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One of the suffragan sees of the Archdiocese of Utrecht in the Netherlands. The city of Haarlem is the capital of the Province of North Holland and is about nine miles distant from Amsterdam. The medieval Diocese of Utrecht being ill-adapted on account of its great extent to oppose successfully the nascent heresies, Paul IV divided it by the Bull "Super universas orbis" (12 May, 1559) into an archdiocese and five suffragan sees. The principal of these five was the Diocese of Haarlem. At that time it only comprehended the present Province of North Holland with a small portion of South Holland. The right of nomination was bestowed on King Philip of Spain and his successors. On 10 March, 1561, Pius IV, Paul's successor, incorporated the Abbey of Egmond in the diocese in perpetuity as the episcopal mensa (or chief means of revenue) by his Bull "Sacrosancta Romana" (10 March, 1561). One day later (11 March, 1561), Pius issued the Bull "Ex injuncto nobis", in which the new diocese was defined, 11 towns and 151 villages being mentioned in the papal document. The parish-church of Haarlem, dedicated to St. Bavo, was made into a cathedral.

The first bishop was Nicolas van Nieuwland, formerly assistant Bishop of Utrecht. He was appointed by a Brief dated 26 May, 1561. In April, 1564, he held a synod, the proceedings of which are still in print. When after the iconoclastic outbreak of 1566, then fortunately prevented in Haarlem, the Duke of Alva was sent to punish the Netherlands, the bishop wrote him a letter trying to move him to deal leniently with the guilty persons of his diocese. In 1569, on account of his sluggishness, caused in part by the gout from which he was suffering, he was obliged by Alva to send in his resignation to Brussels and to Rome.

The second bishop was Godfried van Mierlo, formerly Provincial of the Dominicans for the Province of Lower Germany, a man conspicuous for virtue, zeal, and eloquence. At first appointed to act as vicar-general (sede vacante), Pope Pius V created him Bishop of Haarlem and Prelate of Egmond on 11 December, 1570. He established the episcopal chapter in 1571, and convened a synod in the same year. His efforts to make the clergy and laity conform to the regulations of the Council of Trent were soon interrupted by the revolt of the Netherlands against Spain. On 30 April, 1572, Haarlem joined the side of the Prince of Orange, the leader of the revolt, but, when in the following July a mob of foreign and ribald soldiery came to garrison the town, the bishop fled and sought refuge in the Cistercian convent Ter Kamere near Brussels. A year later, when the Spaniards had recaptured the town, he returned to his episcopal see, and on 15 August, 1573, consecrated anew the desecrated and pillaged cathedral. For the next three years Haarlem remained in the power of the Spaniards; the bishop did everything he could for the spiritual and temporal welfare of his flock, which, already thinned and impoverished by the siege, was now sorely afflicted by the Spanish garrison. Negotiations were opened with the Prince of Orange at Veere, and in January, 1577, the bishop personally took part in the transaction resulting in a sworn compromise, which conceded equal rights of religious worship to Catholics and Protestants and delivered one of the churches within the town-walls, the Onzelieve Vrouwekerk on the Bakenessergracht, to the latter sect. This condition of affairs lasted only for a year and a half, as on Corpus Christi (29 May), 1578, the so-called Nona Harlemiana took place. With the connivance of the authorities the sworn compact was scandalously broken. At ten o'clock in the morning, when the procession of the Blessed Sacrament was just starting inside the cathedral, soldiers with drawn swords entered the sacred edifice, assaulted the defenceless people, plundered the faithful, wounded the priests, and committed sacrileges of all sorts. The bishop escaped, fled from the town disguised as a cattle-driver, came to Münster, where he acted as auxiliary bishop, and lived in the greatest poverty till his death at Deventer in 1587.

In 1592 all Catholics of the Netherlands under Calvinistic civil government were placed under the jurisdiction of a vicar Apostolic, the entire diocese of Haarlem thus becoming a portion of the Missio Batava. The Catholics remained for a long time in the majority in the former diocese, but they were excluded from all public offices, and the exercise of their religion was forbidden by law under penalty of fines and exile. Nevertheless the old worship was continued in secret, either with the connivance of the magistrates in consideration of large bribes, or even at the risk of imprisonment and exile. At first there were scarcely any but secular priests, but in 1592, at the express wish of Clement VIII, the first two Jesuits came to assist the seculars, being followed in the seventeenth century by members of various other orders.

