By Roman Zakharii,

Seminar , Fri 17.02.01



"The establishment in Scandinavia of the Catholic Church in its Roman version brought the former tribesmen of the north into the concert of Europe" (Einar Haugen "The Sacandinavian Languages", p. 180)


Background history:


Unsuccessful attempts were made to win converts to Christianity in Norway during the 10th

century. Christianity came to Norway in the 11th century through the kings Olaf Tryggvason (reigned 995-c. 1000) and Olaf II Haraldsson (reigned 1015-30), both of whom had been baptised outside of Norway before

becoming king, forced many of their subjects to accept Christianity. Olaf II brought clergy from

England to organize the church. After he was killed in battle, he became a national hero and

was eventually canonized as Norway's patron saint (1164). ). The country was finally converted after the death of the king St. Olav (+ 1030) and it was primarily Christian by the end of the 11th century. In 1152 1152 the church was organized nationally and national church was established, with the archbishopric in Nidaros, with the seat and residence of the archbishop in Nidaros (now Trondheim. Cardinal Nicolas Breakspear established Church province in 1153. The Christianisation was largely the work of Anglo-Saxon missionaries, and the Norwegian Church has been considered the only daughter of the English. The prosperous years of the High Middle Ages were followed by decline for Church and nation alike, although Norwegian Catolicism retained much of its vitality.

Ecclesiastically, Norway was at first under the direction of the Archbishop of Lund (1103); later (1152) under the Archbishop of Trondhjem, who had jurisdiction over the Bishops of Bergen, Stavanger, Oslo, Hamar, Farvê, Kirkwall (Orkney Islands), Skalholt and Holar (Holum) in Iceland, and Gardar (Garde) in Greenland. Jerntland was subject to the Swedish Archdiocese of Upsala. There were a thousand well-endowed churches, thirty monasteries, and various orders of women: Benedictines, Cistercians, Præmonstratensians, Dominicans, Franciscans, Augustinians, and Brigittines. Schools were attached to the cathedrals and to most of the monasteries.




It was benefit for the king, that he profited politically from inroducing a new reliogion, he found vauable advisors and helpers among he clergy. The priests could write, had contact with foreign countries and also could serve as klingæs spokesman to the people. Gradually the country became covered with local churches, owned and administered BY THE PARISHIONERS THEMSELVES JOINTLY OR BY PRIVATE CHURCH BUILDERS AND THEIR SUCCESSORS. The privately owned churches were called "convenience churches" (hoegendiskirkjur), many of which later became parish churches. Gradually the local churches came under control of bishops, thsu laying foundations for a nationwide church organization.

The king controlled the church in the 11 th century and the beginning of the 12 th primarily through his appointing of bishops. At the same time, the farmers had influence on church and religious life. Christianity and church organization were made law at the SECULAR LQGTHINGS. The provincial laws included special church laws with provisions governing the relationship between the church and people...

The church still did not have any inner legislation based on the universally recognized canonical principles. With the help of of the king's authority, it had to get its program and ist organization sanctioned at the legal lqgthing by the representative of the free Norwegian farmer society. Individual church laws came into existance for the Gulathing Law in Vestlandet, the Frostuthing Law in Trondelag, the Eithsivathing Law in Oppland and the Borgarthing Law in Viken.

The farmers also influenced the appoitnment of priests, who were gradually recruited from the local community and attached to it throuh marriage. The priests were supported by the farmers, whow ere responsible for the building and maintaince of the local churches, which were their common property.




In the first half of 12 th century, the Church became more independent of the Crown, and at the same time more firmly allied to the International papal Church.

Originally, the Norwegian Church had been under the archbishop in Hamburg-Bremen, and since 1004 under the archbishop in Lund. In 1152 or 1153, the papal legate Nicolaus Brekespear came to Norway to establish a Norwegian archbishop's seat in Nidaross.

The Church received its own national organization with parishes and bishoprics under the leadership of the archbishop, and became a public authority parallel with the kingdom. The Norwegian Church province comprised 11 bishoprics, five in Norway proper - Nidaross, Bergen, Oslo, Stavanger (established in the 1120 s), and Hamar (established at the time of foundation of the archbishopric) - 6 in the Nordic island communities in the west - Skalholt and Holar is Iceland, and Greenland, the Faroe islands, the Orkney-Shetland, and Hebrides-Man. THIS NEW ARRANGEMENT HAD ITS POLICY OF SEPARATING SMALLER PROVINCES ON THE FRINGES OF EUROPE AND DRAWING THEM INTO A FIRMER SUBORDINATE RELATIONSHIP WITH ROME.

