The Pilgrim Fathers in Holland
The Pilgrim Fathers are known in the US and further afield as the group of Puritan settlers who landed in America in the 17th century aboard the Mayflower, to lay the foundations for modern-day America. What is less widely known, however, is that these Puritans spent 12 years in the Netherlands before departing for America.
In search of freedom of religious expression
To escape religious persecution in England, the Puritans fled to Amsterdam in 1608. In the religiously tolerant climate of Holland, they were able to practise their religion freely. After spending a year in Amsterdam, they moved to Leiden in 1609. Many went to work in the textile industry, the main pillar of the city's economy at the time. They attended church in the house of Pastor John Robinson, who lived opposite the Pieterskerk in Leiden. A memorial plaque dedicated to John Robison can still be found in the Pieterskerk. John Robinson's grave is also here.
More about the Pieterskerk, Leiden
Departure from Delfshaven
Believing that the Dutch were not pious enough, the Puritans decided to find a place on the new continent to establish a colony grounded on Puritan values and beliefs. In 1620, a large part of the group left Leiden for Delfshaven and continued their journey by boat. In England, the Pilgrim Fathers stepped aboard the Mayflower to set sail for America. Many historical prints depict their departure from Delfshaven. A stained glass window and memorial plaque in the Oude Kerk - also known as the Pelgrimskerk - in Delfshaven commemorate this day.
More about the Oude Kerk or Pelgrimskerk, Delfshaven
After a long journey, the group landed in America in late 1620 to establish the Plymouth Colony. The first few months were hard and claimed many victims, but thanks to the help of the indigenous population, around 50 Pilgrim Fathers survived the harsh winter. Following the example of Leiden citizens, who each year celebrate the end of the Siege of Leiden on 3 October, the Pilgrims Fathers decided to instigate an annual day of remembrance, which later became known as Thanksgiving. Although the Pilgrim Fathers were not the first Europeans to settle in America, their norms and laws were considered so inspiring by their descendants, that they are seen as a primitive version of the US Constitution.
More about the celebration of Leids Ontzet
Back to Leiden
Over the years, many Americans have visited Leiden to search through the archives and trace their roots. For these Americans, as well as for others who take an interest in history, a visit to the Leiden American Pilgrim Museum makes for an interesting day out. This small museum in Leiden is entirely dedicated to the history of the Pilgrim Fathers.
More about the Leiden American Pilgrim Museum, Leiden