Michel Ophovius



A brief biography.


Michel Ophovius was born as Michiel van Ophoven in 1570 in the Fonteynstraat, 's-Hertogenbosch. His father was a weaver and trader in textiles. After the Latin School, he joined the Dominicans in the priory of Saint Paul in Antwerp in 1585. After studies in Leuven, he was ordinaied a priest in 1593, studied in Bologna en obtained the title of 'Lector of theology' in Rome (1599). In 1600 returned to Antwerp, where he gave all his attention to the pastoral life. After his appointment as inquisitor (1601), he was elected prior of the priory of Antwerp in 1608 and obtained the title of 'Magister of Theology' in 1609.
In 1611 he was appointed Provincial of the Province and in 1615
became prefect of the Dutch Dominican Mission in Holland, a mission which demanded great tact, because the Orangists and the Calvinists were ruling this country, while the Eighty Years' War was on (1568-1648). Through a mistake of the Spanish Governess Isabella of Castile, Ophovius was arrested in Heusden in February 1623 and imprisoned in the 'Gevangenpoort' in The Hague. He was allowed to depart from there on 25.11.1624 in exchange for 240 Dutch prisoners of war.
On February
6th 1626 Isabella nominated Ophovius bishop of 's-Hertogenbosch, which nomination was confirmed by pope Urban VI on 22.06.1626. In this position Ophovius was closely involved in the attack of Frederik Hendrik on 's-Hertogenbosch on 17/18.06.1629. Many times he was called to the consultations of the Spanish magistrate and military governor with the defenders of the city and its besiegers. Led by the correct judgement that the city could not be defended, Ophovius pleaded for a capitulation to safe the soldiers, citizens, and the city from a bloodbath, destruction and fire-raising. So Ophovius was the first to sign the capitulation-treaty on 14.09.1629.

The cathedral of St. John Evangelist, and all the churches were seized by the Calvinists; the celebration of catholic services were forbidden; all the priests and religious had  to leave the city. Ophovius went to Geldrop on 20.11.1629 to administrate his diocese. Isabella had offered him the vacant seat of Bruges, but Ophovius wanted to remain loyal to his diocesans. The States of Holland banished him in 1631, whereupon he moved to Lier, where he died on 04.11.1837. He was buried in the St. Paul in Antwerp in a tomb built by Hans of Mildert, possible after a design of P.P. Rubens.

There is a painting (1618/19) by P.P. Rubens, preserved in the museum 'Mauritshuis' in the Hague. The city 's-Hertogenbosch honoured him with the streetname 'De Ophoviuslaan'. In the cathedral of St. John he is depicted on the painting (1884) by A.Brouwer (1827-1908), in the chapel of the Blessed Sacrament, earlier the chapel of the 'illustre Lieve Vrouwe Broederschap'. 





Michel Ophovius, portrait (1618/19) by P.P. Rubens,

preserved in the museum 'Mauritshuis' in The Hague. 


Ghana 1990, Mi 1460; Sc 1260.







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