The Pilgrims in Leiden
The Pilgrims — also known as the Pilgrim Fathers — were Puritan Separatists who fled Europe in 1620, sailed across the ocean on a ship called the Mayflower, and established the first permanent English settlement in New England — New Plymouth.
The Separatists that eventually went to America started their church in the small village of Scrooby, Nottinghamshire, England in the early 1600s. For nearly a decade, they were persecuted and harassed by King James I and the Church of England. Finally, they decided to escape to Holland, which was a well-known haven for religious dissenters.
Over the course of two years, 1608–1609, the congregation made the journey to Amsterdam. Then, in 1609, they moved to Leiden, roughly 40 miles south of Amsterdam. They were fairly content in Leiden until 1617 when they decided to move to America. However, it was nearly three long years before all the pieces were in place for them to make the treacherous voyage across the Atlantic Ocean.
The story of the Pilgrims is legendary because their survival and establishment of Plymouth Colony changed the course of history, yet their time in Leiden is often overlooked. Despite that, there are many landmarks, places, and memorials in Leiden that commemorate the time they spent there.
Important Pilgrim Landmarks in Leiden
- Pieterskerk, St. Peter’s Church
- John Robinson Burial Site at Pieterskerk
- John Robinson’s Memorial Table at Pieterskerk
- Memorial to Separatists Who Died in Leiden at Pieterskerk
- Pilgrims Historic Marker at Pieterskerk
- Site of John Robinson’s Home at Jean Pesynhof
- Pilgrim Fathers Memorial on Vliet Canal
- Pilgrim Press Plaque at Brewster Alley
- Leiden University
- American Pilgrim Museum
Map of Leiden, Netherlands
Pilgrims to America – and the Limits of Freedom
The Leiden chapter of Pilgrim’s story is often overlooked even though the city had a great influence on them. This video from Museum de Lakenhal tells this story.
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.