From the second half of the seventeenth century the persecution began to abate; it became more and more apparent that the Catholic Faith could not be exterminated, and the exigencies of trade were decidedly opposed to extreme measures. The Catholic barn and house-chapels were connived at, and the priests were tolerated on payment of a pecuniary fine. In this manner the number of Catholics remained very considerable in most towns, and even predominated in many villages. In the beginning of the eighteenth century occurred the Jansenist schism, long since prepared for by the jealousy and quarrels between the secular and regular clergy. In the old Haarlem Diocese the principal secular priests, the so-called Chapter of Haarlem, shrank from excommunication and schism, and the great majority of clergy and laity remained faithful to Rome. In consequence of the disturbances, the mission was, in 1721, placed directly under the papal nuncio at Brussels, who exercised his functions under the title of vice-superior, until the nunciature was abolished in 1794. On the whole the Catholics were for the greater part of the eighteenth century allowed to exercise their religion without much hindrance, provided they obtained the consent of the government and worshipped in churches not outwardly recognizable as such; however, their exclusion from all public offices was rigorously maintained. The Netherlands revolution of 1795 was to bring some change in this inequality between Catholic and non-Catholic citizens. In 1796 the supreme authority of the Batavian Republic, the National Assembly, declared the Calvinistic State Church abolished, decreed equal rights in the exercise of religious worship to all creeds, and granted equality before the law to all citizens of the State. These articles were subsequently embodied in the fundamental law of 1798.

Nevertheless, a great many years were still to elapse before Catholics could obtain in fact the full enjoyment of the rights guaranteed to them. At that time the mission was governed, with authorization of the Propaganda, by Luigi Ciamberlani (1794-1828), who was at first obliged to reside in Münster. In 1799, this vice-superior, making use of the legal rights conferred, founded a seminary in Warmond near Leyden, which still flourishes as the grand seminary of the present Diocese of Haarlem. King Louis Bonaparte (1806-1810) did much for the Catholics of Holland. In his residential city — first The Hague, afterwards Amsterdam — he had his own chapel, to which he admitted the public, and faithfully assisted at the religious services of his two chaplains, both excellent men and prêtres non assermentés (priests who had refused to take the oath required by the French government). He contributed large funds to enable the Catholics to build and restore their churches; he requested the vice-superior to take up his permanent abode in the royal residence of Amsterdam, and admitted some Catholics to the higher government offices. He even intended to have Amsterdam selected as an archiepiscopal see, but the constant opposition of his brother, Emperor Napoleon, obliged him to abdicate in 1810. Under the direct reign of Napoleon from 1810-1813 the Catholics of the old diocese shared to a great extent in the financial losses caused by his commercial policy (Continental blockade) and his financial operations (tierçage), but with regard to religion they were left in peace. The Archpriest of Holland and Zeeland, who under the vice-superior in Amsterdam directed the affairs of the mission in these provinces, repeatedly obtained from the minister of worship exemption from military service for the theological students of Warmond.

The reign of King William I (1815-1840) was not favourable to the Catholics. Although the constitution of 1815 granted them equal rights with the Protestants, the king listened too much to counsellors who grudged the Catholics the enjoyment of this liberty. In 1817 a preparatory seminary, called Hageveld and destined for the education of the future aspirants to the priesthood in Holland and Zeeland, was opened near Velsen. In 1847 it was transferred to Voorhout near Leyden, and though, of course, much enlarged, still serves for the same purpose. Though much admired as a seat of virtue and learning, William ordered it to be closed, in 1825, because he wished to force on the future priests the unclerical education of his Philosophical College at Louvain. He also continued to exclude the Catholics completely from official positions. In 1827 he concluded a concordat with Leo XII, by which Amsterdam was again selected as one of the two episcopal sees of Northern Netherlands, but this was never put into execution, mainly in consequence of the subsequent revolt of Belgium. His successor, the generous William II (1840-1849), was much more favourably inclined towards the Catholics; yet intolerance was too powerful to allow even this liberal-minded monarch to put the concordat into execution. However, in 1848 a revision of the constitution in a liberal sense was taken in hand, and this was destined to advance rapidly the influence of the Catholics, as was proved in the same year by the arrival of the newly-appointed vice-superior, Monsignor Belgrado, at The Hague as the first permanent papal legate to William II. In the following years several addresses were sent to Rome, requesting the pope to restore to the Catholics of the Netherlands episcopal government, as necessary for their spiritual and social development and not opposed by any laws of the State.

