By Stacy B. C. Wood, Jr.

Bi-Lingual Vrouwekerk Plaque designed by Jeremy D. Bangs, PhD. Photo: Max Eijsbouts

The Leiden, Holland, city fathers have announced the date for the dedication of a bronze plaque on our Thanksgiving Day, November 24, 2011 just before the American Thanksgiving Day service in the Pieterskerk. The ceremony marks the culmination of the decade long project to save the remains of the Vrouwekerk (Church of Our Lady, the former Roman Catholic Church of St. Mary), the building that was assigned by the City of Leiden in the late 16th century to he French Reformed (Walloon or Huguenot) refugees. The remains had been threatened with removal earlier this decade and were saved through the leadership of Dr. Jeremy Bangs, Director of the Leiden American Pilgrim Museum. Dr. Bangs has written the bilingual (Dutch and English) text and designed the relief depicting the church. The plaque measures 39 x 47¼ inches.

In 2008 Dr. Bangs approached the Delano Kindred, Inc. with the idea for a bronze memorial plaque. The Kindred honors Philip Delano whose parents were Huguenots and who was baptized in the Vrouwekerk. He later came to New Plymouth on the 1621 Fortune. He was a nephew of Pilgrims Francis Cooke and Hester Mayhew (Mahieu) who were married in the Vrouwekerk. Another Leiden Pilgrim Huguenot was John Carver, the first Plymouth Colony governor. The Kindred agreed to contribute $3,000 in seed money towards the cost of the plaque and its president, George DeLano recruited two Kindred members, Muriel C. Cushing and Stacy B. C. Wood, Jr., to organize a fund raising campaign. Peggy M. Baker, Director/Librarian of the Pilgrim Society/Pilgrim Hall, Robert E. Burt, President of the Florida Huguenot Society, and Carroll R. Goslee, Treasurer of the General Society of Mayflower Descendants, were added to the committee, Carroll Goslee placed in charge of the donations. By mid-August 2009 the campaign had collected $11,630, an amount sufficient to fund the casting and installation of the plaque.

The English text reads:

“A chapel dedicated to the Virgin Mary was built around 1330, called The Vrouwekerk (Church of our Lady). The Vrouwekerk became the third parish after the annexation of the area as part of the City of Leiden. After the Reformation, in 1584 the church was assigned to the new French Reformed congregation (the Walloon Church). They numbered as many as 6000 members in the 17th century and were granted an additional chapel on the Breestraat in 1638. Pastors included the theologians Gomarus and Trelcatius. Among members of the Walloon Church were “Mayflower” passengers François Coucke and his wife Hester Mahieu as well as their nephew Philippe de Lanoy, baptized there in 1603. They were among Walloons who joined the Pilgrims of Plymouth Colony in New England. Their descendants include American presidents Grant, Bush and Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Jesse de Forest, leader of the colonists who settled Guyana and New Amsterdam (now called New York City), was also a member of this church. Because of dwindling numbers and the dilapidation of the Vrouwekerk, the Walloons withdrew in 1818 to their other chapel at the Breestraat where services in French continue. The Vrouwekerk was partly demolished in 1819, and more in the 1980s. Now only fragments of the wall and the foundations remain to recall this lively focus of life in medieval Leiden to remind one of Leiden’s place in the history of migration and refuge.”

The Vrouwekerk Bronze Plaque Committee commends and thanks the following organizations and individuals who made the drive a success:

The Delano Kindred, Inc. $3,000
The Huguenot Society of Florida $100
The General Society of Mayflower Descendants $4,000
Arizona Society of Mayflower Descendants $100
Florida Society of Mayflower Descendants $1,000
Kentucky Society of Mayflower Descendants $100
Maryland Society of Mayflower Descendants $100
Oklahoma Society of Mayflower Descendants $200
Pennsylvania Society of Mayflower Descendants $1,000
Washington State Society of Mayflower Descendants $100
Elizabeth Tilley Colony of the Florida Society of Mayflower Descendants $100

Rodney Armstrong $50
William C. Arnebeck $100
The Rev. W. Scott Axford $50
Peggy M. Baker $100
Robert E. Burt $100
Muriel C. and Reynolds P. Cushing (printing costs)
Capt. George & Diana DeLano $150
E.M. Floyd $100
Carroll & Susan Goslee $250
James Hancock $25
John C. Hastie $50
Robert L. McNeil $500
Deborah G. Miller $25
Joan C. Miller $50
Robert Van Dijk $30
Stacy B.C. Wood, Jr. $250