Wittenberg was the most important source of inspiration for the Reformation in both of the Scandinavian kingdoms.
By Dr. Simo Heininen (left) and Dr. Otfried Czaika (right) / 08.01.2012
Heininen: Professor of Theology, University of Helsinki
Czaika: Professor of Church History, Norwegian School of Theology, Religion and Society
Wittenberg was the most important source of inspiration for the Reformation in both of the Scandinavian kingdoms, the Danish kingdom and the Swedish kingdom. In both kingdoms, the authorities played a defining role in the Reformation, though it proceeded very differently in these two Early Modern states. The Reformation became securely established most quickly – both politically and in terms of church law – in the Danish core territory. Sweden, on the other hand, was de facto already a Lutheran country before 1550, though it did not become Lutheran de jure also until the last decade of the 16th century. Particularly in the peripheral parts of Scandinavia (especially Norway and Iceland), the Reformation went hand in hand with closer political integration in Scandinavia and it was therefore adopted rather reluctantly by the population.
Carta Marina Lafreri: From the late-14th century, Denmark, Norway and Sweden had been united in a personal union. This so-called Kalmar Union continued to exist until 1523. 16 years later, the Carta Marina was compiled, the first map to depict Scandinavia in a comparatively accurate manner. It was drawn in Rome in 1539 by the Swedish Catholic cleric Olaus Magnus, the brother of the last archbishop of Sweden to be confirmed by the pope. Only a small number of copies of the Carta Marina were made and the map was forgotten about until a copy was discovered in the Hof- und Staatsbibliothek in Munich in the 19th century. / Kungliga biblioteket
From 1397, the kingdoms of, and were united in a personal union (the so-called Kalmar Union) under Danish control. In the early-16th century, the union was approaching its end. There were increasing tensions between Denmark and Sweden, the latter being governed by regents from the House of Sture. In November 1520, , the last union king, was crowned for a second time in . After the coronation festivities had been concluded, a heresy trial was staged with the help of the Archbishop of and the accused were the supporters of the Sture party. Two bishops, several opponents of the union among the nobility, and numerous townspeople of Stockholm were condemned and executed. The young aristocrat raised the flag of revolt. With the help of the powerful city of , he succeeded in driving the Danes out of the country.
Luther, September Testament / Württembergische Landesbibliothek
In 1523, Christian II was exiled from Denmark and stayed for some time in theand in . The exiled king was dependent on the help of , his brother-in-law, to regain his kingdom. However, Christian and his wife were drawn to the . They visited Wittenberg a number of times, where they stayed in the house of and heard preach. In , Christian had the New Testament (complete with Luther’s forewords from the September Testament) translated into Danish. When the book was printed in 1524, he had some of the copies smuggled into Denmark.
In 1531, Christian converted back to the old faith, but this was just lip service intended to secure the assistance of the emperor in the conquest of Denmark. However, his efforts failed, and he spent the remainder of his life (from 1532 to 1559) in Danish captivity.
Christian’s successor, his uncle, duke of Schleswig-Holstein, committed himself during his coronation in 1524 to resisting the intrusion of the Reformation into Denmark and to protecting the traditional church. However, Luther’s teachings spread rapidly in the dukedoms of and , as well as in Danish cities such as , , , and , and the king avoided adopting a clear position on the matter, as did many German rulers. However, at the Herredag (national assembly of noblemen) at Odense in 1526, connections with were discontinued. The appointment of bishops was to be confirmed by the Danish archbishop in future, instead of the pope. The bishopric of was left vacant. The king would appoint bishops in future and the annates were to flow into the state coffers. King Frederick’s favourable attitude towards the Reformation was also demonstrated by the marriage of his daughter to the Lutheran-minded Duke in 1526. In August 1526, Frederick broke the fasting rules and received the sub utraque.
The aim of the king “was clearly to retain the institutional structure of the church, to protect aristocratic interests, to allow the gradual spread of Protestantism over a longer period of time, and in this way to gradually establish a kind of Protestant church in which he himself had supreme authority over the church”.1
The ideas of the Reformation gained a foothold in the dukedoms of Schleswig and Holstein first of all. As early as 1522, evangelical sermons were preached in, and they were preached in other cities soon after that. The eldest son of the king, Duke , implemented the Reformation in his dukedom in northern Schleswig. As a young man, he had attended the Diet of , where he had been won over to the new faith by Luther’s brave conduct. Christian invited two theologians from Germany – both educated in Wittenberg – to lead his Fürstenkirche (ruler’s church) and demanded that priests take an oath of allegiance to him. They were forced to submit to retraining at the newly-founded seminary in , which largely adhered to the teachings of the Wittenberg Reformation, and they were compelled to hold evangelical services. In the cities of the dukedom of Schleswig, evangelical sermons were preached as early as 1527.
