Dirk Willems Peace Garden at MHV

Dirk Willems Peace Garden

Waypoint Info

Lat Long

(49.549533, -96.685466)

GPS Coordinates

49° 32′ 58.3188” N
96° 41′ 7.6776” W

Previous Waypoint (West)


History of the site

The Mennonite Heritage Village in Steinbach was established in 1967 by the Manitoba Mennonite Historical Society, the Town of Steinbach, and the RM of Hanover. Its purpose was to tell the Russian Mennonite story from the 1500s to the present. And that story has its roots in the global Anabaptist story.

Dirk Willems was an early Anabaptist in the Netherlands. He had been imprisoned for his beliefs, which were at odds with practices of the state church of the 1500s. He managed to escape, fleeing over the think ice of the moat surrounding his prison. Giving chase, the jailer fell through the ice and cried for help. Willems turned back and saved the jailer’s life. He was immediately recaptured. Burned at the stake on May 16th, 1569, Willems paid for his deed of mercy with his life.
For nearly 500 years, Anabaptists have advocated the way of peace… and Dirk Willems has become a symbol of peace for all Anabaptists, including Mennonites.

This is the story depicted on the cover of Martyrs’ Mirror… and now also represented in the Dirk Willems Peace Garden at the Mennonite Heritage Village, the terminus of the Peace Trail.


The Peace Exhibit Committee has worked tirelessly for many years to bring peace monuments to the Mennonite Heritage Village. The committee included Elbert Toews, Lawrence Klippenstein, Jack Heppner, Al Hamm, Abe Warkentin, Evelyn Friesen, Harvey Plett, and John Henry Friesen. Their vision included three phases.

Phase one was to erect the Conscientious Objector monument which you will find near the sawmill. Phase two was to erect the Dirk Willems statue. And phase three was to complete the pergola, interpretive panels, and peace garden surrounding the statue.

The bronze, life-size sculpture was created by world-renowned sculptor Peter Sawatzky, and on Sunday November 11, 2018, the Dirk Willems statue was unveiled at the MHV.

The Peace Garden itself was completed in the summer of 2022. Its grand opening was held on Saturday, August 20th, celebrated with both the first ever Peace Trek and a meaningful ceremony.

What you see here today

The Dirk Willems Peace Garden features over 900 native grasses and flowering perennials planted with care by the Steinbach and Area Garden Club. The garden was designed by Mike Plett, who was inspired by the gardens of Piet Oudolf, focusing on native plantings that would adapt well to the local soil and climate, and benefit pollinators.

Adjacent to the garden is a timberframe pergola and nearby pond and overflowing artesian well. There are benches where visitors can sit and contemplate what peace means for them.

The interpretive panels tell the story of peace and acknowledges those who stand up for peace under extremely difficult circumstances.