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Leiden Pilgrim Fathers Arrival Day
February 12, 2020
Leiden – City of Refugees
On February 12, 1609, a group of religious refugees led by John Robinson were welcomed to Leiden with the following greeting: “Geen eerlicke persoonen weygeren vrije ende lybre incompst omme binnen deze stede…haer woonplaets te nemen”. In modern English: “No honest persons will be refused free and unconstrained entry to the city to take up residence”.
Thus the Pilgrims began their eleven year stay in this tolerant and enlightened city of Leiden. It was the second largest city in Holland and home to a famous university. Robinson and his flock bought a piece of land near St. Peter’s Church, called the Groene Poort (Green Alley). They built 21 little houses, so that people also called it the Engelse poort (English Alley).
Throughout history Leiden has given shelter to people who were no longer welcome elsewhere. In the 17th century the population of Leiden grew from just over 20.000 to 70.000 souls in a short amount of time. Even in the 20th century no less than three out of four Leiden inhabitants descended from a refugee.