[LEFT]: Hans Tausen was an evangelical theologian and reformer, who is often referred to as the “Danish Luther”. A monk of the Knights of St. John of Jerusalem order from Viborg, he studied in Louvain, Wittenberg and Rostock. Though he had only spent a brief period in Wittenberg in 1523, his main influences came from there. Tausen translated some of Luther’s writings and parts of the Old Testament into Danish, and he taught Hebrew at the University of Copenhagen in the 1530s. While Tausen’s theology primarily consists of elements received from Wittenberg, influences from southern German theology (which had come to him through Prussia) were also conspicuous. In 1530, Tausen presented the Confessio Hafniensis at a Herredag. This first independent Danish statement of faith, deviated in important ways from the Wittenberg theological norm and from the Confessio Augustana, which had appeared a short time before. The Confessio Hafniensis only acknowledged secular authority, declared the Bible to be the only standard for secular and Christian life, elevated the “priesthood of all believers” above the office of the priesthood, and contained a concept of the Eucharist which was close to that of Zwingli. / Wikimedia Commons
[RIGIHT]: Portrait of Martin Luther (1483–1546): Hans Tausen and numerous other Scandinavians studied in Wittenberg in the period around and after 1520. There they received important influences from Martin Luther for the Reformation in Scandinavia. / Kungliga biblioteket
Thus, Duke Christian had implemented a church reform in his territories in just a few short years, and had created the first evangelical Fürstenkirche in the Northern Countries – and the reigning King Frederick I was not willing or able to prevent it. The Reformation was also introduced into the larger cities of Denmark at the same time., the “Danish Luther”, was active in Viborg ( ) from 1526. After studying in , Wittenberg and , this monk who belonged to the order of the Knights of St. John of Jerusalem returned to his monastery in Viborg. Though he had only spent a brief period in Wittenberg in 1523, the inspirations he received during this stay were decisive: Tausen translated some of Luther’s writings into Danish and had them printed. His studies in Louvain and – no less important – in Wittenberg also prepared him for his subsequent activities at Copenhagen University, where he taught Hebrew and translated parts of the Old Testament into Danish in the 1530s. However, besides the components which came primarily from Wittenberg, Tausen’s theology also contained influences from southern German theology (transferred via Prussia). At the Herredagin 1530, Tausen presented the Confessio Hafniensis, the first independent Danish statement of faith, which differed in important ways from standard Wittenberg doctrine and from the Confessio Augustana presented earlier the same year. The Confessio Hafniensis only recognized the authority of the secular authorities (thereby rejecting the authority of the papacy), and it also declared the Bible to be the only standard for secular and Christian life. It elevated the “general priesthood of all believers” above the office of the priesthood, and it contained a concept of the Eucharist which was almost the same as that of Zwingli.
Johannes Bugenhagen was an important German reformer and confidant of Martin Luther. He had a lasting influence on the subsequent development of the Lutheran church through his role as the author of church ordinances, among other things. Due to the almost-two-year period that he spent in Denmark, he became a key figure in the transfer of Reformation ideas to Scandinavia. For example, he played a central role in the drafting of the new Danish church ordinance, he drafted new statutes for the Copenhagen University based to a large degree on Melanchthon’s statutes for Wittenberg University, and he ordained seven Lutheran bishops in Denmark. / Photo by Torsten Schleese, Wikimedia Commons
Tausen was expelled from his order because of his evangelical preaching. Although the bishop had banned his sermons in the city, the king granted him an official letter of protection in October 1526. In this letter, the king made Tausen the royal chaplain and ordered him to “preach the Holy Gospel” in Viborg.2 Shortly after this, another former student of Luther, , Magister Artium, returned from Wittenberg. He also received a letter of protection from the king, with permission to found a school for pastors in Viborg, which several monks joined. He was ordained a priest by Tausen, and Tausen later married his sister. Sadolin translated Luther’s Small Catechism into Danish in 1532, and in 1533 he translated the Confessio Augustana. Together he and drafted the Danish church ordinance of 1537, and as Bishop of Odense he pushed for the implementation of the ordinance in his bishopric.
In the Danish cities, the Reformation was initiated or carried out by evangelical preachers and supported by the people. In contrast to Germany, city councils hardly played a role at all. However, the comparatively low level of active support for the Reformation among the magistrates is most likely primarily due to the political structure of Denmark (and of Sweden). In contrast to the free imperial cities of the Holy Roman Empire, the cities ofdid not constitute independent territorial units, but were ultimately subordinate to central state authority. Therefore, the magistrates could not expect to gain control over the church and the resources of the church by turning towards the Reformation. On the contrary, the introduction of the Reformation implied the gradual shift of church control away from the local level and towards the centrally-controlled religious policy of the monarchy.
Most evangelical preachers in Denmark came from the lower clergy; some had been students of the reform-Catholic Carmelite. The campaign against traditional piety was fanatical in some cases. In Malmö and Copenhagen, there were cases of iconoclasm, and in several cities the mendicant monks were expelled from their monasteries. Of the 26 Franciscan monasteries in Denmark, only seven remained in existence in 1532.
As in Germany, the campaign against proponents of the old faith was also conducted in print, by means of books, pamphlets, and handbills in the vernacular. One of the most important Reformation texts was the Book of Malmö written by Peder Laurensen in 1530, the full title of which was “The Cause and a Correct Explanation for the Ordination and the Use of the New Reformation of the Mass, of Preaching, in the Church Service and in the Execution of Other Christian Activities, Which Have Begun and Are Being Carried Out in the Christian City of Malmö”. The book is a detailed description and defence of the changes involved in the Reformation, as well as a detailed description of the reform of the church in Malmö. Additionally, this text gives a kind of practical guide for the implementation of the Reformation in cities. Laurensen even describes in detail what provisions the city authorities should make for the ringing of bells after churches and monasteries have been closed and their bells are no longer in use.
The Danish bishops were not in a position to fight against the new teachings, which they viewed as false teachings. They were “Nederlagets maend” or “men of defeat”,3 rich noblemen without theological training and with no interest in theological questions. It soon became clear to them that the Reformation movement could not be contained by means of prohibitions and threats. In May 1527, four Bishops in Jutland appealed for help to two German theologians who adhered to the old faith, and . They requested that one of these two opponents of Luther come to Denmark, because they felt they were fighting a losing battle. But both of the theologians refused. Cochlaeus even asked for his advice on the matter. The great humanist discouraged him from going: “The journey there is long, the climate unbearable, and the people barbarous.”4
The leading Danish theologian was the Carmelite monk Paul Helgesen, who held theological lectures in Copenhagen. He was a learned Bible humanist and admirer of Erasmus, whose book Enchiridion principis Christiani he translated into Danish. He also translated Luther’s Little Prayer Book (Betbüchlein), though he did not become a supporter of Luther, in spite of sharply criticising the abuses of the church as Luther did. He remained in the old church as a reform-Catholic and he wrote pamphlets against the reformers, some of whom – such as Peder Laurensen andin Malmö – had previously been students and friends of his.
