Pier Gerlofs Donia
Pier Gerlofs Donia of Kimswerd
(1480? - October 28, 1520) was a
Frisian warrior, pirate, freedom
fighter, folk hero and rebel. He is
most well known by his Frisian
nickname "Grutte Pier" (in the old
Frisian spelling "Greate Pier"), or
by his Dutch aliases of "Grote Pier"
and "Lange Pier", or, in Latin,
"Pierius Magnus". These nicknames
all refer to his legendary size and
strength (historians today assume
that he was impressively built, and
that way remembered by many 500
years after his death). His life is for
the most part shrouded in legends,
but there is no doubt that he really
Early Life And Family
Pier was born in Kimswerd, Frisia in about 1480. His family were agricultural workers and farmers. The potestate of Friesland Haring Harinxma was his ancestor, six generations earlier. His mother was Fokel Sybrants Bonga, her mother was Wilsck Idserts Douma, her father was Idsert Janckes Douma, whose mother was Eets Douwes Harinxma, the daughter of Douwe Haringhs Haringxma, the son of Haringh Harinxma Donia thoe Heeg. Pier Gerlofs (Donia) is the 4 x great grandson of Haring Donia (Harinxma), refer relationship calculator.
Donia himself became a farmer after the retirement of his father, Gerlof Piers. Pier was named after his grandfather. His mother was Fokel Sybrandsdr Bonga. Pier had two brothers Sybren and Abbe and a sister Tijdt Gerlofs. He married Rintze Syrtsema around 1495; in the same year, his first son was born. He was named Gerlof after his father. Their first daughter followed circa 1500.
Reasons For Going To Battle
He was a farmer in the West of Friesland at the beginning of the sixteenth century, in the village of Kimswerd near the city of Harlingen. His village was plundered by a band of mercenaries in 1515 during a civil war between Schieringers and Vetkopers. The former were against the Burgundian/Habsburg rule over the Low Countries, the latter were in favour of it. During the sacking of Kimswerd, Pier's wife, Rintze Syrtsema, was allegedly raped and killed. For this reason Pier started a guerrilla war against the Burgundian party and allied himself with Charles of Egmond, Duke of Gelre (1492-1538) the foremost opponent of the Burgundian Duke Philip the Handsome (1494-1506) and after him his son Charles V (1515 - 1555).
Band Of Warriors
Pier's armed band, known as the Arumer Zwarte Hoop (English: Arumer Black Heap, as in "group/mass of"), was mainly active against the Dutch and the Burgundians at sea where he captured many English and Dutch ships. In the biggest battle of his career, in 1515, he captured 28 Dutch ships, which earned him the nickname: the "Cross of the Dutchmen". He then bestowed the title "King of the Frisians" on himself. In 1517 he landed an army in the Dutch province of Holland and sacked the towns of Medemblik and Alkmaar. In 1517 the Arumer Zwarte Hoop captured the city of Asperen, killing many of the inhabitants. They then used the fortified city as a base, until driven out by Holland's Stadhouder.
According to legend, Pier forced his captives to repeat a shibboleth to distinguish Frisians from Dutch and Low Germans:
Bûter, brea en griene tsiis: wa't dat net sizze kin, is gjin oprjochte Fries.
Butter, rye-bread, and young cheese: whoever cannot say that is not a true Frisian.
Despite his successes, Pier could not turn the Burgundian/Habsburg tide and he retired disillusioned in 1519. He died peacefully in bed in the Frisian town of Sneek on October 28 in the year 1520.
Pier Gerlofs' last words were said to be "Nae Myn Heer ta". It was an answer to the question of his former enemy, the count of Nychlenborch, who said: "Where do you want to go to in the afterlife?" Pier replied in Frisian: "To my Lord I want to go."
After his death Pier became a hero of Frisian folklore, and tales abound which relate to his superhuman strength. Today, Pier is generally acknowledged as one of the greatest warriors of all time.
Superhuman Strength And Size
A great sword which is said to have belonged to Pier is on display at the Frisian museum in Leeuwarden. It measures 2.15 meters in length and weighs around 6.6 kg. To have wielded such a weapon he must have been a man of unusual stature and physical strength.
A huge helmet, which is known as the helmet of Gutte Pier, is kept in the town hall of Sneek.
In Popular Culture
- Stories about Pier grew into legends that often share themes with stories of other strong men in Germanic heroic literature. For example, the story in which Pier plows his land with a plow, but without horses, or the similar story in which he lifts the plow with one hand to point out his house to the men sent to murder him, and then kills them with it in one blow.
- Another legend about Pier states that he could lift a horse above his head for several seconds.
- In the 1970s, in the Dutch Floris series, Donia was a major character, played by actor Hans Boskamp. He was one of the more popular characters, although he played a villain and the enemy of the leading character. He was adored by the children who watched the show. It brought the man back into popular culture. Many children learned about Donia, albeit in an historically incorrect way. In the German remake of the series he also played a major role, although he was less popular than in the Netherlands.