Land of freethinkers

Space around you gives you space in your head. Maybe that's why the Wadden coast south of Harlingen has produced so many freethinkers, like Menno Simons, throughout the centuries.

Resistance to abuse of power

Witmarsum and Pingjum are connected to Menno Simons (1496 - 1561). The founder of the Baptist church was born in Witmarsum. After being ordained as a priest in Utrecht he was hired as vicar (substitute pastor) in Pingjum and later as pastor in Witmarsum. Simons protested against the abuse of power in the Roman Catholic Church. According to him nothing should stand between mankind and God. He also thought that baptism was only meaningful if it was a conscious and free choice.

Neither the church nor the government were happy with the Anabaptists who had their own ideas about society. Governor Schenck van Toutenburg besieged the Oldeklooster near Bolsward and the radical Baptists, including Menno Simons, took refuge here. The resistance fell and all the Anabaptists were murdered. Menno Simons fled to East Friesland (now Germany) where he preached non-violence from his place of exile. This pacifism became one of the characteristics of the Baptist church.  


The Baptist church had many members in Friesland and blossoming communities began popping up in the villages and cities all along the coast. Sometimes a quarter of the population were Mennonites. They were accepted after the Eighty Years' War. They gathered in secret churches, so-called admonitions, often in a remote location. The Baptist church on Wirdumer dike in Leeuwarden is a good example. 

Walking over the Pingjumer Halsband from Witmarsum to Pingjum you are literally walking in the footsteps of the only Dutch church reformer. The old inner dike lies just above the pasture landscape, so you get  a fantastic view over the pastures with their characteristic Frisian cows and the occasional sheep.

Route: Pingjumer Golden Halsband

Experience the vastness. Walk in in the footsteps of Menno Simons over the oldest dikes of Friesland.

Distance: 14,8 kilometers | Length: 2 hours and 50 minutes

View the route

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