By the end of the 1520s, the Reformation movement had made such progress that two churches existed in parallel in Denmark. While the old episcopal order remained intact, the evangelical movement had gained the upper hand in all the important cities, where there were independent reformed communities which had withdrawn from the jurisdiction of the bishops, had their own preachers, and were under the protection of the king.
In April 1533, Frederick I died. As his son, Duke Christian of Schleswig-Holstein, was an avid admirer of Luther, the Council of the Realm (Rigsråd) attempted to elect the duke’s youngest brother, who was still a minor, as king. It was hoped that the latter could still be raised in the old faith. But the election was postponed, and in 1534 war broke out between the dukedoms of Schleswig and Holstein and the city of Lübeck, which was accompanied by turmoil in the cities of eastern Denmark, which was encouraged by Lübeck, and a peasant revolt in Jutland. In these circumstances, the nobility of Jutland elected Duke Christian as king in July 1534. This so-called “Counts’ Feud” cannot, in truth, be described as abecause both parties had Lutheran sympathies. In any event, the king and the aristocratic landowners were victorious, and they made the bishops pay the price for their defeat.
On August 6, the king rode into Copenhagen, which had fallen after a long siege. All the bishops were arrested. With the help of the upper nobility, the king had carried out a coup d’état. The bishops were subjugated to the power of the king on their release. They lost their offices, and they received royal fiefs as noblemen. The property of the bishoprics was transferred to the crown “so that Denmark’s crown and king could become all the more wealthy”, as it was put in the recess of the Diet (Rigsdag) in Copenhagen on October 30, 1536. In the place of the deposed bishops, “other, Christian bishops and superintendents”, were appointed “who could teach, preach and instruct the people in the Holy Gospel and the Word of God and the holy Christian faith”.5 That was the end of the Roman church in Denmark.
Denmark’s royal Reformation was marked by a series of public celebrations. The role played by Johannes Bugenhagen, who arrived in Copenhagen in July 1537, in establishing a new order for the church was an important aspect of this process. He was accompanied to Copenhagen by the Dane, who had recently been conferred with a doctorate in theology in Wittenberg. On August 12, the king’s birthday, Bugenhagen crowned the new king, Christian III, and his wife in the Church of Our Lady (Vor Frue Kirke) in Copenhagen.
After the conclusion of the festivities, which lasted for a number of days, another ceremonial act was conducted in the Church of Our Lady. On September 2, Bugenhagen ordained seven Lutheran bishops who had been selected by the king and his advisers. As Bugenhagen was not an ordained bishop himself, this meant the interruption of the apostolic succession in Denmark. In principle, all bishops were made equal, though the bishop of Zealand had a position of superiority; he had his seat in Copenhagen and was also engaged as professor of theology at the university. The king rejected the office of archbishop, as he saw himself as the head of the church.
On the same day (September 2), Christian III signed the foreword of the new church ordinance, which had been drafted the previous year and sent to Wittenberg, where Luther approved it. Bugenhagen had played the leading role in the drafting of the new ordinance, though he consulted with Danish theologians in the process. The church ordinance was published in Latin and Danish and adopted by the Council in 1539. The drafting of the church ordinance was preceded by a length process of reviewing the content of, and editing, earlier German church ordinances drafted by Bugenhagen. During this process, these earlier ordinances were adapted to the specific conditions in Denmark, particularly to the fact that the church was directed by bishops. The Danish church ordinance then formed the basis for the church ordinance for Schleswig-Holstein of 1542.
A week after the ordination of the bishops, the last ceremonial act occurred in the Church of Our Lady. After teaching there had been suspended around 1530, Copenhagen University, which was founded in 1479, was reopened in 1537 “to the glory of God and for the maintenance of the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ”.6 It was now an evangelical university. Bugenhagen drafted the statutes, which were based on those of Wittenberg University, for which had drafted new statutes as recently as 1536. Christian III tried in vain to persuade Bugenhagen to accept a professorship. Bugenhagen gave a few lectures in theology, but he returned to Wittenberg in the summer of 1539.
The priests who had served in the old church remained in their offices and received instructions in line with the Reformation. The monasteries were gradually dissolved. Catechisms – Peder Palladius’s translation of Luther’s Small Catechism went through 14 print runs between 1537 and 1600 – and hymnals were compiled to educate the masses. The first Danish Bible was published in 1550.
Norway and Iceland
In Norway, it was not criticism of late-medieval piety and the flourishing sale of indulgences which gave the initial impetus for a Reformation, particularly since this spirituality was by no means as deeply rooted in the population as is sometimes assumed in the literature. Indeed, few apologists for the old religion could be found when the Reformation was introduced throughout Norway from 1536 as a “political and religious takeover”.7 On the contrary, individuals who had been prominent among the old elite adopted the new doctrine after 1536 without any qualms and campaigned for the introduction of a new church ordinance, even though they had held powerful positions in the old hierarchy.