The new diocese

On 4 March, 1853, Pius IX acceded to the fervent wishes of the numerous Dutch Catholics, and by his Brief "Ex qua die arcano" restored the ecclesiastical hierarchy to the Netherlands. For the sake of tradition Utrecht was again made an archdiocese, but the Diocese of Haarlem was now made much larger than in 1559, the whole of South Holland and the islands of the Province of Zeeland being added to it. It numbered then 199 churches and chapels, served by 317 priests, secular and regular, whilst the laity were reckoned at 259,577 souls. The following bishops have since occupied the See of Haarlem: (1) F. J. van Vree (1853-1861), a man of exceptional organizing talents. In the seven years of his episcopate he erected a chapter, circumscribed the boundaries of the parishes, some of which were assigned to regulars, drew up regulations for vestry-men and guardians of the Catholic poor, took special care of neglected children and fallen women, and prepared a catechism for use in his diocese. (2) G. P. Wilmer (1861-1877). In 1867 he called together a diocesan synod, the first after three centuries, in which the provisional settlement of the diocese as arranged by his predecessor was finally concluded and declared permanent. Zealous for the veneration of the saints of his diocese, he purchased the locality near Brielle, where, according to the decisive arguments of Professor Smit of Warmond, four secular and fifteen regular priests had been cruelly put to death for the faith in 1572, and where their bodies had been interred. He also began at Rome a canonical process to obtain approval of the "immemorial" veneration of the Blessed Lidwina of Schiedam. He regulated the contributions to the Peter's-pence for the whole of his diocese. Pursuant to the "Mandamus" of the collective bishops of the Netherlands (1868), he was unwearied in his efforts for the preservation, the success, and the increase of Catholic denominational schools in his diocese. To further this end he nominated a committee of clergymen and prominent laymen (Union for the promotion of Catholic education in the Diocese of Haarlem), and united all the Catholic school-teachers into a separate body. The preparatory seminary of Hageveld was considerably enlarged during his episcopate. Finally he strongly encouraged the diocesan secretary, J. J. Graaf, in establishing the episcopal museum at Haarlem, and in starting with his colleague, I. F. Vregt, the publication of a periodical, "Contributions to the History of the Diocese of Haarlem". (3) P. M. Snickers (1877-1883). On account of the great concourse of pilgrims on the field of the martyrs near Brielle, this bishop caused a large chapel and covered galleries to be built there. For the housing of the rich collections of books and precious manuscripts he erected a separate building near the seminary of Warmond. He approved for his diocese the statues of the Gregorius Vereeniging (Society of Saint Gregory) for the promotion of the liturgical plain chant and sacred music, founded by M. J. A. Lans, professor at Hageveld. In 1883 the bishop was transferred to the Archiepiscopal See of Utrecht. (4) C. J. M. Bottemanne (1883-1903). Although sixty years of age when he was made bishop, this energetic man did much for the development of the diocese. The schools increased during his episcopate to over 200, so that even in the villages a parish without a Catholic school became the exception, while in the towns many schools were opened. From his clergy he selected able men to act as inspectors of Catholic education; at Hoorn he opened a Catholic training college. He showed no less diligence in dealing with the social question. In 1888, three years before the promulgation of the Papal Encyclical "Rerum Novarum", a Roman Catholic Workman's League (De R.K. Volksbond) was founded under his auspices. This league or union is meant to embrace all the Catholic workmen of the diocese, and in 1903 numbered 16,000 members. Soon afterwards the master-workmen were also brought together in a special league, De R.K. Gildenbond (The League of Roman Catholic Guilds). Bishop Bottemanne favoured greatly public meetings, which he addressed on many occasions. In 1897 he laid the foundation stone of an important addition to the seminary at Warmond, which was solemnly dedicated two years later on the occasion of the centenary of the institution. During this episcopate twenty-five new parishes were established and seventy churches consecrated. At the celebration of the golden jubilee of his priesthood (1896), Bishop Bottemanne instituted the Perpetual Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament in such a way that day and night throughout the year the Blessed Sacrament is solemnly exposed for adoration in some church or chapel of the diocese. The new cathedral of St. Bavo is another evidence of the flourishing condition of the diocese. This noble edifice — new, though not startling in conception — was designed by the Dutch architect, Joseph Cuypers. It is situated in a new quarter of Haarlem, mainly inhabited by workmen, who use it as their parish church. At first only the choir and transept were built, taking three years to complete, and on 2 May, 1898, the aged bishop had the happiness of consecrating this part of the great work. (5) A. J. Callier (1903--). For eleven years he had been vicar-general of the diocese, when he was appointed successor to Monsignor Bottemanne. The plans laid down and partly executed by his predecessor were now further developed. The educational question was the object of his special care. In 1904 a boys' school was opened near the new cathedral; in 1906 the training college was transferred from Hoorn to a new and commodious building at Beverwyk. With regard to higher education the Catholics are still suffering under the old system of partiality and exclusion; but, as the new educational laws permit them to have professors of their own attached to the state-universities, provided they pay for them, the Saint Radbout's Fund (St. Radbouts Stichting) was set on foot by the Catholics to secure co-religionists as professors, with the additional intention of preparing the way for a Catholic university. To promote still further the solution of the social question, the bishop laid the foundation of a society for the assistance and development of citizens of the middle-class engaged in trade, a very large number of whom belong to his diocese. Wherever possible Catholic clubs for youths are instituted to safeguard young men against the special dangers of their age and to promote their intellectual and religious development. When vicar-general to his predecessor, the present bishop was the moving spirit in the building of the new cathedral, and he personally devised the highly significant scheme of symbolism for this sacred edifice. In 1903 the work was resumed, and three years later the exterior of the great cathedral was finished, except the two towers and the decoration of the west façade. As to the interior decoration, this remains the object of the bishops' special care, and is being effected (1909) with the greatest deliberation. Both decoration and furniture must be in keeping with the artistic value of the building itself, and great artists of original mind, as Brom, Toorop, and Mengelberg, have ample opportunity given to them to display their exceptional talent. The diocese counts (1909) 234 parishes, served by 650 priests, seculars and regulars; the laity are reckoned at about 510,000 souls.


