Half Moon Geuzen Medal

[The Sea Beggars fighting the Spanish in the Netherlands] have two things on their minds: the freedom of the fatherland, and the tyranny of the pope and his inquisitors: because of which some at this time [1574] wore silver half moons, on which was written Rather Turkish than Popish, because they considered the tyranny of the pope greater than that of the Turk, who at least does not force people's conscience if they pay tribute, and for that reason is as--or more--trustworthy than the pope.

-- Jan Freuytiers, sixteenth-century Dutch poet **


The Geuzen medal--shown here in one of its various forms--is a Dutch symbol reflecting a long history of resistance. This particular medal has been called the "half moon of Boisot," as it was worn by the Sea Beggars during their 1574 relief of Leiden led by Admiral Louis Boisot (portrait right).

The "Sea Beggars" (Dutch: Watergeuzen), a largely Calvinist Dutch guerilla and privateering force, relieved the city from a Spanish siege in what became a defining moment in the Dutch revolt. The siege had resulted in a famine and the death of thousands of the city's inhabitants. The resistance became an indelible symbol of Dutch oppostion to Spanish rule and tyranny in general.

Each side of the medal has an etching: LIEVER TVRCX DAN PAVS (Rather Turkish than Papist) and EN DESPIT DE LA MES (In spite of the Mass). These words are meant to express a solidarity with the enemy of their enemy--the Turks were involved in a war against Habsburg Spain as part of the Ottoman-Habsburg wars--and their opposition to the Catholic pope.

Since 1987, the Dutch government awards the Guezenpenning annually to persons or organizations who have fought for democracy against dictatorship, racism, and intolerance. The medal is named after the Geuzen Resistance during the Second World War, a group who got its name from the original Sea Beggars. The medal is given in remembrance of the fifteen members of the group executed by the German occupying forces on March 13, 1941.

** Quoted in Xenophobia in Seventeenth-Century India by Gijs Kruijtzer, 18.

About the New Netherland Institute

For over three decades, NNI has helped cast light on America's Dutch roots. In 2010, it partnered with the New York State Office of Cultural Education to establish the New Netherland Research Center, with matching funds from the State of the Netherlands. NNI is registered as a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization. Contributions are tax-deductible to the extent permitted by law. More

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