- Reformation in Denmark
The Reformation in Denmark meant the transition from
Roman Catholicismto Protestant Lutheranism in the Church of Denmarkwhich was implemented in 1536at the decision of King Christian III. The Protestant Reformationin Europedid not happen from one day to another though; the transition itself took place in a period of several decades, beginning in the Holy Roman Empire of the German Nationwhere Martin Lutherstarted it all in 1517. In Denmark, the Reformation required two years of civil war before the new victorious King could come to power and finally carry out the transition.
1525, Hans Tausen, a monkfrom the monastery of Antvorskov, had begun preaching Lutheran doctrines in Viborg. In the years hereafter, the Lutheran movement began spreading throughout the country, and although King Frederick I had pledged in his " håndfæstning" ('charter') to fight against Lutheranism, he nevertheless issued an edict to the citizens of Viborg in 1526, obliging them to protect Hans Tausen.
The Lutheran movement had its origins in
Germanyand was named after Martin Luther who was the prime mover. The movement quickly gained great influence in Denmark, although humanists like Poul Helgesenlong tried to maintain a reform movement within the Roman Churchinstead of abolishing it altogether as the Lutherans would.
During the first years of the
1530s, the King's passivity encouraged the people to attack monasteries and churches. Former King Christian II who had lived in exile since 1526took advantage of the unrest and issued propagandawritings, agitating for himself and the new Lutheran doctrine. When Frederick I died in 1533, the Council of the Realm could not come to an agreement on who should be the new king. A Roman Catholic majority preferred Frederick's 12-year-old son Hans while a minority supported Hans' half-brother Christian who as duke of Slesvig and Holsten had introduced Lutheranism there during the 1520s.
The election of a new king was postponed for a year due to the disagreement and in the meanwhile the Council of the Realm would rule and the
bishops decide what could be preached in their respective dioceses. Moreover, Hans Tausen was accused of heresyand banished from Zealandbut the bishop of Roskildecalled him back after only one month. Discontent with the nobility taking over control of the country through the Council made citizens from Malmøand Copenhagenalong with peasants, especially from northern Jutland, rally around exiled King Christian II.
The Council had furthermore decided to join a Netherlandic-Slesvigian-Holsatian alliance in stead of
Lübeckwhich by Mayor Jürgen Wullenweverhad also been represented at the Council's meeting.
1534, the city government of Malmø led by Mayor Jørgen Kockrefused to comply with an order from the archbishopric to expel the Lutheran preachers. Malmø had already for long been a centre of Evangelical activities and responded to the order by occupying Malmø Castle and arresting the overlord. In May, this rebellion was followed up by the German Count Christopher of Oldenburgattacking Holsten. He had been hired by Koch of Malmø and Wullenwever of Lübeck to conquer Denmark, officially i order to restore King Christian II. Count Christopher's participation in the following two years of civil warnamed it "The Count's Feud." The Count's main objective was not Holsten but Zealand where he sailed and he quickly gained control of all Danish territory east of the Great Belt.
4 July1534 representatives of Jutlandic nobility and councillors met in Rye in eastern Jutland. Here the lesser nobility forced the bishops to nominate the Lutheran Christian, Duke of Slesvig and Holsten to the kingship. When the nobility of Funenjoined them, Christian agreed and homage was paid to him as King Christian III on 18 Augustthat year in Horsens.
After both Funen and Jutland had rebelled and
Swedenand Prussiahad become involved in the war in Scania, Lübeck withdrew from the struggle in January 1536, and on 6 April, Malmø surrendered, though without losing neither privileges nor Evangelical doctrine. After the population had starved for months, Copenhagen gave up too and Mayor Ambrosius Bogbindercommitted suicide. Like Malmø, Copenhagen did not lose its privileges either and the rebels were granted an amnesty.
Christian III marched into Copenhagen on
6 August1536 and six days later he carried out a coup. The three bishops who dwelt in Copenhagen were arrested and the rest were tracked down and likewise locked up. The official reason was their hesitation to elect Christian as king and other alleged criminal acts. The real reason was, however, that Christian wanted to kill two birds with one stone: carrying through a Lutheran Reformation and confiscating the bishops' properties, the profits from which was needed to cover the expenses of the recently ended civil war.
The next year, the conditions of the new Evangelical-Lutheran Church was ordered by an
ecclesiastical ordinancewhich was endorsed by Martin Luther himself. It turned against saintworship, fast days, celibacyand everything else that was considered Catholic foolery, and instead it decreed church services to be performed in Danish.
Most monks and nuns by far were allowed to stay in their monasteries (except the greyfriars) and the priests were allowed to keep their churches until they died. Only when the last monk or nun had died was the monastery added to the property of the Crown. Thus, in spite of the fierce procedures followed especially by Bishop
Peder Palladiuson Zealand, the Reformation became a relatively bloodless affair in Denmark.
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