Mikael Agricola

From Academic Kids

Mikael Agricola
Mikael Agricola

Mikael Agricola (c. 1510April 9, 1557) was a Finnish clergyman who became de facto founder of written Finnish and one of the prominent proponents of Protestant Reformation in Swedish Finland. Called "The Father of Finnish written language."



Early life

Mikael Olavinpoika ("son of Olavi", Mikko Olavinpoika, Michael Olaui, or as some Swedish documents show, "Mikkel Olafsson") was born in Nylandia in the village of Torstila in Pernaja, Finland, around the year 1510. He was named after the patron saint of Pernaja's church. His day of birth, like many dates about his life, is inexact. His family was a quite wealthy peasant family according to the local bailiff's accounting. He had three sisters, but their names are not known. His teachers apparently recognized his aptitude for languages and his rector Bartholomeus sent him to Viipuri for Latin school and some priest training, where he attended the school of Johannes Erasmi.

Agricola as a student

When he studied in Viipuri he assumed the surname Agricola ("farmer" gv. "agriculture"); surnames based on father’s status and occupation were common for first-generation scholars at the time. It was probably in Viipuri where he first came in touch with the reformation and Humanism. Viipuri's castle was ruled by a German count Johann, who had served the king of Sweden, Gustav Vasa. The count was a supporter of the reformation, and they already held Lutheran services.

In 1528 he followed his teacher to Turku, the practical center of the Finnish side of the Swedish realm and the capital of the bishopric, and became a scribe in the bishop Martinus Skytte's office. While in Turku he met Martin Luther's first Finnish student Petrus Särkilahti, who eagerly spread the idea of the reformation. Petrus Särkilahti died in 1529, and it was up to Agricola to continue his work. He was ordained for priesthood presumably in 1531.

In 1536 the bishop of Turku sent him to study in Wittenberg in Germany. He concentrated on lectures of Philipp Melanchthon, who was expert in Greek, the original language of the New Testament. In Wittenberg he also met Martin Luther. He got recommendations to Gustav Vasa from both of the reformists. He sent two letters to Gustav Vasa, asking for a confirmation for a stipend. When the confirmation came, he bought many books (for example, the complete works of Aristoteles). In 1537 he started translating the New Testament into Finnish.

Agricola as a rector and an ordinarius

In 1539 Agricola returned to Turku and ended up as the rector of Turku (Cathedral) School. He did not like his job, calling his students "untamed animals". At the time Gustav Vasa had confiscated the property of church when he was consolidating his power but also drove the reformation. In 1544 Agricola received an order from the crown to send several talented young men to Stockholm's taxing offices. For some reason, Agricola did not obey until the order was sent again the next year, with more menacing tone. This little encounter probably affected their relations negatively.

In 1546 Agricola lost his home and school in the Great Fire of Turku. In February 22, 1548 Gustav Vasa ordered Agricola to retire from his position as a rector. At this time he was already married, but history knows his wife only by her name: Pirjo Olavintytär (Bridget, "daughter of Olavi"; Birgitta Olafsdotter, Brigida Olaui). His only son, Christian Agricola (Christianus Michaelis Agricola), was born December 11, 1550, and became the bishop of Tallinn in 1584.

When an old bishop died in 1554, Gustav Vasa had Agricola consecrated as the ordinarius of Turku parish – for all practical purposes Bishop of Turku and by extension the first lutheran bishop for all Finland. He was not particularly virulent in reform, although he did remove the Mass.

In 1557 he joined the delegation that was going to Russia and was in Moscow from February 21 to March 24 negotiating a peace treaty. On April 9 he fell ill and died in the Kyrönniemi village on the Karelian Isthmus. This day is also Elias Lönnrot's birthday and it is celebrated in Finland as the day of Finnish language. He was buried inside Viipuri's church, but the exact location of the grave is not known.

Literary achievements


Agricola had thought about translating the New Testament in his early years of studying. At the time, however, there was no written form of Finnish understood nationwide. He started developing it. His first book, "ABC-Kiria" was a primer for reading and a catechism, and it was printed in 1538. The catechism was included because only very few people could afford the whole bible at the time. It contained 24 pages.


Agricola's Rucouskiria was printed in March 1544. In the beginning of the book Agricola wrote about many topics concerning all-round education and reformation's effects in Finland. The book includes four prefaces and about 700 prayers, and on many topics it has even 12 different prayers instead of usual two or three. It is the most independent work he authored. It contains approximately 900 pages. His sources include works of Luther, Melanchthon and Erasmus.

Se Wsi Testamentti (the New Testament)

Agricola's most prominent book is the first Finnish-language translation of the New Testament. The manuscript was completed in 1543, but it was corrected for five more years. The whole work took 11 years. The New Testament, printed in Stockholm in 1548, was still based mainly on Turku dialect. It contains 718 pages and many illustrations. It has two prefaces, practical and theological. In practical preface Agricola gives reasons for using Turku dialect and tells how christianity came into Finland. In theological preface Agricola tells that his translation was based on Greek original text (familiar to him particularly from time with Philipp Melanchthon), Latin collection by Erasmus of Rotterdam, German translation by Martin Luther, as well as the Swedish bibles by Olaus Petri. He also explains how he had to create many new words and hoped they would be liked and put into use (which they have).

Three Liturgical books

While Agricola was in Wittenberg, he translated three smaller liturgical books into Finnish. These books were printed in 1549.

Käsikirja Castesta ia muista Christikunnan Menoista includes forms for christening, marriage and burial and speeches for sick, mourning and dying people. It is translated from Olaus Petri's corresponding work excluding christening and marriage parts (which are from Luther). It also contains minor parts translated from Caspar Huberinus' works.

Messu eli Herran echtolinen includes form for a service. It is also based on Olaus Petri's work and few Finnish manuscripts. In this book Agricola revealed his next mission: translation of the Old Testament.

Se meiden Herran Jesusen Christusen Pina, ylesnousemus ia tauiaisen Astumus, niste Neliest Euangelisterist coghottuon tells about Jesus Christ's suffering. It is collected from all four gospels. This book was influenced heavily by Johannes Bugenhagen, a teacher in Wittenberg. It was mainly translated from German version, but some parts are influenced by Swedish version and of course his own translation of the New Testament.de:Mikael Agricola et:Mikael Agricola io:Mikael Agricola hu:Mikael Agricola fi:Mikael Agricola sv:Mikael Agricola


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