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Hans Egede
Hans Egede.jpg
Born January 31, 1686(1686-01-31)
Died November 5, 1758 (aged 72) in Falster, Denmark
Church Church of Denmark (evangelical Lutheran)
Writings Wrote a journal about his Journey to Greenland
Offices held Ordained pastor
Missionary to Greenland
Title National Saint of Greenland
Spouse Gertrud Egede nee Rasch
Children Niels Egede, Paul Egede, and two girls
P christianity.svg Christianity Portal
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 Lutheranism portal

Hans Poulsen Egede (January 31, 1686 – November 5, 1758) was a Dano-Norwegian Lutheran missionary who launched mission efforts to Greenland, which led him to be styled the Apostle of Greenland.[1][2] He established a successful mission among the Inuit and is credited with revitalizing Dano-Norwegian interest in the island after contact had been broken for hundreds of years. He founded Greenland's capital Godthåb, now known as Nuuk.



Hans Egede was born into the home of a civil servant on the island of Hinnøy, in Harstad, Norway several hundreds of miles north of the Arctic Circle. The son of a vicar priest in Vester Egede on southern Zealand, Denmark. He was schooled by an uncle, a clergyman in a local Lutheran Church. In 1704, he left for Copenhagen to enter the University of Copenhagen where he earned a bachelor's degree of theology. He returned to Hinnøy and in April 1707, he was ordained and assigned to a parish on an equally remote archipelago of Lofoten. The same year he married Gertrud Rasch. Hans and Gertrud would have four children - two boys and two girls.[3]


Egede was at Lofoten when he heard stories about the Old Norse settlements on Greenland, with which contact had been lost years before. In May 1721, he asked Frederick IV of Denmark for permission to search for the colony and establish a mission there, presuming that it had remained Catholic after the Danish Reformation or lost the Christian faith altogether. Frederick gave consent at least partially to reestablish a colonial claim to the island.[4]

Several sailing vessels left Bergen on the 12th of May, 1722, and arrived on the coast of Greenland on July 3. He wrote a journal about his journey to Greenland, and published it. Egede was sent to seek the old Viking colony on Greenland but he found no survivors. The last communication with that colony had been over 300 years earlier. He did, however, find the Inuit and started a mission among them. He studied the Inuit language and translated Christian texts into it. This required some imagination as, for instance, the Inuit had no bread nor any idea of it. So the words of the Lord's Prayer were translated by Egede as the equivalent of "Give us this day our daily harbor seal". [5]

Egede founded Godthåb (now Nuuk), which later became the capital of Greenland. In 1724, he baptized the first children. The new king, Christian VI of Denmark, recalled all Europeans from Greenland in 1730. Egede remained, however, encouraged by his wife Gertrud. Egede's book "The Old Greenland's New Perlustration" (Norwegian: Det gamle Grønlands nye Perlustration) appeared in 1729 and was translated into several languages.[6]

In 1733, the Herrnhut missionaries of Nicolaus Ludwig Zinzendorf were allowed to establish New Herrnhut, south of Nuuk. In 1734, a smallpox epidemic broke out which spread through the Inuit and claimed Gertrud Egede in 1735. Hans Egede left his son Paul Egede in Greenland and traveled on August 9, 1736 with his daughters and his son Niels to Denmark. He returned to Copenhagen in 1736 to become principal of a seminary that trained missionaries for Greenland. In 1741, he was named bishop of Greenland. He established a catechism for use in Greenland in 1747. Egede died November 5, 1758 at the age of 72 at Falster, Denmark.[7]


Norway claims that Hans Egede was a citizen of Norway. Egede became a national saint of Greenland. The town of Egedesminde (literally: memory of Egede) commemorates him. It was established by Niels Egede, Hans' second son, in 1759 on the Eqalussuit peninsula but moved to the island of Aasiaat in 1763, which had been the site of a pre-Viking Inuit settlement. A statue of Hans Egede stands watch over Greenland's capital in Nuuk.[8]