Kingdom looses the control over the church (King Magnus' concessions):

In 1152/3 and under Magnus Erlingson (1161 - 1184), the kingdom made concessions on three important points:

1. the Church should have decisive influence on the choice of bishops and abbots;

2. it should have administrative and financial jurisdiction over churches and church property;

3. it should have jurisdiction over personnel and in ecclesiastic matters.


*From the earliest times the Church only had a certain judical authority through the penitential discipline connected with the confession.

Church increases its freedom (first of all from famers) and rights:

The Church freed itself from its dependence on the farmer community. The proprietary church system gave way to an ecclesiastical proprietary right. DURING 13 TH CENTURY, THE FARMERS' INFLUENCE ON LEGISLATION DISAPPEARED.



King Sverrir Sigurdarson (1177 - 1202) refused on important points to accept the ecclesiastical reform of 1152/3 and the adventages the Church had achieved under Magnus Erlingson. He demanded that the Church shoud submit to the king leadership as it had earlier, and refused to accept the concessions that previously had been made to the Church to the extent the Church itself interpreted them. This applied mainly to the election of bishops, appointment of priests, ecclesiastical jurisdiction, and income derived from fines. THIS ACTION LED TO THE CHURCH'S POLITICAL AND MILITARY OPOSITIONTO THE KING, AND DEVELOPED INTO THE MOST BITTER CONFLICT BETWEEN CROWN AND ECCLESIASTICAL AUTHORITIES IN MEDIEVAL NORWAY. It was not until Sverri's death that the conflict died down.

King Håkon Sverrison's reconciliation with the bishops in the same year was, however more a ceasefire than a solution. In the shelter of the ceasefire, it appears that the Church strengthened its position in the first half of the 13 th century. In the collaboration with the Crown, the Church was probbaly the weaker partner, not least during Håkon Hakonarson's stable absolute monarchy after 1240 (He ruled: 1217 - 1263). BUT THE KING GRADUALLY ACCEPTED THE NOTION OF A MORE AUTONOMOUS ECCLESIASTICAL ORGANIZATION with greater freedom and more extensive priveleges than under King Sverrir.


between Magnus Lagaboetir and Archbishop Jon Rauši.

Hakon's son and successor, magnus Lagaboetir ("Lawmender": 1263 - 1280) was more sympathetic than any previous king in his dealings with Archbishop Jon rauthi ("the red": 1268 - 1282). This resulted in a concordat in 1277, the Treaty of Tønsberg, where older ecclesiastical priveleges were confirmed and new ones were made.

The new adventages were primarily financial. The clergy, which from the second half of the 12 th century was exempted from military Lidangr service and leidangr taxes, had later achieved tax relief also for laypeople in the service of the archbishop. The Church gained ground also in the area of independent jurisdiction but it is debated to what extent this took place in relation to earlier theory and practice. Politically King Magnus was unwilling to accept ecclesiastical influence to the detriment of the monarchy on the matter of succession to the throne and in legislation. His concessions were made from a strong royal position.

Short struggle in early 1280 s

The barons and hirth officials, who, as members of of the king's council, took over the reign for the underaged Eirikr Magnusson in 1280, were unwilling to accept the Church's jurisdition and economic gains even though they had participated in sanctioning them. Nor would they accept Archbishop Jon's demand for rule over the ecclesiastic legislation. The refusal led to a short but bitter struggle in the early 1280 s. Archbishop Jon and two of his bishops were exiled. Shortly after he died in Sweden.

When the relations between the royal power and the Church had gradually became normal again, the Church could practice a high degree of autonomy, although not quite according to the agreement of 1277. During the rest of the high Middle Ages, there continued a struggle over the boundaries of this autonomy.




In the collaboration between Church and kingdom, significant advances had been made toward both an ecclesiastic and a royal national organization:

- the church played an active role in the development of the royal apparatus after the civil wars ended in 1240.

- with the exception of the struggle in 1280 s, the bishops served as the king's advisers.

- clerics served him on missions and in administrative matters.

