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Some Dutch history

Statistical Dutch Catholic - Protestant border at ancient Roman frontier

The Netherlands, 21st century —

A statistical boundary between Nijmegen and Arnhem divides a Roman-Catholic south and a Protestant north. This is right at the boundary of the Roman empire; the "great rivers" were a northern Continental border.

The great rivers, distributaries of the Rhine (Rijn), today run past Arnhem and Nijmegen. The cities are about 20 km north and south of each other and equidistant from where the Rhine first splits, just inside The Netherlands' border. These waters have changed course in historical timescales — but have maintained a general course norht of an ice-age terminal moraine and westward out to sea.

For the Romans, Nijmegen was the frontier. Beyond the rivers' domain were the Germanics, and although the two peoples conducted extensive business, the cultural border lasted for the duration of the Roman empire.

While the line dividing Catholicism and Protestantism today is conceptual and generalized,* it certainly adheres to the original cultural boundary.

The language hasn't held that firmly, though it's not far off. Belgium, just south, is bilingual — Latinate (French) and Germanic (Vlaams [Flemish,]) a form of Dutch.

But the religious border has barely moved in all these years.

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* The Netherlands is one of the most secular countries in the world. You don't see people in the streets over religious differences.

(A notable exception was the 1985 papal visit, when Utrecht fell into violence. But that was a protest against a religion — and an expression of popular condemnation of Catholic policies.)

No Protestant-Catholic disagreement rises to the level of embattled dispute, as it has, for example, in recent years in Ireland.

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