The Reformation had reached the Norwegian city of Bergen as early as the 1520s. Travelling evangelical preachers from the German-speaking territories not only came to Malmö and Copenhagen, but also followed the 8 The growing German-speaking community in Bergen, which consisted mainly of merchants and craftsmen, attended religious services in two churches in the city in the 1520s and also reserved the right to appoint their own priest. In 1529, two evangelical preachers in Bergen, Herman Fresze und Jens Viborg, received letters of protection from the Danish king, which protected them against the sanctions of the elite adhering to the old faith. In the same year, German preachers also replaced the Norwegian priests at St. Mary’s Church and St. Martin’s Church, which led among other things to a virulent anti-evangelical reaction on the part of Lübeck.9 It seems that the evangelical preachers in Bergen succeeded in increasing their influence in the following years. Possibly, the decision of the Bishop of Bergen to move his residence from the city of Bergen in 1526 was prompted by the flourishing evangelical movement there. It is clear, however, that both the Danish King Frederick I (1471–1533) (who was elected king of Norway in Bergen in 1524, and in the process committed himself to combatting Reformation teachings, as he had in Denmark) and the governor in Bergen, Vincent Lunge, supported the evangelicals. In 1533, the bishops adhering to the old faith, led by Archbishop , temporarily gained control of the whole country with the aim of reinstating Christian II as king. Bergen alone was held by Tord Roed, a confederate of Lunge. As a result, the Reformation movement was able to continue growing in Bergen without any repression. Probably at the instigation of Vincent Lunge, an iconoclastic episode occurred in Bergen in 1529 and the Dominican monastery was plundered. It can be shown that in the same year evangelical songs were sung at mealtimes in Lunge’s house in Bergen and at the landed estate of his mother-in-law in Austraat.10 However, apart from the city of Bergen and some Norwegian aristocratic families, the Reformation does not appear to have resonated with the Norwegian population in a significant way. Ole Peder Grell’s suggestion that, in particular, the absence of a university and printing presses in early-16th century Norway prevented the widespread dissemination of Reformation ideas is very plausible. Additionally, the early reception of Reformation ideas in Bergen is further proof that the Reformation was an “urban event”11 in Norway also, and it was primarily set in motion by the transfer of ideas from the German-speaking territories.to . A German ex-monk by the name of Antonius preached evangelical sermons there in 1526. It is likely that other evangelical preachers had reached the Norwegian city before him.
The Danish church ordinance of 1537 was accepted in Norway two years later, and the Reformation in Norway proceeded largely parallel to the Reformation in Denmark thereafter – though a little more slowly. Norway did not receive a Bible or a liturgy in its own vernacular, but had to be content with the Danish versions.
In, the Reformation was viewed as a Danish affair and was therefore greeted with resistance. However, in the diocese of Skálholt, the Danish church ordinance was accepted and the first evangelical bishop was ordained in 1542. The last bishop of Holar who was loyal to the old church, , was executed in 1550 because of his oppositional attitude. The opposition of the Icelandic bishops was primarily due to theological reasons, though it also had political implications. Around 1550, all resistance to the efforts of Copenhagen to reform the church were automatically viewed as a political resistence (and also as an attempt to defend Iceland’s religious and political independence). The New Testament was published in Icelandic in 1540, and an Icelandic Bible was published in 1584.
In June 1523, Gustav Vasa was elected king in Strängnäs. His power was precarious. In central Europe, he was viewed – like Frederick I – as a usurper. The exiled Christian II was viewed as the legitimate ruler. Lübeck had not provided assistance in the fight against Christian II for free, and it now pushed for the repayment of the debts. Secularization of church property seemed the suitable way of achieving this. The regents who had been installed in Sweden during the late-medieval period had already curtailed the freedoms of the church. But this did not go far enough for Gustav Vasa. He aimed to crush the political power of the church and to claim its property and income for the crown. That seemed the only way to reduce the debt burden of the realm. At the end of the Middle Ages, one-fifth of Swedish landed estates were in church ownership.
The medieval Cathedral of Strängnäs is a gothic, brick-built, three-aisled church, which played an important role in the Reformation period. It was here that the Swedish reformers Olaus Petri and Laurentius Andreae (who was archdeacon of the cathedral chapter) began their endeavours. Gustav Vasa was elected king here is 1523. / Photo by Otfried Czaika
Olaus Petri was a central figure in the implementation of the Reformation in Sweden. As the first Swedish pupil of Luther, he returned to Sweden from Wittenberg University in 1518 and won Laurentius Andreae – who along with Olaus Petri and his brother Laurentius Petri is regarded as the foremost reformer of Sweden – over to the cause of the Reformation. Olaus Petri wrote polemical texts against the Mass, celibacy, the cult of the saints and monastic life, and he published a Mass and a liturgy in Swedish. In Petri’s writings from the 1520s, Martin Luther is identified as the theological authority on which the Swedish Reformation is based. However, influences from the south-western German Reformation – transferred via connections with Prussia – were also conspicuous in his theology. In his early writings, his position on the Eucharist was close to the theology of Ulrich Zwingli. / Photo by Peter Isotalo, Wikimedia Commons
The leading figure of the Swedish Reformation was, the archdeacon of the cathedral chapter in Strängnäs. The young , who had been Luther’s first Swedish student, had returned to Sweden from Wittenberg in 1518 and had won Laurentius Andreae over to the cause of the Reformation.
Laurentius Andreae participated in the royal election as a notary, and then became the king’s chancellor. From him, the king learned of how Martin Luther had taken a stand in Wittenberg against the pope, cardinals and powerful bishops, and had shown that the Bible does not contain a single word which justifies their power. “The church”, taught Andreae, “is not the clergy, but the Christian people”.12 From there, it was only a small step to the conclusion that the property of the church also belonged to the people. The Diet at in 1527 came to this very conclusion. The “superfluous” property of the church was declared forfeit to the state. As to which property was superfluous, this was decided by the king, not the churchmen. The bishops’ castles were razed and their garrisons were withdrawn. The bishops were expelled from the Council.
Following the German example, a disputation was held to resolve theological issues, and Olaus Petri was the main disputant on the evangelical side. No final resolution was reached, but it was agreed that the Word of God should be preached in its “pure” form everywhere. This was not a definitive decision to explicitly declare in favour of the doctrines of the Reformation, but it did allow for the preaching of Reformation doctrine. Gustav Vasa did not wish to introduce changes into the doctrine and customs of the church as quickly as Olaus Petri and Laurentius Andreae wished, because the people stubbornly adhered to the “good, old (Christian) ceremonies”.13 To introduce change too quickly would have led to unrest and a fractious mood.
