[map of the Netherlands] Constitutional monarchy of Europe, west of Germany, on the North Sea; area, 13,220 square miles, population 16,400,000. Christianity was preached in this region as early as the 7th eentury, especially by Saint Willibrord and eleven companions, who came from the British Isles; in 695 the saint was consecrated Bishop of the Friesians. Under the Friesian Duke Radbod the missionaries were severely persecuted and some were killed. Pepin of Heristal, who defeated Radbod and became ruler of the Franks and the Friesians, gave his protection to the Church, and assisted in the establishment of the See of Utrecht, with Saint Willibrord as first archbishop. Among his assistants was Saint Boniface. Churches and schools were built, and the region became a center of Christianity for that part of Europe. In the 16th century, because of the prevalence of Calvinism, the Catholic dioceses of the country were reorganized and increased in number, but they were suppressed by persecution, and frequently even vicars Apostolic were kept from their vicariates by the States-General. In 1572 the 19 martyrs of Gorkum were hanged. The public exercise of Catholicism was prohibited, but the faith was kept by many in private, and gradually the rights of Catholics achieved recognition. The Constitution of 1848 granted complete religious liberty, and in 1853 the country was reorganized into five dioceses.

Ecclesiastically, the country is governed by the archdiocese of the dioceses of and See also,
New Catholic Dictionary

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