Pier Gerlofs Donia

Frisian warrior, pirate, and rebel

Pier Gerlofs Donia, 1480 - 1520. He fought for the independence of Friesland (which is now part of the Netherlands). He was a very big man. Some sources say that his height was 213 cm (almost seven feet).[1] Donia was also known as Grutte Pier, which means "Big Lad", in Frisian language, or Grote Pier, which means the same in Dutch language. He also was a pirate. This great man fought against the people from Holland, Germany, and the Burgundians.

Statue of Grutte Pier in his hometown of Kimswerd. The line of text on the foot of the statue simply reads in Friese "Grutte Pier".

According to legend, Pier forced his prisoners to repeat a special word, which was hard to pronounce for non-Frisians. This way he could distinguish Frisians from Dutch and Low Germans:

Bûter, brea en griene tsiis: wa't dat net sizze kin, is gjin oprjochte Fries.

Or, in English translation:

Butter, rye-bread, and young cheese: whoever cannot say that is not a true Frisian.

Those prisoners who could not answer this in proper Frisian had their heads cut off by Donia himself. Pier was also noted for his ability to behead several people with a single blow. This meant he could kill many enemies at the same time during battle, and gave him an excellent advantage over his opponents. His famous fighting skills proved their worth in many battles.

One legend documents the fact that pier was strong enough to bend a coin between his fore finger and thumb.

Despite his many successes, Pier could not defeat the Burgundian/Hapsburg armies. He retired disillusioned in 1519. He died peacefully in bed in the Frisian town of Sneek on October 28 in the year 1520. His last words were spoken to his life-time enemy, the count of Nychlenborch. He was asked by the count were he wanted to go after he died, to which Pier replied "Nea myn Heer ta" ("To my Lord"). He then died. After the Giant of Kimswerd (another nickname) died, Friesland never again earned its freedom. It has remained a province of the Netherlands.

He was the uncle of the warrior Wijerd Jelckama.

ReferencesEdit

  1. "Grote Pier (Grutte Pier)" (in Dutch). bertsgeschiedenissite.nl. Archived from the original on 2009-03-10. Retrieved 2009-06-07.