History of Norway
Ken Lien provided the following interesting document:
HISTORY OF THE NORWEGIAN PEOPLE by Knut Gjerset, PHD. Vol. II copyright 1915, MacMillian Co.
20. THE REFORMATION IN NORWAY
The overthrow of the Catholic Church in Denmark was, quite naturally, followed by a like change in Norway, where its power was, if possible, even more hopelessly shattered. Some of the bishopries were vacant, and others had been vacated through the flight and imprisonment of the bishops. The Lutheran Church was established in Norway as a state church, at the head of which stood the Lutheran king. The Danish church ordinance of 1537, which was written with the assistance of Luther's friend and fellow-reformer, John Bugenhagen, became the temporary constitution of the Lutheran Church in Norway, though the king had promised to give the Norwegian church a separate ordinance, in which due consideration would be paid to local conditions. The priests should be allowed to remain in their charges, but the Catholic bishops were removed, and superintendents, or Lutheran bishops, were appointed to supervise the reformation of the doctrines of the church. Geble Pederssøn, a native of Helgeland (Haalogaland) in northern Norway, was appointed superintendent of the diocese of Bergen, as already stated, and the Danish church ordinance was accepted at the Oslo lagthing for the dioceses of Oslo and Hamar in 1539, but some time passed before superintendents were appointed for all the Norwegian dioceses. The estates which had hitherto belonged to the Catholic bshops were confiscated, one-half of the income from the tithes was paid to the crown, and the secularization of the monasteries, which had been began by Christian II., was continued by Christian III. In 1555 it is mentioned as completed. The property of the monasteries had been seized by the crown, and after 1562 the last traces of Norwegian monks disappear. The valuables belonging to the Norwegian churches and monasteries were seized and carried to Denmark. The king instructed Eske Bilde to see to it that nothing was removed “of chalices, plates, monstrances, jewels, silver, gilt tablets, and other such things which are and remain in churches and monasteries, that it may all be preserved, and thereby have due care for our interest and welfare." In a second letter he instructs Eske to collect "articles of gilt copper belonging to churches and monasteries, whether they be basreliefs, candlesticks, or the like, and forward them to Denmark." This kind of "preservation" was carried out so thoroughly that there was scarcely left sufficient of the sacred articles for the communion service. Peder Claussøn Friis (born 1545) writes: "But it is to be regretted, and it is not praiseworthy, that at the time of the introduction of the Evangelical faith they did not only take away from the churches and monasteries the articles and silver, and other treasures which were used in the Catholic service together with vestments and other such things, but they wantonly destroyed things from which they could derive no benefit; they tore down buildings, and needlessly burned valuable books and letters, and destroyed the ornaments and decorations of the churches, making God's houses cheerless and barren, which they might well have left undone, nor did they derive any benefit therefore from." As a further illustration of this kind of vandalism may be especially mentioned the spoliation of the great national sanctuary of St. Olav at Trondhjem. The remains of the saint were incased in a triple coffin, the inner of gilt silver, the others of wood richly studded with jewels, the outer being the ornamented cover over the real coffin. When Archbishop Olav left Trondhjem, he placed the remains of the saint in the middle coffin, and carried the other two with him to Steinviksholm castle, where he left them when he fled from the kingdom. The Danish general Ulfstand, who captured the castle, did not return them to Trondhjem, but sent them them to Denmark for the profit of the royal treasury.
