In the 16th century, Pilgrim Fathers fled to Amsterdam due to religious issues in their home country England. The King went after all who wanted to seperate from the Anglican church. The Pilgrim Fathers decided to fled to The Netherlands.

The move to Leiden

Members of the community who lived in Amsterdam wanted to move again within The Netherlands. They picked Leiden as city of residence.

One of the leaders of the Leiden community of Pilgrim Fathers was John Robinson. He lived opposite the Pieterskerk, at the Pesijnshof.

In his house, church services were organized for the English community.

Some Pilgrim Fathers didn’t do well in The Netherlands but going back to England was not an option. They were ready for a new adventure.

The journey to America

About 57 Pilgrims decided to embark the Mayflower which would leave for America.

The boat arrived in Plymouth, Massachussets in the winter. It was cold, there was hardly any food and people died.

Luckily the native Americans, Wamponoag, helped them looking for a better life.

In 1620, the Wamponoag and Pilgrims celebrated the harvest together. Thanksgiving was born although it took till 1863 before Thanksgiving was declared a national holiday by Abraham Lincoln.

All in all, 125 Pilgrims who lived in Leiden before, arrived in Plymouth, Massachussets by boat.

Interesting Facts

  • John Robinson, one of the leaders, was buried in the Pieterskerk.
  • Nine American presidents are descendants of the Pilgrim Fathers: Adams senior and junior, Taylor, Grant, Garfield, Roosevelt, Bush senior and junior and Obama.
  • Every year, an ecumenical Thanksgiving Day service is held in the Pieterskerk in Leiden. NOTE: The Thanksgiving Day service 2019 will be held on Thursday, November 28th at 11 a.m. Church will be open at 10 a.m., entrance is free.
  • In 2020 the Pilgrims Fathers’ journey to America will be commemorated. The four countries The Netherlands, England, America and Wamponoag will be particpating in all kinds of festivities. In Leiden many activities will be organized, e.g. Walking and Canal Tours. You can find the programme, which is still in progress, here.