Dorothea Visser



Dorothea (Dora) Visser (Gendringen, Gelderland, 28 September 1819 – Olburgen, Gelderland, 11 July 1876) was a Dutch, Roman Catholic mystic and visionary, who bore the crucifixion wounds of Christ (stigmata) on her body.Dora Visser logo

Dora Visser was born into a poor working class family in a catholic area of the Achterhoek, the fifth of nine children.  At the age of twelve she went to work on a farm.  After a fall while grazing the cattle she got an open wound that would not heal.  She became crippled and from then on could only do light work that could be done seated.  The young Dora was a devout Catholic and, out of love for Jesus Christ, offered her personal suffering up for the conversion of sinners.  Since December 1843 she received the stigmata on her body.

Her spiritual directors and confessors, initially the curate Father Herfkens and later the curate Father Teus Kerkhof, documented very carefully in journals the life and hidden suffering of Dora Visser.

Dorothea Visser was plagued by rumour and in the local press.  However she also knew support from, for example, her physician Dr te Welscher.  More serious was the fact that Fr Kerkhof had, in the eyes of the parish priest of Gendringen, a far too prominent place in the parish:  perhaps even more prominent than that of the parish priest himself?  The conflict was resolved, but may have still been of influence in the transferral in 1861 by the then Archbishop of Utrecht, Johannes Zwijsen, of the curate Father Kerkhof to Zieuwent, also in the Achterhoek, and later even as far as Kloosterburen, a remote enclave in the far northern province Groningen.

Teus Kerkhof became the Parish Priest there, and took the weak Dora Visser with him as housekeeper and sacristan.  In Kloosterburen the same mysterious phenomena appeared in the reticent Dora Visser.  In 1872 Father Kerkhof was appointed Parish Priest of the Saint Willibrord Parish in Olburgen.  On 12 July 1876 the stigmatised mystic Dora Visser died in the presbytery at Olburgen and was buried in the parish cemetery.

Father Kerkhof mentioned in his notes that at that time she had carried the crucifixion wounds of Christ for nearly 33 years, the same as the lifespan of Jesus on earth.  He wanted to publish the story of Dora, but at the time this was too sensitive a topic.  In 1853 the controversial restoration of the Episcopal hierarchy in the Netherlands took place, which led to a tense relationship with the Protestant Churches, and the gulf of anti-papism in the Netherlands had not yet settled by the time of Dora’s death.  Therefore the interest in Dora Visser faded after her death.  However, an oral tradition around Dora remained among the Catholics in Gendringen and both Catholics and Protestants in Olburgen and the surrounding area, as well as a covert devotion among certain individuals.  Only when the reporter B. Kerkhoffs wrote about the journals of Father Kerkhof in the daily newspaper “The Gelderlander” in 1965, was there renewed interest in this mystic.


In 1991 there was an exhibition in Doesburg about the life of Visser.  The devotion to Dora Visser occurs now for the most part in the silence of personal prayer.  Priests and lay faithful come regularly to her grave in Olburgen to pray and to be inspired by her quiet suffering to follow the Way of the Gospel.  In the summer of 2008 the possibility of a beatification of Dora Visser came a step closer.  For then the Archdiocese of Utrecht recognised the account of at least one miraculous healing at her intercession.