Monasteries gained foothold in Norway from beginning of the 12 th century. Monasteries and nunneries of the Benedectine order or its reformed branch, the Cluniacs, were established first. In the 1140 s, the Cluniacs gained a foothold from England. In the second half of the 12 th century, the ordinated Augustinians established monasteries, and from 1240 the mendicant orders, Dominicans and Franciscans, established themselves in Norwegian towns. They were relatively independent of the episcopal church

In the first half of the 14 th century, there were about 30 monasteries in Norway. They were very few and small in comparison with southern countries, BUT PLAYED AN IMPORTANT ROLE AS CENTERS OF LEARNING AND POINTS OF CONTACT WITH EUROPEAN RELIGIOUS LIFE. The expansion of monasteries took place in collaboration with the bishops, and monasteries contributed to the disengagement from the secular community and the strengthening of the episcopal church.

While in Denmark, the first monasteries were founded in the 11 th century, especially by the Benedectine and Augustinian canons and in the 12 th century it is possible to see the outlines of ecclesiastical organization in denmark. Generally, a diocese was divided into several provostships with some archdiaconal functions, in jutland often based on an older territorial system of syssel (comp. English "shire" or German Gau) and cathedral chapters come into existance (in Ribe in 1145), initially wavering between a regular and a secular organization.

The early Danish church had to beg for Rotal support. But in the 12 th century, the growing international influence resulted in an attempt to enforce celibacy, and, in the Gregorian tradition, many leading churchmen claimed total immunity from secular interference.




Ottonian emperors of germany used the mission as a political instrument. In 948 Otoo I founded missionary bishoprics with titular seats in Schleswieg, Ribe and Århus. Like the kings of Poland (968) and Bohemia king harald was baptised at thsi time (as the runic stones of Jelling tell us). A bishop of Odense was recorded in 988 but little is known of this early period.

The new Danish church was subordinated under the archibishop of Hamburg-Bremen, although the kings wanted a more independent church. When Sven Forkbeardand hsi son Knut 1013-1035) concuered England, the German influence was replaced with that of Anglo-Saxon Church, whose importance can still be seen in the danish language,w here everyday Christian terms are generally Anglo-Saxon.


The growing tension between Danish king and German emperors made the subordination of the Danish bishops under the archbishop of Hamburg-Bremen intolarble. As several popes were sympatethic to any curtailment of imperial sovereignty, Danish province was established in 1104 with Lund as the metropolitan center, originally for all Scandinavia but since Norwegian oprovince was founded in 1152 in Nidaross and Swedish province in 1164 in Uppsala, the archbishops of Lund continued to claim the title of primate of Sweden)

It is reasonable to suppose that early Danish Church had to accept increasing international ecclesiastical organization. According to trdition King Knud tried to introduce some sort of ecclesiastic juurisdiction and probably tithes too). With the establishment of danish province the principle of paying tithes must have met with some success.

Crusades againts the heathen Slavonic tribes on the baltic coastlands added the island of Rugen to the diocese of Roskilde (1169) and several Cisterician houses in the north of Germany were founded by denmark (for instance Colbatz in 1175 and olivia in 1186)

Already by early 13 th century, the archdiocese established its own administrative system in Denmark. The lder provosts were supplanted by a system of rural deans in each hundred. There were enormous differences in wealth and importance between the abbeys and monasteries, for example, the Cisterian abbey of Søro and the priory of the Hospitallers in Antvorskov.


Most ofthe leading churchmen in thsi period studied abroad, especially in Paris: From 1200 onward whole group of danish (at least Scandinavian) scholars in France, including philosophers (Boethius, Johannes, and Martines de Dacia, the latter for a period as royal chancellor) and astronomers (Petrus Philomena, ca 1300 and Johannes Simonis, 1417 in Vienna)

The Church became the country's greatest landowner in the late Middle Ages. early in the 14 th century, it owned approximately 40 % of the nation's land estimated on the basis of of the assessment of landholdings. It thsu received extensive economic rights and functions.



The conflicts in the high Middle Ages between Church and state ended in a theoretical victory for the Church. But in its struggles for immunities and independence from the secular powers, the danish church had become increasingly dependent upon Rome. Instead of roayl taxes, the bishops had to pay considerable amounts of annets for papal confirmation. The popes interfered in episcopal elections, claimed rights of provision, and through appeals to Curia made their power felt in everyday life. especially unpopular were numerous papal crusade taxes; and since the 14 th century was filled with crises, warfare, and civil war, culminating in an interregnum in Denmark in 1332-1340.


The Church had an important cultural function.