Of the seven bishoprics, five were vacant in 1523, and the king aimed to fill them with men of his choosing. Gustav Vasa wrote to inform Rome that if the pope refused to confirm the king’s nominees, the king would have them confirmed “by the only and highest bishop, Christ”. The royal chancellor, Laurentius Andreae, had drafted the provocative letter. It resulted in the severing of connections with the Holy See. According to Andreae, the Swedish bishops were now “evangelical, rather than papal, bishops, bishops according to the Word of God, not according to the word of the pope.”14 The king had de facto placed himself at the head of the church in the place of the pope.
After the Diet at Västerås, the leading bishop of the old church,of , fled to , and the last archbishop confirmed by the pope, , fled to Rome. , the younger brother of Olaus Petri, became the new archbishop in 1531, having been appointed by the king. Laurentius Petri was only 32 years old and, like his brother, had studied in Wittenberg, which enjoyed a good reputation far beyond Germany despite the fact that it was founded comparatively recently. The brothers, who shared a humanistic outlook, tried to settle in at University in 1516, before changing to Wittenberg in the same year, when things did not work out in Leipzig. Both studied under Luther and Melanchthon and were strongly influenced by their teachings. Since Laurentius had been ordained by the bishop of Västerås, who had been ordained in Rome, the apostolic succession was maintained in Sweden.
[LEFT]: In 1526, the New Testament was translated into Swedish for the first time. It is not known who the translator was, but it seems almost certain that Olaus Petri and Laurentius Petri played an important role, particularly towards the end. / Kungliga biblioteket
[RIGHT]: The Finnish reformer Mikael Agricola can be described as the father of the written Finnish language. He studied in Wittenberg from 1536 to 1539 under Luther, Melanchthon and Bugenhagen. After he returned to Finland, he became rector of the cathedral school in Turku, and in 1554 he became bishop of Turku. However, he only held this office for a short period, which was overshadowed by a war between Sweden and Russia. Agricola’s magnum opus was a Finnish translation of the New Testament which was published in 1548. It was based on the Greek text published by Erasmus, Erasmus’s Latin translation, the Latin Vulgate Bible, Luther’s Bible translation, as well as the Swedish New Testament of 1526 and the Gustav Vasa Bible of 1541. Agricola’s foreword and marginal glosses came mainly from Luther’s German translation and the Gustav Vasa Bible. / Photo by Fanny Schertzer, Wikimedia Commons
In the case of Sweden, it is not possible to speak of an urban Reformation or a Reformation from below, as was the case in Denmark. The only large city was Stockholm with 4,000 residents, about half of whom were German. Nicolaus Stecker, the evangelically-minded priest who served in the city, had come from 15 In this case also, it is likely that Prussia played a central role in the transfer of theological ideas.and was a supporter of Luther. Additionally, from 1524, Olaus Petri was the preacher in the city church and the city notary with a vote in the city council. In the following year, he married, while still a priest. Olaus Petri wrote polemical texts against the Mass, celibacy, the cult of the saints and monastic life, and he published a Swedish Mass and agenda (liturgy book). The only Swedish printing house was under royal supervision and it only published texts which were inspired by the Wittenberg Reformation. In 1526, the New Testament was published in Swedish. After the Reformation from above in Denmark in 1536, Gustav Vasa abandoned his cautious approach. Celibacy was abolished, the monasteries of the mendicant orders were closed, and Olaus Petri’s liturgy was declared the norm. The influence of Wittenberg on the Swedish reformers is not – and this is typical of all Scandiavian reformers – reflected in any comprehensive, systematic theological texts, but rather is primarily reflected in writings which deal with more practical church reforms. Among these are, for example, Olaus Petri’s treatise on monastic life of 1528, his hymnal of 1530, his collection of sermons of the same year, and his Swedish Mass of 1531. However – and this is also typical of the Reformation in Scandinavia – the reformers in the Danish and Swedish kingdoms did not rigidly adhere to the teachings they had inherited from their German role models. For example, due to connections with nearby Prussia, influences from the south-western German Reformation are conspicuous in Olaus Petri’s theology. The position which he adopted on the Eucharist in his early writings is very close to the theology of . In his Rucouskiria(prayer book), the Finnish reformer included the entire prayer book of .
Portrait of Philipp Melanchthon (1497–1560): Not only the superintendent Georg Norman had been a pupil of Philipp Melanchthon, but almost all other theologians in the Swedish kingdom who subscribed to the ideas of the Reformation, including the Finnish reformer Mikael Agricola. By Albrecht Dürer / Kungliga biblioteket
In the late-1530s, the king adopted a course which was more directed at establishing a state church. Laurentius Andreae and Olaus Petri were arrested, and Archbishop Laurentius Petri also fell out of favour with the king. In 1539, Gustav Vasa forbade the archbishop to implement reforms without royal permission. The king viewed the episcopal system as obsolete and he tried to convert it into a system of control by the territorial ruler. To this end, he appointed the learned former student of Melanchthon 16as superintendent for the whole of Sweden, “above bishops, prelates and all other clergy”.
However, this so-called “German period” did not last long. Georg Norman visited the southern dioceses in 1540, but he became chancellor in the very next year. After the revolt in southern Sweden in 1543, which was supported by Catholic priests and exiled prelates, the king relented. The episcopal order remained intact.
At the Council at Västerås in 1544, it was decided to retain the Lutheran vera doctrina. In 1541, the brothers Petri und Laurentius Andreae published the Gustav Vasa Bible. Large parts of this Bible had been translated into Swedish directly from Luther’s German Bible translation. As in Olaus Petri’s writings from the 1520s, Martin Luther is identified in the foreword to this first full Swedish Bible as the theological authority for the Swedish Reformation; his German Bible translation is described as being better than the Latin Vulgate version. The Gustav Vasa Bible was important for the development of Swedish as a national language because it established a new form of writing which was different from written Danish. Additionally, this Bible translation was strongly influenced by its German source text both syntactically and stylistically, and it established the written Swedish language of the Early Modern period.
