in Denmark

The Lutheran Reformation in Sweden

A.) How Lutheranism emerged and prevailed in Sweden

Nominally, since 1397 Sweden was part of the KALMAR UNION, a dynastic union which united the kingdoms of Denmark, Norway and Sweden. Yet the union kings resided in Copenhagen, and Swedish nobility, throughout the 15th century, repeatedly fought the union kings and maintained a high degree of autonomy.
Union King Christian II. in 1517 succeeded in having the party under STEN STURE THE YOUNGER, which opposed his rule over Sweden, excommunicated by Pope Leo X., who also called for a crusade against Sweden, which Christian was to lead. Archbishop GUSTAV TROLLE, who sided with King Christian, was disacknowledged by the Swedish Riksdag late that year. In 1520 Christian's forces defeated the Sture party; Christian entered Stockholm and was crowned King of Sweden by Archbishop Gustav Trolle. The same archbishop presided as judge over a trial, in which noblemen which supported the Sture Party (Sten Sture the Younger had died in 1519) were accused of heresy, found guilty and sentenced to death (the STOCKHOLM BLOODBATH); 82 were executed.
The leadership of the Catholic church in Sweden had taken sides against the Swedish noblemen who resisted Danish rule; the instruments of crusade and ecclesiastic jurisdiction in the case of heresy had been abused to suit dynastic interests against Sweden.
In 1521 GUSTAVUS I. VASA started a new rebellion; soon he was supported by Bishop HANS BRASK of Linkoeping. In 1523 he took Stockholm and reestablished Sweden's independence.

In 1524, Gustavus I. Vasa appointed Lutheran OLAUS PETRI preacher at Stockholm Cathedral. Archbishop Johannes Magnus ordered by the pope to eradicate Protestantism (as a heresy) in Sweden, was dispatched on a diplomatic mission to Poland by King Gustavus; learning of the reformation of his country while abroad, he chose not to return. The publication of the New Testament in Swedish (1526) caused Sweden's (still Catholic) bishops, lead by Bishop Hans Brask of Linköping, to counteract. The king interpreted their opposition as supporting an uprising and thus treason; Hans Brask fled the country (1527).
The 1527 Riksdag at Västerås adopted Lutheranism for Sweden. A lot of church land was confiscated by the crown, crown land expanding from c. 8 % to c.25 %.
Church and state remained closely related; in 1531 Gustavus I. Vasa made Olaus Petri chancellor; in 1533 he dismissed him; in 1540 he even was accused of treason (they had protested against excessive confiscation of church property) and sentenced to death; the sentence was never executed; later he was granted amnesty.

B.) The Establishment of a Lutheran Church in Sweden

Olaus Petri and his brother Laurentius had studied in Wittenberg; they were the driving force behind the reformation of Sweden. Olaus Petri married in 1525 (even before Martin Luther married). Work on the translation of the Bible into Swedish was begun in 1525 (the translation leaning on that by Martin Luther); in 1526 the New Testament was printed in Swedish, for the purpose of which the printing press had been imported to Sweden. The first complete bible in Swedish language was published in 1541.
In 1529 a Swedish synod was held at Örebro; many catholic holidays were abolished, in 1536 the rule that mass should be held in Swedish adopted. Catholicism was phased out, as Catholic bishops were succeeded by Protestant ones.
Olaus Petri published a catechism, which leaned on that by Martin Luther. In 1531 the (Lutheran) clergy of Sweden elected LAURENTIUS PETRI, younger brother of Olaus Petri, archbishop of Uppsala.
In 1540 GEORG NORMAN was appointed, by King Gustavus I., SUPERINTENDENT of Sweden's Lutheran church; thus state influence over the church had been established.
In 1571 King Johan approved a CHURCH ORDINANCE written by Laurentius Petri and adopted by the Synod of Uppsala in 1572.

C.) The History of the Swedish Lutheran Church

King Johan, in 1578 declared his conversion to Catholicism, only to reconvert to Lutheranism the year after when Rome rejected the conditions under which Catholicism was to be reintroduced in Sweden.
When Poland elected Swedish crown prince SIGISMUND VASA king in 1587, he had to convert to Catholicism; in 1592 he succeeded to the Swedish throne. Although he promised to respect Sweden's Lutheran state religion (confirmed as such in 1593), the Lutheran clergy was highly suspicious of him and supported the efforts of his relative Karl, who ousted Sigismund in 1600.
Under Karl IX. (1604-1611) and Gustavus II. Adolphus (1611-1632), Sweden was staunchly Lutheran, Gustavus II. Adolphus, in the 30 Years War even becoming the saviour of Lutheranism in Germany.
Gustavus II. Adolphus' only daughter CHRISTINA (1644-1654) in 1654 shocked her countrymen by declaring her abdication and conversion to Catholic faith. King KARL XI. (1660-1697) in 1686 published a CHURCH ORDINANCE according to which anyone not of Lutheran faith was given two weeks to leave the country; the same ordinance made the King head of the Swedish Lutheran Church.
Only under enlightened monarch GUSTAVUS III. (1772-1792) was religious toleration introduced, that is foreigners of non-Lutheran faith were permitted to settle in Sweden and practice their religion (1781); a law threatened Lutherans who would apostatize with banishment, a law which remained in force until 1860.

Chronology of Swedish History, 1500-1599, 1600-1650, 1650-1700, by Ken Polsson
Biography of Olaus Petri, from Ökumenisches Heiligenlexikon, in German
Biography of Laurentius Petri, from Ökumenisches Heiligenlexikon, in German
DOCUMENTS Olaus Petri, collected works, from Project Runeberg in Swedish
REFERENCE Franklin D. Scott, Sweden : The Nation's History, Univ. of Minnesota Press 1977
Jerker Rosen, Svensk Historia Vol.1, Stockholm : Esselte (1962) 1983
Mark Greengrass, The Longman Companion to the European Reformation c.1500-1618, Harlow (Essex): Longman 1998, p.91, KMLA Lib.Sign. 274.06 GB 121

This page is part of World History at KMLA
First posted in 2001, last revised on November 15th 2004

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