Christianity brought Norway into regulat contact with European spiritual life. It was primarily clerics who received a higher education in Europe at the universities that become established from the time of the second half of the 12 th century.

The Church brought the art of reading and writing to the country, and thsu established the basis for the written literature of the high Middle Ages. Together with the Crown, the Church created the milieu for this literature, and provided the impetus for some of the best examples of architecture and pictorial art.

Preaching comprised the only contemporary vehicle for enlightment of the people through the exposition of the Christian faith with rote learning of the Creed, the Lord's prayer, and the Hail Mary.

With the cathedral and monastic schools, the ecclesiastical institutions organized nearly all education in the Middle Ages. Education was aimed mainly at clerics, but the royal household, royal administration, and secular aristocracy profiled from it as well. in the 14 th century clerics numbered ab. 2.00 in Norway. At the top of the hierarchy there was a group of about 100 prelates: archbishop, bishops, abbots, abbesses, cathedral canons, chapel deans, and the college priests at the most distinguished royal chapels. Most of clerics had more modest economic and social positions.


  • The Latin became the first "teacher language" to Scandinavia, as it was to the rest of West Europe in the Middle Ages
  • The church became the first official educator by establishing cathedral and monastery schools from 1100 on, under the auspices of the Benedectine, Augustinian, Cistercian, franciscan, Dominican and other orders. Their techaers and students were the first international class in Scandinavia, enjoying the free exchange of studies with the rest of Europe, but especially with Paris and it famosu university. Sacndinavian Universities were not established until late 15 th century, Uppsala in 1477 and Copenhagen in 1479.
  • The Church brought with it a tradition of manuscript writing that was to the north and proved to have inestimable value both for Church and Government. As far as we can see the first early clerks were clerics, and their first skill was in the writing of Latin.
  • Outside Iceland, most of remaining literature consisted of translations, reflecting a newer and more international European current of thought and style (translations of sermons, saints' legends, prayers, and such edifying dialogs as "the Quarell of Body and Soul". Portion of Bible now knwon as "Stjorn" was translated.
  • In Norway and Iceland the native languages became the vehicle of one of the most creative literatures of the Middle Ages. While in Sweden and Denmark most original writing was in Latin.
  • Influence of English missionaries in Norway and Iceland resulted in advance of writing on parchment in native languages. The laws were among the first and most massive documents to be put on parchment. The fisrt Icelandic laws were written in 1117 - 18.

Christianity meant "victory for civilization" as professor Björn Þorsteinsson writes in his compact edition of Icelands history of the Middle Ages (Íslensk miðaldasaga). The Icelanders learned to write and read. They were introduced to a new kind of music, the art of painting and architecture and became accepted among nations south on the continent. The pillars of the culture were the bishoprics and the abbeys.

St. Henrik - the patron saint of Finland

St. Henrik is said to have been the first bishop of Finland. According to somewhat vague historical sources he was born in Britain. During the reign of Erik the Saint, King of Sweden, he was probably a missionary bishop for the Baltic area, living in Uppsala, Sweden, and working energetically for the establishment of the Christian faith. He took part in a crusade to Finland, organised by the king in 1155.

When the king had returned home with his troops, Bishop Henrik remained in Finland to continue organising ecclesiastical life. He is said to have died a martyr's death the winter after the crusade (on 19 or 20 January in 1156). According to tradition, a peasant named Lalli, who had been excommunicated for manslaughter, killed Henrik on the ice of Lake Köyliö. Another version of the event claims that there were three killers: Lalli (Laurentius), Pentti (Benedictus) and Olli (Olav).

Bishop Henrik was first buried in the village church of Nousiainen but on 18 June, 1300, his earthly remains were transferred to the cathedral of Turku.

On a small man-made island at the place where Saint Henrik was killed, a memorial chapel was built, apparently in the 14th century. The chapel eventually fell into ruin and all that remains of it now are some scattered stones and timber. The island became a popular place of pilgrimage during the Middle Ages, and to this day Finnish Catholics gather there annually on a Sunday in mid-June to venerate the memory of St. Henrik and to thank God for the grace he has shown to Finland and the Finns through the saint and his successors.

No documents have been preserved of the canonisation of Bishop Henrik. The first document in which he is referred to as "saint" is a letter of Pope Boniface VIII from the year 1296. St. Henrik became the patron of the Cathedral of Turku and later the patron of the church and nation of Finland. His feast day is 19 January.