[Olavus Petri and  the Reformation in Sweden

Olavus Petri and the Reformation in Sweden

Narrated by Kai Swanson

45-minute video

This video represents my first attempt in producing a slide presentation on videotape complete with narration and background music. It deals with Olavus Petri (1493-1552) and Reformation of the 16th century in Sweden, see The Lutheran Journal Vol. 58, No. 3, 1989 and Vol. 59, No. 1, 1990. The photograph shows a statue of Petri erected in the 19th century in front of the Great Church in Stockholm, where the Reformer often preached and where he lies buried under the altar.

In order to understand the Reformation in Sweden, it may be well to first look at the Reformation in Germany. When Saxony was divided in the late 15th century, one part belonged to George the Bearded who had an established university in the city of Leipzig. The other Saxony was in the territory of the Elector of Saxony, Frederick the Wise. He had his residence in Wittenberg. Since Frederick had no university, he established one in 1502. Six years later, Luther was asked to come to the University of Wittenberg and take over the professorship in Moral Philosophy in the College of Liberal Arts. There were hardly more than 300 students in Wittenberg when Luther arrived. After Luther posted his 95 Theses on the door of the Castle Church, his fame began to spread throughout Europe. He not only attracted some of the greatest scholars throughout Europe, but also its best students. Among them were Johannes Brenz, the Reformer of Southern Germany; John Agricola, the Reformer in Northern Germany including Berlin; John Bugenhagen, the Reformer of Schleswig Holstein and Denmark. In Sweden, King Gustav Vasa carried out the Reformation in 1527 with the assistance of Luther's pupils, Olavus and Lorentius Petri.

During the 19th century, a church was built in Petri's honor in the city of his birth Örebro, Sweden. Petri was born on January 6, 1493. After his early schooling in Örebro, Olavus studied at Uppsala University, the University of Leipzig, and entered Wittenberg University in 1516. He attended lectures by Luther and Melanchthon. In 1518, he received his master's degree from Wittenberg University. Following his return to Sweden in 1519, Olavus became at teacher in the cathedral school in Strängnas. Petri attended the coronation of the Danish King, Christian II in Stockholm. He also witnessed the massacre of 800 human beings which followed the coronation. Many of the dead were noblemen and councilmen. In 1520, Gustav Vasa escaped from Danish imprisonment and returned to Sweden. His aim was to free Sweden from Danish power. In 1523, the Swedish Parliament elected Gustav Vasa King of Sweden. The king abolished the monasteries and tithes of the Church were given to the king. He also urged Olavus and his brother Laurentius to translate the Bible into Swedish. In 1528, Gustav Vasa was crowned King of Sweden and the Church was dictated by the State. Petri gave the new nation the first translation of the New Testament in 1526, the first Swedish Book of Sermons and Catechism in 1530, the first Church Book in 1531, and the Swedish Psalm Book in 1536.

Aside from the Olavus Petri video in Special Collections, Augustana College Library, no other copies are available.

Erwin Weber

May, 1997