Two Augustinians in Brussles have been called the first martyrs of the Protestant Reformation. On 1st July 1523 Johann Esch and Henrich Voes (see next page) were burned at the stake for heresy, to which event it has often been said that Martin Luther responded by writing his very first hymn, Ein neues Lied wir heben an (Now Shall a New Song Be Begun, aka With Help of God I Fain Would Tell), which appears in The Lutheran Hymnal as Flung to the Heedless Winds.
In the seventeenth century there was an Augustian rebirth in Belgium, with monasteries springing up at Brussels, Bubble, Antwerp, Herentals, Diest, Tirlemont, Lille, Huy, Termonde, Bouvignes, Douai, Based, Hazebrouck, Roulers, Bree, Valencians and finally, in 1743, at Binche. During the same period there were also forty-four unsuccessful attempts to form other Augustinian monasteries in Belgium.
This growth prompted in 1679 the formation of a Province of Belgium, separated from the Province of Cologne as indicated above. The new Belgian Province was then in 1682 made into separate French-Belgian and Flemish-Belgian Provinces. The French-Belgian Province began with eight communities, but by 1717 had reduced to five houses (Lille, Douai, Based, Valencians and Hazebrouck).
The Flemish-Belgian Province included all the Augustinian houses in what today is Holland. In Holland before 1700 there were ten Augustinian mission stations. A great evangelizing work took place in these stations resulting into many conversions of Protestant Christians. The French Revolution, however, prevented the functioning of most of these mission centers, and henceforth only three of them continued to operate: those at Ámsterdam, Nieuwendam and Utrecht.
The four Augustinians working in these missions, under the authority of Fr Augustinus Naudts O.S.A., worked tirelessly, and it was largely through them that, from 1815 onwards, there began the slow work of the restoration of the Province of Belgium and the subsequent foundation of the Province of Holland.
(Continued on the next page.)