Menno's contemporaries

Gillis van Aken (c. 1500-1557)

Gillis was born around 1500 in or near Susteren (now Dutch province of Limburg). Although little is known about his early life, he was probably a priest. According to some witnesses Gillis was pale and of average height. He had a pointed brown beard and big eyes.

The exact time of his renunciation of the church of Rome is unknown but from 1531 onwards Gillis traveled as an Anabaptist preacher through Limburg. He also worked in Aachen, the German city from which he got his name. In 1542 Menno Simons ordained him as an elder at the same time as Adam Pastor. Gillis took part in several important meetings of the elders and traveled over large parts of Holland and Germany to baptize converts.

In 1552 he was banned by Menno and his followers at a meeting in Mecklenburg because of adultery, but upon confession Gillis was reinstated in 1554.

In 1557 Gillis was captured while preaching near Antwerp. For fear of death he recanted his faith and offered to promote catholicism. On 10 July 1557 he was beheaded (had he been steadfast, he would have been burned at the stake).

Because of his recanting, Gillis' death was not recorded in Thieleman Jansz van Braght's famous book Martyrs' Mirror.

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