At the time of the death of the old king in September 1560, his kingdom was evangelical in the sense that it was committed to the “pure Word of God”. But there was neither a printed church ordinance confirmed by the king nor an official statement of faith. This changed under his successors.
The three sons of the king were – in contrast to their father – educated in theology and humanism. The eldest, who became 17 The Calvinist immigrants campaigned for the right of freedom of religious practice and sought a royal patent granting Calvinism complete equality with the Lutheran creed. It was Calvinist immigrants who in 1564 formulated the Confessio a Gallis, in Suecia degentibus, the first statement of evangelical faith in Sweden. The Calvinists also had support at the Swedish court and enjoyed – at least temporarily – a degree of sympathy from the king. However, after 1563 the debate about Calvinist teachings became an internal controversy within the Swedish church. After the Nordic Seven Years’ War between Denmark and Sweden had broken out and the Danish naval blockade made the importation of Communion wine very difficult, the bishop of Västerås, , who had Calvinist sympathies, started holding “water Masses” in 1563, in which Communion wine was replaced with water. The theological debate about the Eucharist which this ignited is also referred to as the “liquoristic controversy”. The reaction to the controversy – both the king’s and that of the leadership of the Swedish church – clearly demonstrated the high degree of acceptance which Lutheran teachings enjoyed among the majority of Swedish theologians and on the part of the king, in spite of the fact that there had been no official statement of faith. In accordance with the Lutheran tradition, the Swedish church distanced itself from Calvinism during the 1560s by moving closer to contemporary Lutheran theology, in particular, as it was propounded by the Rostock professor .18, allowed , the Netherlands and to come to Sweden, primarily for economic reasons. As a result, a religious conflict broke out during his reign (1560–1568) which came to be known as the “Calvinist controversy”.
This theological direction was thrown into doubt when the increasingly demented King Eric XIV was deposed by his younger brotherand murdered. John III was married to the Polish princess . She was Catholic, but of a more tolerant and moderate, pre-Tridentine outlook. John had been educated in theology and was conversant with the teachings of the church fathers. From then on, the evangelical interpretation of the Bible and the teachings of Luther were no longer to be the sole authority on theology. The works of the church fathers were to be given equal standing. John wanted to steer the Swedish church along a via media. On the one hand, he wished to remodel the church in greater likeness of the old church, and, on the other hand, he hoped to extract some concessions from Rome. Negotiations were commenced with , and in 1574 a Polish Jesuit travelled to Stockholm. It was made clear to him that the king agreed with Roman Catholic doctrine in many respects. But the king and the whole population would only convert to Catholicism on condition that Rome agreed to Holy Communion sub utraque, the right of priests to marry, and the holding of services in the vernacular. However, Rome was not prepared to make any concessions and contact was suspended.
In October, 1573, the old Archbishop Laurentius Petri died. The church ordinance of 1571 which he had drafted was supplemented by a Nova Ordinantia, which was signed by all the bishops in 1575. This text reflected King John III’s interpretation of the church ordinance. It defined pure teaching – in line with the writings of 19– with a quote from : “We must adhere to that which all pious people in Christendom have everywhere and at all times believed and taught.”
In 1576, three years after the death of the archbishop, a missal promulgated by the king was published in Uppsala: the Liturgia svecanae ecclesiae catholicae et orthodoxae conformis. It contained the Mass liturgy – in parallel in Swedish and Latin – with numerous dogmatic commentaries in Latin. The foreword stated that the church must find a via media between superstitio and prophanitas. But, it continued, profanation presented the greater danger, and, consequently, it must be extirpated. The new liturgy, which was designed as a combination of the Swedish Mass and the Ordo Romanus, was intended to serve this purpose. However, due to the ubiquitous and intensifying contest between the confessions, all of which were attempting to consolidate their positions, this type of liturgy was viewed as a symbol of re-Catholicisation. It was virulently attacked by Lutherans.
However, with the king bringing his authority to bear, the liturgy was signed by the entire episcopate and by many priests at the Diet in Stockholm in 1577. Soon after, all priests were compelled to commit themselves to the royal liturgy. If they did not – and there were some objectors – they were removed from their offices. They were given refuge in the bishopric of Strängnäs in the dukedom of the staunchly Lutheran Duke. The fervent debate was conducted both verbally – there were many public disputations – as well as in writing.
Gradually, Catholic places of learning came back into favour again. Numerous young Swedes studied at Jesuit colleges in Poland, as well as at the Collegium Germanicum in Rome. Among them were two Finnish sons of bishops. It would not have been possible for them to return to John III’s Sweden, but the future promised changes. Crown Princehad enjoyed a Catholic upbringing and he acceded to the Polish throne in 1587.
After the death of John in 1592, Duke Karl presented himself as a defender of the Lutheran faith and in March 1593 he called the Council and the bishops together. The “Christian, free synod” of Uppsala reaffirmed the evangelical principle of the sole authority of the Bible and continued: “Additionally, we assert our commitment to and adhere in all respects to the Apostles’ Creed, the Nicene Creed and the Athanasian Creed, as well as to the oldest, correct and unchanged Confession of Augsburg, which was given to Emperor Charles the Fifth by the electors, princes and cities at the great Diet of Augsburg in 1530.”20
The synod rejected and condemned the liturgy which had been introduced under King John, which it described as popish superstition and as pointing the way to “all abominable popish errors”. Additionally, the synod distanced itself in resolute terms from “all the errors of the Sacramentarians, Zwingliites, Calvinists”, as well as from “Anabaptists and all other heretics, regardless of what name they carry”.21
Title Page of the First Swedish Translation of the Confessio Augustana, 1581, translated by Petrus Johannis Gothus (1530–1616) / Kungliga biblioteket
Sweden was now a Lutheran realm, though its statements of faith did not include the Formula of Concord. The resolutions of the synod were subsequently signed by almost every priest in the realm, by the upper nobility, as well as by the representatives of the cities and parishes, 2,167 signatures in total. In the following year, the first Swedish Corpus Doctrinae was published in Stockholm, the Confessio fidei. It contained the three creeds of the old church, the Confessio Augustana, the resolutions of the synod of Uppsala, as well as the collected signatures.