MIRÆUS-FOPPENS, Diplomatum Belgicorum nova collectio (Antwerp, 1734), III; VAN HEUSSEN, Batavia sacra (Brussels, 1714); IDEM, Historia episcopatuum Foederati Belgii (Antwerp, 1755), II; WENSING, Kerkelyk Nederland ('S Hertogenbosch, 1854); Verzameling van herderlyke brieven van Mgr. van Vree (Haarlem, 1862); Acta et statuta synodi diocesanæ Harlemensis (Haarlem, 1867); SMIT, De ware ligging der voormalige kloosterschuur van St. Elisabeth te Rugge ('S Hertogenbosch, 1869); NUYENS, Geschiedenis van het Nederlandsche Volk (Amsterdam, 1883); IDEM, Geschiedenis der Nederlandsche beroerten in de XVI eeuw (Amsterdam, 1904); Neerlandia catholica (Utrecht, 1888); THOMPSON, St. Bavo, de nieuwe kathedrale kerk van Haarlem (Haarlem, 1898); HENSEN, Het eeuwfeest van het seminarie te Warmond ('S Hertogenbosch, 1899); GRAAF, Gids van het bisschoppelyk museum te Haarlem (Leyden, 1900); FRUIN, Verspreide geschriften (The Hague, 1900), I, III; COPPENS, Kerkgeschiedenis van Noord Nederland (Utrecht, 1903); ALBERS, Geschiedenis van het herstel der hierarchie in de Nederlanden (Nimwegen, 1903); IDEM, Handboek der algemeene kerkgeschiedenis (Nimwegen, 1908), II; KALF, De Katholieke kerken in Nederland (Amsterdam, 1908); BROM, Archivalia in Italie (The Hague, 1908), I; De Katholiek (Leyden), CXV, CXII, CXIII; Bydragen voor de geschiedenis van het bisdom van Haarlem (Leyden), XXIII, XXVI; Archief van het aartsbisdom van Utrecht (Utrecht), IX, XI; Sint Bavo, Godsdienstig weekblad van het bisdom van Haarlem (Amsterdam); Sint Gregorius blad (Haarlem).

About this page

APA citation. Hensen, A. (1910). Haarlem. In The Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company.

MLA citation. Hensen, Antonius. "Haarlem." The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 7. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1910. <>.

Transcription. This article was transcribed for New Advent by Richard Hemphill.

Ecclesiastical approbation. Nihil Obstat. June 1, 1910. Remy Lafort, S.T.D., Censor. Imprimatur. +John Cardinal Farley, Archbishop of New York.

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