Ries, Hans de (Antwerpen, 1553–Alkmaar, 1638)

Hans de Ries wordt geboren in Antwerpen in 1553. Hij komt als rooms-katholiek in contact met de Vlaamse dopers, die streng in de leer zijn. Horende van de Waterlandse dopers begeeft hij zich naar De Rijp, waar hij door Simon Michiels wordt gedoopt en tot leraar aangesteld. Hij reist jarenlang door het land en vestigt zich in 1598 in Alkmaar. De uitspraak van hem dat ‘alle mensen, in wie de gezindheid van Christus leeft, leden van de Gemeente zijn’ laat een sfeer van verdraagzaamheid zien. In die tijd is er namelijk sprake van een diepe kloof tussen de strenge Friese dopers en de ruimer denkende vredelievende Waterlandse dopers, die zich als eersten 'doopsgezinden’ noemen.
Hans de Ries is een zeer begaafd mens en zijn tijd ver vooruit. Hij is een bezielend prediker, die preekt met zoveel warmte en overtuiging, dat velen zich verdringen om naar hem te luisteren. Hij ziet kans zijn Doopsgezinde Gemeente van Alkmaar sterk en invloedrijk te maken. Hans de Ries is begraven in de Grote Kerk van Alkmaar.


Hans de Ries, (also de Rys, de Reis, de Rycke, le Riche, which may have been his official name), born 13 December 1553, at Antwerp, Belgium, died 14 September 1638, at Alkmaar, Holland, was an important leader of the Dutch Mennonites. Originally, when he found himself at variance with Roman Catholic doctrine, he united with the Reformed church of his native city; but he did not feel at ease among them either, because they carried arms when they went to their religious meetings, and possibly also because of their strictly dogmatic spirit. He was drawn to the Anabaptists, but hesitated to join the congregation at Antwerp, which was rather conservative. Then he became acquainted with the somewhat more liberal spirit of the Waterlander branch in Holland and journeyed to De Rijp in North Holland, where he was baptized upon confession of his faith by Simon Michiels in 1575 or 1576. Soon he returned to Antwerp, and on 4 January 1577, he stood beside the stake at which his friend Hans Bret suffered martyrdom for his faith. He married the mother of his friend, and probably soon afterward left the insecurity of Antwerp. His employer—de Ries was a bookkeeper and is therefore also known as Hans Gassier—rode after them on horseback, and the noble-minded Catholic gave them a purse of money: "Take this and use it in your need." In September 1577 de Ries was in Alkmaar, where he with other Waterlander preachers drew up a confession of faith of 25 articles, the first known Dutch Mennonite confession (printed in Doopsgezinde Bijdragen [1904] 145-56).......

The influence of Hans de Ries was profound on the Mennonites of the Netherlands, especially the Waterlander branch. He was a friend of Dirk Volkertsz Coornhert, whom Kühler calls the "Sebastian Franck of Holland," and like Coornhert he thought little of the external (visible) church. He was a Spiritualist , that is, he believed that the believer must be completely open to the Spirit of God. Church constitutions, regulations, offices, sacraments, ban, and the church itself are of minor importance. Apparently, under the influence of Coornhert, de Ries even laid aside his preaching office in 1578, but it was only for a short time, for soon he was actively on duty again. Later on he also grew more conservative, although throughout his life he did not rate the organization and authority of the church and its elders as highly as most of the Frisians and Flemish did at that time. In the Waterlander congregations the ban was little applied, avoidance not at all, and marriage with non-members was not considered serious.


Of great importance is de Ries's work in martyr literature. The old first martyr book, Het Offer des Heeren, had contained reports on only a few of the martyrs. When the need of a new edition became apparent, de Ries decided to issue an entirely new and more complete edition. For years he had been collecting reports and records on the martyrs and had stimulated others to do the same, for example, Jacques Outerman among the Flemish. On the basis of this preliminary work he published in 1615 his Historie der Martelaren ofte waerachtighe Getuygen Jesu Christi, with an important introduction in which he urged love and peace and asked that the Mennonites bury their dissensions. Unfortunately this admonition was little heeded. The new martyr book, however, was very welcome; after it had been reprinted with slight alterations in 1617, 1626, and 1631, T. J. van Braght used it as the basis for his Martyrs' Mirror in 1660 and 1685.

De Ries also gave the church a hymnal, published first in 1582 with the title Lietboeck, and in six later editions under different names, e.g., Lie(d)tboeck, Het Boeck der Ghesangen, and Gesangboeck.


Hans de Ries carried on an extensive correspondence with many congregations and preachers. The Danzig congregation asked him for advice in countering the persistence of the Socinians and even bade him come over for a disputation with their leaders. In Amsterdam he had to intervene in the dispute with Nittert Obbesz . He was engaged in controversy with many opponents both within and without the Mennonite fold. The great number of these polemics, of which only a few were printed, complete the picture of a man who served the kingdom of God faithfully and without regard for consequences.