Crown Prince Sigismund was crowned king in January 1594 in Uppsala. He committed himself to protecting the religion of his subjects, which was based on the resolutions of the synod of Uppsala. He promised to only appoint to political offices persons who supported the Lutheran confession, i.e. who affirmed the Confessio Augustana in accordance with the resolutions in Uppsala in 1593. In 1598, the struggle for power between Sigismund and Duke Karl finally resulted in an armed confrontation and the defeat of the king. Sigismund returned to Poland, and the Diet repudiated its oath of allegiance. Duke Karl now ruled the land, though he did not assume the crown until 1604.
was part of the Swedish kingdom, and the Reformation was implemented in the diocese of (in Swedish, Åbo) in much the same way as in the other 6 dioceses of the church province of Uppsala. However, there were some differences. Most of the approximately 200,000 inhabitants spoke Finnish. No documents – either handwritten or printed – existed in this language in the Middle Ages. The Reformation gave the Finns a written language for the first time.
The first Finn to study under Luther, Peder Särkilax, returned to Turku in 1522. He was the first priest in the entire kingdom of Sweden to marry (he married in Germany) and his wife accompanied him back to Finland. To the clergy in the cathedral chapter in Turku, this was a provocation. But Särkilax enjoyed the support of the king, and he became the rector of the cathedral school. The Reformation quickly made ground. The writings of Olaus Petri were read in Turku shortly after they appeared, and other priests married.
In the 1520s, Swedes and Finns were not allowed to study at university because the bishops and the cathedral chapters, who still remained loyal to the old church, were afraid of the new teachings inspired by Luther. However, the situation changed in the kingdom of Sweden in the early-1530s, and the students were sent directly to Wittenberg.
This was a decisive turning point in favour of the Reformation. Not only the king, but several bishops, such as 22in Turku and Sveno Jacobi in , endowed students with stipends to enable them to study in Wittenberg. When they returned to the kingdom of Sweden, these Wittenberg alumni were quickly promoted within the church, and they contributed to the further spread of the Reformation in the kingdom of Sweden in their roles as schoolmasters, senior pastors and bishops.
The Finnish reformer Mikael Agricola had also studied in Wittenberg – from 1536 to 1539. After his return, he was made rector of the cathedral school in Turku. He was also a canon and secretary of the cathedral chapter. In 1554, he became bishop of Turku. However, his time as bishop was short, and it was overshadowed by the war between Sweden and. Agricola was a member of the delegation which Gustav Vasa sent to peace negotiations in . On the return journey, he fell ill and died on April 9, 1557.
Mikael Agricola can be described as the father of the written Finnish language. His writings were published in the period 1543–1552 in Stockholm. His magnum opus was the New Testament which was published in 1548. It was based on the Greek text published by Erasmus, Erasmus’s Latin translation, the Latin Vulgate Bible, Luther’s Bible translation, as well as the New Testament published in Swedish in 1526 and the Gustav Vasa Bible of 1541. Agricola’s foreword and marginal glosses mainly came from Luther’s Bible translation and the Gustav Vasa Bible. He tookforewords to the Gospels from Erasmus’s edition of the New Testament.
An examination of the Reformation in Scandinavia shows that reforming influences emanating from Wittenberg were taken up in all parts of Scandinavia and received new nuances in the context of the political forces and structural backgrounds which existed in the various parts of Scandinavia. Theological concerns, a popular religious practice which was often conservative, and the creation of new church structures contributed to the emergence of specific variations of a Lutheranism which had emerged from the Wittenberg Reformation, but which developed in different ways inthan in the Holy Roman Empire.
- Lausten, Reformation in Dänemark 2008, p. 82, transl. by N. W.
- ibidem, p. 42.
- This was the title of a monograph by Poul G. Lindhardt: Nederlagets maend: Det katolske bispevaeldes sidste dage i Danmark, Copenhagen 1968.
- Quoted after Lausten, Reformation in Dänemark 2008, p. 64, transl. by N. W. The original letter is contained in: Erasmi Epistolae, ed. P.S. Allen, Tom. VII (Oxford 1928), Epist. 1863 (28/08/1527).
- Lausten, Reformation in Dänemark 2008, p. 97, transl. by N. W.
- ibidem, p. 118, transl. by N. W.
- Grell, Reformation in Norway 2005, pp. 122–131.
- idem, Reformation 2005, pp. 122–131.
- Unger / Huitfeldt-Kaas, Diplomatarium Norvegicum 1875, No. 642, pp. 664–665; idem, Diplomatarium Norvegicum 1884, No. 522, pp. 583–585.
- Valkner, Reformasjonens 1970; Schreiner, Hanseaterne og Norge 1981; Grell, Reformation 2005, pp. 128–135.
- Scribner, The German Reformation 1986, p. 35.
- Westman, Reformationens genombrottsår 1918, p. 186.
- Reference is made to “goda, gamla sedvänjör” (in English “good, old manners/customs”) in numerous political and religious discussions in the Swedish kingdom around 1500. The response of the peasant estate to the Diet of 1527 states that the peasants wish to adhere to “right and law” and “good, old customs”. On this, see among others: Berntson, Klostren 2003, pp. 285–287.
- Gustav Vasas Registratur, vol. 12, Stockholm 1890, p. 173.
- Holma, Sangen 2008.
- Royal decree of 08/12/1539, in: Gustav Vasas Registratur, vol. 12, Stockholm 1890, p. 265.
- Kjöllerström, Striden 1935.
- Czaika, Chytraeus 2002, pp. 195–220.
