A Brill Calendar: January 3

Johannes Gerhardus Rijk Acquoy: A Life

Few observers of a ‘Dutch Identity’ – if existing – fail to mention the role ministers of Protestant Churches, Synods and Congregations played during more than four centuries.

Their observations are not really surprising: the prologue of the long story of rebellion ending up in a nation state of formerly hardly interconnected regions and self-sustaining cities coincides in historical time with the life of the Great Man from Picardy, Jean Calvin (1509 – 1564). For a long time afterwards, the number of separate Christian communities in the nascent Republic continued to increase, in ways often passing the understanding of reviewers uninitiated in theology and the power politics of a clergy not at the beck & call of a Pope in Rome.

In the second half of the 19th century the diversity in religious traditions was greater than ever; clearly in need of elucidation and historical study. And since 1853 the ecclesiastic structure of the Vatican was officially recognized in The Netherlands by the Cabinet of King Willem III. When Johannes Gerhardus Rijk Acquoy (Amsterdam, January 3, 1829 – Leyden, December 15, 1896) became Professor in the History of Churches in The Netherlands for the University that prided itself to be a microcosm of the nation in 1878; the Leyden appointment was true to type.

Until that time Acquoy had been active as a Protestant Minister leading his flock, with a historical bent: his ‘triple-decker’ monograph in three volumes on the Cloister of Windesheim near Zwolle – a centre of medieval ‘Modern Devotion’, particularly in the eastern Provinces preceding the Reformation – was published between 1875 and 1881; proudly featuring names like Thomas à Kempis and Geert Groote. Two years before his Creator called Professor Acquoy to Life Eternal, the reverend who ended up a historian published his academic ‘chef d’oeuvre’: a manual for scholarly study of Church-history generally.