Pierterskerk and the Pilgrim Fathers in Leiden
Pieterskerk is a church in Leiden dedicated to St. Peter and is sometimes referred to as the “church of the Pilgrim Fathers.” The church was consecrated by Godebald, the 24th Bishop of Utrecht, in September 1121. When the Pilgrims moved to Leiden in 1609, they lived in the area around Pieterskerk. Some of them even attended church services there, if they understood Dutch.
In 1611, John Robinson and some others purchased a building and some land across the street from Pieterskerk. The area was known as “Green Gate.” When the Pilgrims moved there it was called “English Gate.”
Robinson was the leader of the Pilgrim congregation in Leiden but did not make the first trip to America on the Mayflower. When the Separatists were preparing to leave Leiden, they had to decide who could stay and who could go. They did not have enough money or transportation to send the entire congregation. A decision had to be made. Would Robinson sail to America, or stay in Leiden? There were only 100-120 members of the congregation going to America and 180-200 were staying in Leiden. The congregation decided he would stay with the larger group and continue to serve as the pastor of their Leiden congregation. Although he planned to travel to Plymouth, he died on March 1, 1625, and was interred at Peiterskerk.
Today, there is a Pilgrim Exhibition inside the church, at the site of Robinson’s burial. Outside the church, there are three memorials for the Separatists and Pilgrim Fathers.
Map of Pieterskerk in Leiden
Abigail Adams Visits Pieterskerk
After the American Revolutionary War, John Adams served as Ambassador to England. His wife, Abigail Adams, spent time with him in Europe. In 1786, she traveled to Leiden and visited Pieterskerk. She wrote, “…I visited the church at Leyden, in which our forefathers worshipped when they fled from hierarchical tyranny and oppression. I felt a respect and veneration upon entering the doors, like what the ancients paid to their Druids.”
A Quick Visit to Pieterskerk
Go inside the Pietereskerk with Frieke Hurkmans, the managing director of Pieterskerk Leiden.
Leiden, Netherlands — Where the Mayflower Voyage Started for the Pilgrim Fathers
In 2020 the United States, England, and the Netherlands commemorated the 400-year anniversary of the Separatists — the Pilgrim Fathers — leaving Leiden after 12 years in exile. For the Pilgrim Fathers, the Mayflower journey to America started here. This video provides a quick overview of many of the historic sites in Leiden that are related to the Pilgrim Fathers.