Other information

Hans Egede gives one of the oldest descriptions of a sea serpent commonly believed to have been a giant squid. Egede wrote on July 6, 1734 that his ship sailed past the coast of Greenland when suddenly those on board "saw a most terrible creature, resembling nothing they saw before. The monster lifted its head so high that it seemed to be higher than the crow's nest on the mainmast. The head was small and the body short and wrinkled. The unknown creature was using giant fins which propelled it through the water. Later the sailors saw its tail as well. The monster was longer than our whole ship".[9]



  1. ^ Hans Egede (Dansk biografisk Lexikon,)
  2. ^ Hans Egede, The Apostle of Greenland (The James Ford Bell Library at University of Minnesota)
  3. ^ Hans Egede. Explorer, Colonizer (Missionary Gospel Fellowship Association Missions. Greenville, SC)
  4. ^ Hans Egede. Explorer, Colonizer (Missionary Gospel Fellowship Association Missions. Greenville, SC)
  5. ^ Hans Egede, The Apostle of Greenland (The James Ford Bell Library at University of Minnesota)
  6. ^ Hans Egede. Explorer, Colonizer (Missionary Gospel Fellowship Association Missions. Greenville, SC)
  7. ^ Hans Poulsen Egede. The Mineralogical Record, Inc.
  8. ^ The Apostle of Greenland (Sara Shannon, Research Assistant, James Ford Bell Library. University of Minnesota)
  9. ^ J. Mareš, Svět tajemných zvířat, Prague, 1997

Other sources

  • Bobé, Louis Hans Egede: Colonizer and Missionary of Greenland (Copenhagen: Rosenkilde and Bagger, 1952)
  • Ingstad, Helge. Land under the pole star: a voyage to the Norse settlements of Greenland and the saga of the people that vanished (translated by Naomi Walford, Jonathan Cape, London: 1982)
  • Garnett, Eve To Greenland's icy mountains; the story of Hans Egede, explorer, coloniser missionary (London: Heinemann. 1968)


This article incorporates material translated from the Danish and German Wikipedia articles on Hans Egede.

External links


1911 encyclopedia

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From LoveToKnow 1911

HANS EGEDE (1686-1758), Norwegian missionary, was born in the vogtship of Senjen, Norway, on the 31st of January 1686. He studied at the university of Copenhagen, and in 1706 became pastor at Vaagen in the Lofoten islands, but the study of the chronicles of the northmen having awakened in him the desire to visit the colony of Northmen in Greenland, and to convert them to Christianity, he resigned his charge in 1717; and having, after great difficulty, obtained the sanction and help of the Danish government in his enterprise, he set sail with three ships from Bergen on the 3rd of May 1721, accompanied by his wife and children. He landed on the west coast of Greenland on the 3rd of July, but found to his dismay that the Northmen were entirely superseded by the Eskimo, in whom he had no particular interest, and whose language he would be able to master, if at all, only after years of study. But, though compelled to endure for some years great privations, and at one time to see the result of his labours almost annihilated by the ravages of small-pox, he remained resolutely at his post. He founded the colony of Godthaab, and soon gained the affections of the people. He converted many of them to Christianity, and established a considerable commerce with Denmark. Ill-health compelling him to return home in 1736, he was made principal of a seminary at Copenhagen, in which workers were trained for the Greenland mission; and from 1740 to 1747 he was superintendent of the mission. He died on the 5th of November 1758. He is the author of a book on the natural history of Greenland.

His work in Greenland was continued, on his retirement, by his son Paul Egede (1708-1789), who afterwards returned to Denmark and succeeded his father as superintendent of the Greenland mission. Paul Egede also became professor of theology in the mission seminary. He published a GreenlandDanish-Latin dictionary (1750), Greenland grammar (1760) and Greenland catechism (1756). In 1766 he completed the translation begun by his father of the New Testament into the Greenland tongue; and in 1787 he translated Thomas a Kempis. In 1789 he published a journal of his life in Greenland.

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