a minor state of Europe, situated between France, Holland, and Prussia. SEE EUROPE.
I. Church History. — Christianity is said to have been introduced into Belgium as early as A.D. 42, through Eucharius, one of the seventy disciples; but Maternus (died 130) is generally honored as the apostle of Belgium, through the whole extent of which he planted Christian churches. During the Crusades the Belgian nobility distinguished themselves by their zeal ( SEE GODFREY of Bouillon). In the thirteenth, fourteenth, and fifteenth centuries, Belgium was the chief seat of the reformatory movements within the Roman Catholic Church, and produced several religious communities, whose discipline and life formed, by their more Biblical and spiritual character, a favorable contrast to the gross superstitions of the majority of monastic institutions. To these belonged the Beghards and Beguines, the Lollards, and especially the Fratres Communis Vitae (Brethren of the Common Life). The Reformation of the sixteenth century was opposed by the University of Louvain, and later also by Erasmus, but found many adherents among the people; and its first martyrs, John Esch and Henry Vos, who were burned at Brussels July 1, 1523, were Belgians. The Inquisition introduced by Philip II was unable to crush out the Reformation, and led to the revolution of the seven northern provinces. SEE HOLLAND. In the southern provinces the predominance of the Roman Church was secured by Alexander of Parma, and fortified by the Jesuits. Jansenism (q.v.) arose in Belgium, but did not long survive, as a distinct organization, the first condemnatory decrees of the pope. The edict of toleration (Oct. 13, 1781), by which Joseph II restrained the spiritual authority of the pope, declared marriage a civil contract, and suppressed all monastic societies, merging them into one "Fraternity of Charity," met with a violent opposition. The states were against him and refused to pay taxes, and the emperor had to make important concessions. The union of Belgium with Holland after the overthrow of the Napoleonic rule greatly dissatisfied the Roman Catholic party, which united with the Liberal opposition for the overthrow of the Dutch rule and the establishment of an independent kingdom of Belgium (1830). The new Constitution, a compromise between the two parties, gave to the Roman Catholic party the greatest independence of the state and a liberal support, but compelled it, on the other hand, to consent to the establishment of an unlimited liberty of religion. The subsequent history of Belgium is a strife of these parties especially with regard to the support which the state is to give to the Church in questions of both an ecclesiastical and political nature (education, charitable institutions, etc.). The "Catholic" party is numerically stronger than in any other European Parliament. Among its distinguished men belong DeMerode, Count de Theux, Dechamps, Malou, Dedecker. It split, however, into two subdivisions, one of which, the more ultramnontane, wished to overthrow the compromise with the Liberals and put an end to religious toleration, while the other, the Constitutional, declared themselves for a faithful adherence to the Constitution. This latter view is by far the most prevailing.
II. Ecclesiastical Statistics. — The total population of Belgium was, at December 31,1888, 5,974,743. In 1886 the avowed non-Catholic population was stated as about 18,000 (of a total population of about 4,500,000), among whom were about 15,000 Protestants, Lutherans, Reformed, and Anglicans, and about 3000 Jews, besides many promiscuous, and some of no religious persuasion. Of late the number of Protestants has increased more rapidly than that of the Roman Catholics, and a number of Protestant congregations have been formed, consisting entirely of converts from the Roman Catholic Church (one in Brussels alone counts more than one thousand converts). Helfferich (see below, the literature on Belgium) estimated the Protestant population in 1848 at about 25,000, which statement may have been a little too high, though there can be no doubt that the Protestant population at present amounts to over 20,000 souls. There are two different nationalities in Belgium, the Flemish (German) and Walloon (French). The Roman Catholic Church has her stronghold among the former. Of the four universities, one, Louvain, is Free Catholic, established and controlled entirely by the bishops; one, Brussels, is Liberal and and Catholic; two, Ghent and Liege, are state universities, in which, therefore, professors of both parties are to be found. There is one archbishop at Mechlin, and five bishops (Bruges, Namur, Tournay, Liege, and Ghent). There are six larger and six smaller seminaries for the training of the clergy. The appropriations made for all religious denominations acknowledged by the state amounted in 1859 to 4,051,942 fr. 75 cts. There are over 1200 conventual houses, inhabited by some 4000 monks and 21,000 nuns. The Jesuits at Brussels continue the greatest literary work ever undertaken by the order, the Acta Sanctorum (q.v.). The religious orders conduct a large number of boarding-schools, and the primary instruction is almost everywhere in their hands (in particular, in the hands of the Brothers of the Christian Schools). The number of the members of the religious associations was, in 1856, 14,853, viz., 2523 men and 12,330 women, and it is rapidly increasing. The leading periodicals of the Roman Catholics are, Revue Catholique de Louvain; Precis historiques et litteraires, a semi-monthly, published by the Jesuits in Brussels; the Journal historique et litteraire, a monthly, published at Liege by Kersten. The most influential among the many political organs of the Catholic party is the Journal de Bruxelles.
The largest body of Protestants is the Protestant Union, which is recognised and supported by the state, and in 1854 embraced fourteen congregations, two of which (Mary Hoorbecke, near Ghent, and Dour, in Hennegan) date from the time of the Reformation. The number of preachers in 1859 was sixteen. The annual synod consists of all the preachers and two or three lay delegates of every congregation. The Evangelical Society (Société Evangelique Belge), which formed itself in Brussels in 1835, after the model of the evangelical societies of Paris and Geneva, has established a considerable number of congregations. which increases annually. It had, in 1864, 20 churches and stations, 18 pastors and evangelists, 12 schools attended by 675 children, and a membership of from 6000 to 7000. The Episcopal Church of England has four congregations, the Lutherans one, at Brussels, in which city there are also two independent religious associations. The Bible Society had distributed (up to 1859) about two hundred thousand copies of the Bible.
⇒See also the International Standard Bible Encyclopedia.
III. Literature. — Dufau, La Belg. Chretienne (Liege, 1847, incomplete, reaching as far as the time of the Carlovingians); Helfferich, Belgien in politischer, kirchlicher, padagogischer. u. artistisch r Beziehung
(Pforzheim, 1848); Horn, Statist. Gemalde des Konigr. Belgien (Dessau, 1853); Schem, Eccl. Year-book, p. 130, 197.