While the king and his assistants chiefly devoted their attention to the pecuniary benefit which they might derive from the overthrow of the Catholic Church in Norway, the reform movement itself was making slow progress. The few Lutheran bishops, who had been appointed to superintend the introduction of the new doctrine could not reach the masses of the people, who were as yet scarcely aware that a change had been made. The Reformation, which in other lands came as a great spiritual awakening, was suddenly forced upon the Norwegian people by royal edict, hence it caused no new intellectual awakening, no spiritual regeneration. It was an affair of state to which the people finally yielded a more or less willing consent. A few Lutheran priests and a number of Danish Bibles were sent to Norway, but nothing was done to provide instruction for the people, or maintain the schools which already existed. Previous to the Reformation each cathedral had its school where students were prepared to pursue their studies at foreign universities, and the chapters supported a number of students who studied abroad. But shortly after the introduction of the Reformation, one of these schools, the Hamar cathedral school, was discontinued, and the prebends of the cathedral from which they derived their income were seized by the king, who used the revenues derived from them to pay Danish courtiers and ecclesiastics. As a result the chapters were no longer able to keep students at the universities, and after the old priests died or became unable to serve, there was a deplorable want even of ministers of the gospel. Lutheran ministers had to be sent from Denmark, but the people clung to the old faith, and the new ministers were generally ill treated, and not a few were killed. Peder Claussøn Friis, clergyman in Undal, in Stavanger stift (1566-1614), writes: "But at the time when the old bishops in these kingdoms were dismissed, and the religion was altered and changed, and the pure word of God, which had long been obscured by falsehood and human invention, was again restored, the inhabitants of the country were so displeased that they were filled with spite and hatred towards the Protestant clergymen and the whole ministry. The tithes were not fully or regularly paid, and in some districts the people offered the government large sums of money if they would be left without ministers for some years". The first effect of the introduction of the new teaching was a general deterioration of public morals, while papistical superstitions continued to live for centuries. Crucifixes and pictures of saints were believed to possess healing qualities, and receive adoration which was akin to worship. Pilgrimages were made to them from far away. Even as late as 1835 pilgrimages were made to a crucifix in Rodal.
The dioceses of Oslo and Hamar were united under the superintendency of the Oslo Bishop, Hans Reff, who had accepted the Lutheran faith. The ablest and in every way the worthiest of the early Lutheran superintendents in Norway was Geble Pederssøn in Bergen. He as a devoted Lutheran, and exercised a true reformatory activity in his diocese. He sought to secure Lutheran clergymen for various parishes, and founded the Latin school at Bergen, which developed under his supervision to become an efficient institution of learning according to the new humanistic ideas. Efficient teachers were secured, and new buildings were erected through Geble's efforts. He sent students to Copenhagen, Rostock, and Wittenberg, among others Absalon Pederssøn, whom he kept at the University of Copenhagen, and later at Wittenberg, at his own expense. On his return, Absalon Pederssøn became clergyman and teacher at the Latin school in Bergen, where he labored with great distinction till his death in 1574.'
The new principles which had been introduced by the Reformation even in church administration, though not immediately beneficial, proved an important factor in the future development. According to the church ordinance issued by Christian III., the bishops, or superintendents, should be elected by the parish priests of the cities of the diocese. When a vacancy occurred, the priests of the cities within diocese should assemble and elect four of their number to choose a new bishop. The bishop elect should be examined by the nearest bishop, and the election should be sanctioned by the king. The parish priests should be chosen by the members of the parish. The parishioners should choose seven of their number, who should elect "a pious and learned man to be a parish priest." He should be examined by the bishop, and the election should be sanctioned by the lensherre. In each parish, there should also be a deacon, who should give the children instruction in the Christian doctrine, help the minister to sing, ring the church bells, keep the church clean, and render other services; but no provision was made for paying deacon for his services, and the plan suggested was not carried into effect. In 1552, the king made the provision that of the lands belonging to the church, a farm (gaard) should be set aside for the deacon, and in the church ordinance of Christian IV, more specific provisions were made with regard to the service and pay of these officers. A special tax (klokkertolden) was to be paid to the deacon for his support, and he should instruct the young people in the catechism and the Christian religion once a week at such a time and place as the parish priest should designate. The deacon was appointed by the parish priest with the advice of the provost, and with the consent of six of the leading men in the parish. This was the first germ of the Norwegian public school system. The reformation had given the people privileges and opportunities of such a kind that they could only gradually learn to understand their value and importance.