- Nova Ordinantia, in: Kyrko-ordningar 1872, p. 194; Vinzenz von Lerinum, Mahnschrift 1972, p. 11.
- Eckerdal / Persson, Confessio 1993, pp. 9–10.
- ibidem, p. 14.
- Cf. Czaika, Sveno Jacobi 2012 [forthcoming].
Andrén, Åke: Sveriges kyrkohistoria 3: Reformationstiden, Stockholm 1999.
Andrén, Carl-Gustaf (ed.): Reformationen i Norden: Kontinuitet och förnyelse, Lund 1973 (Skrifter utgivna av Nordiskt Institut för Kyrkohistorisk Forskning 3).
Asche, Matthias / Schindling, Anton (eds.): Dänemark, Norwegen und Schweden im Zeitalter der Reformation und Konfessionalisierung: Nordische Königreiche und Konfession: 1500 bis 1600, Münster 2003.
Berntson, Martin: Klostren och reformationen, Skellefteå 2003.
Brohed, Ingmar (ed.): Reformationens konsolidering i de nordiska länderna 1540–1610, Oslo 1990.
Czaika, Otfried: David Chytraeus und die Universität Rostock in ihren Beziehungen zum schwedischen Reich, Helsinki 2002.
idem: La Scandinavie, in: Wolfgang Kaiser (ed.): L’Europe en conflits: Les affrontements religieux et la gènese de l’Europe (1500–1650), Rennes 2008, pp. 137–168.
idem: Sveno Jacobi: Boksamlaren, biskopen, teologen: En bok- och kyrkohistorisk studie, Stockholm 2012 [forthcoming].
Eckerdal, Lars / Persson, Per Erik (eds.): Confessio fidei: Uppsala mötes beslut 1593 om Svenska kyrkans bekännelse, Stockholm 1993.
Gíslason, Jónas: Art. “Iceland”, in: Encyclopedia of the Reformation, New York 1996, vol. 2, pp. 921–922.
Grane, Leif (ed.): University and Reformation: Lectures from the University of Copenhagen Symposium, Leiden 1981.
idem / Horby, Kai (eds.): Die dänische Reformation vor ihrem internationalen Hintergrund, Göttingen 1990 (Forschungen zur Kirchen- und Dogmengeschichte 46).
Grell, Ove Peter (ed.): The Scandinavian Reformation: From Evangelical Movement to Institutionalisation of Reform, Cambridge 1995.
Gustav Vasas Registratur, Stockholm 1890, vol. 12.
idem: The Reformation in Norway: A Political and Religious Takeover, in: Ralph Tuchtenhagen (ed.): Aspekte der Reformation im Ostseeraum, Lüneburg 2005 (Nordost-Archiv NF 13), pp. 121–144.
Heininen, Simo / Heikkilä, Markku: Kirchengeschichte Finnlands, Göttingen 2002.
Holma, Juhani: Sangen ialo Rucous: Schwenckfeldiläisten rukouskirja Mikael Agricolan lähteenä, Helsinki 2008.
Kjöllerström, Sven: Striden kring kalvinismen i Sverige under Erik XIV: En kyrkohistorisk studie, Lund 1935.
Kyrko-ordningar och förslag dertill före 1686. [Afd.] 1., Stockholm 1872.
Lausten, Martin Schwarz: Art. “Denmark”, in: Ecyclopedia of the Reformation, New York 1996, vol. 2, pp. 577–580.
idem: Die Reformation in Dänemark, Gütersloh 2008 (Schriften des Vereins für Reformationsgeschichte).
idem: Die heilige Stadt Wittenberg: Die Beziehungen des dänischen Königshauses zu Wittenberg in der Reformationszeit, Leipzig 2010 (Schriften der Stiftung Luthergedenkstätten in Sachsen-Anhalt 10).
Lindhardt, Poul Georg: Skandinavische Kirchengeschichte seit dem 16. Jahrhundert, Göttingen 1982.
idem: Nederlagets Maend: Det katolske bispevaeldets sidste dage i Danmark, Copenhagen 1968.
Montgomery, Ingun: Die cura religionis als Aufgabe des Fürsten: Perspektive der Zweiten Reformation in Schweden, in: Heinz Schilling (ed.): Die reformierte Konfessionalisierung in Deutschland: Das Problem der “zweiten Reformation”, Gütersloh 1986, pp. 266–290.
idem: Art. “Norway”, in: Encyclopedia of the Reformation, New York 1996, vol. 3, pp. 406–412.
Oftestad, Bernt T. / Rasmussen, Tarald / Schumacher, Jan: Norsk kirkehistorie, Oslo 1993.
Schreiner, Johan: Hanseaterne og Norge i det 16. aarhundres, in: Steinar Imsen / Steinar Supphellen: Studier i norsk historie 1537–ca. 1800: vol. 1: Lydriket 1537–1660, Oslo 1981, pp. 275–299.
Scribner, Robert W.: The German Reformation, Basingstoke et al. 1986.
Unger, Carl R. / Huitfeldt-Kaas, Henrik Jørgen (eds.): Diplomatarium Norvegicum: Oldbreve, Oslo 1874, vol. 8, online: http://www.dokpro.uio.no/dipl_norv/diplom_field_eng.html [31/07/2012].
idem: Diplomatarium Norvegicum: Oldbreve, Oslo 1884, vol. 11, online: http://archive.org/details/diplomatariumno16langgoog [31/07/2012].
Valkner, Kristen: Reformasjonens innforelse i Bergen, in: Per Jukvam / Bjorgvin Bispestol: Byen og bispedommet, Oslo 1970, pp. 167–181.
Vinzenz von Lerinum: Mahnschrift gegen die Irrlehrer (=Commonitorium adversus Haereticos), Kirchen (Sieg) 1972.
Westman, Knut B.: Reformationens genombrottsår i Sverige, Stockholm 1918.
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