devoldere dives into the archives of The Low Countries and pulls out a story that is worth rereading. Consider it left luggage, that reveals a hidden gem. This week: the religious relationships in the Low Countries.

Often, when discussing the Southern and the Northern Netherlands – or Flanders versus the Netherlands, if you will – we tend to fall back on the cliché about being ‘Catholic’ versus being ‘Protestant’. The same goes for the contrasting labels ‘Burgundian’ and ‘Calvinistic’. The truth, however, is far more complex.

For example, in the sixteenth century, the Southern Netherlands were more Protestant than the Catholic Northern Netherlands. In 1566, the Iconoclastic Fury started in Steenvoorde, which nowadays is part of French Flanders. It was not until the end of the century that, because of the fortunes of war, everything would change. That did not mean, however, that Catholicism would disappear from the North completely. The fact that many Flemish people emigrated to the North would make things take a turn. And then, the profound re-Catholicizing of the South could commence.

Willem Frijhoff deconstructs the rich cliché about being ‘Protestant versus Catholic’ in a clear and intelligent way. Are Catholics more flexible, kind and hypocritical? Are Protestants more rigid, principled and straightforward? That cliché did play its part in the self-determination of the nations that would eventually be created from the divided Netherlands.

Tolle et lege. (Take up and read.)

Read HERE the entire article that was previously published in the 2011 yearbook The Low Countries № 19.

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