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Lars Levi Læstadius

Læstadius in 1839
(Note the Medal of Honor worn on his left lapel).
Born October 1, 1800 (1800-10)
Arjeplog, Sweden
Died February 21, 1861 (1861-02-22)
Ethnicity Sami flag.svg Sami Sweden Sweden
Occupation Church Minister, Botanist, Expedition member.

Lars Levi Læstadius (October 1, 1800 - February 21, 1861) was a Swedish Lutheran pastor of partly Sami ancestry. From the mid 1840s and onward he became the leader of the Laestadian movement. He was also an author, teetotaller and botanist.


Early life

Laestadius was born in Swedish Lapland, near Arjeplog in the western mountainous parts of Norrbotten County, the most northerly county in Sweden. His father provided for the family by hunting, fishing, and tar-making. The family lived in poverty, but with help from a half-brother who was a pastor at Kvikkjokk, Lars Levi was able to enter Uppsala University in 1820, where he proved to be a brilliant student. Because of his interest in botany he was made assistant in the Botany Department while pursuing studies in theology. He was ordained a Lutheran minister in 1825 by the bishop of Härnösand, Erik Abraham Almquist.

His first parish was at Arjeplog in Lapland, where he became regional missionary for the Pite district. From 1826 to 1849 he was vicar in Karesuando parish in Lapland, and subsequently served at Pajala parish in Norrbotten from 1849 until his death. Before moving to Karesuando, he married a local Sami woman, Brita Cajsa Alstadius, and together they raised a family of twelve children.


Medal of honor of the Legion of Honor of France after 1841.

In addition to his pastoral duties he continued his interest in botany, and authored a number of articles on plant life in Lapland. He also served as botanist to the French La Recherche Expedition research expedition to Samiland (1838-40). On the request from the expedition, he also wrote a lengthy piece on Sami mythology titled Fragments of Lappish Mythology. This was not published in the expedition papers, and for many years his manuscript was lost. Several parts of the manuscript were discovered between 1933 and 1946.[1] At the time of Laestadius's arrival, Karesuando was a place with widespread misery and alcoholism. Laestadius's mother tongue was Swedish but he also spoke Pite Sami. After a year in Karesuando he spoke both Finnish and Northern Sami. He usually held his sermons in Finnish since it was the most widespread language in the area, but on occasions also preached in the Northern Sami and Swedish languages.

Around 1833 he suffered from a complaint which the doctors first thought was pneumonia. He did however recover.

He applied for the position of dean in Pajala. In order to get the position he needed to complement his exams in Härnösand, which he did and in 1849 he became dean in Pajala and inspector of the Lapland parishes.

The resistance to Laestadius's radical Christian ethics and morale, together with his way to confront the parishioners with their sins was harder in Pajala and the bishop decided in 1853 that two church services should be held in separately, one for the Laestadians and one for the others. This could be said that Laestadianism, the religious revival named after him, became a movement in its own right at this time, although it remained within and never separated from the Church of Sweden. When Laestadius died in 1861, he was succeeded by Johan Raattamaa as the leader of the Laestadian movement.

Luther's Seal
 Lutheranism portal

Laestadius met a Sami woman named Milla Clementsdotter of Föllinge (also known as Mary of Lapland by the Laestadian Lutheran Church) in the municipality of Krokom in Jämtland during an 1844 inspection tour of Åsele in Lapland. She belonged to a revival movement marked by pietistic and Moravian influences and led by pastor Pehr Brandell of the parish of Nora in the municipality of Kramfors in Ångermanland. She told Laestadius about her experiences on her journey to a living faith. This was an important meeting for Laestadius, because after it, he first understood the secret of living faith. He had a religious experience and he writes later that he at last saw the path that leads to eternal life. His sermons acquired, in his own words, "a new kind of colour" to which people began to respond. The movement spread quickly from Sweden to Finland and Norway. Laestadius based his sermons on the Bible.

La Recherche Expedition (1838-1840)

Laestadius was invited by the French Admiralty to participate in the La Recherche Expedition of 1838-40. He was recognized for his knowledge in botany and of the Sami languages that the expedition would undertake. Laestadius was a field guide for the islands and in the interior of Northern Norway and Sweden, studying both plant life and the culture of the Sami inhabitants for the expedition. During this project and long afterward, Laestadius started his manuscript Fragments of Lappish Mythology which described a snapshot of the Sami traditional religious beliefs that were passing into history due to the Christianzation program in full swing at that time.[2] For various reasons, this manuscript was not published until 1997, over one hundred and fifty years after the expedition.

Because of his participation in this expedition, Laestadius received the Metal of honor of the Legion of Honor of France after 1841. He was the first Scandinavian to receive this Honor.[3]


Laestadius undertook his first botanic trip as a student. Later the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences paid him to travel to Skåne and Lapland in order to study and make drawings of the plants, which should be used in work over Swedish botany. He was as an internationally recognised botanist and was a member of the Edinburgh Botanical Society as well as the Royal Society of Sciences in Uppsala[4].

A number of plant species have been named for Lars Levi Læstadius, e.g.:

  • Salix laestadiana Hartm.
  • Carex laestadii Holmb.
  • Papaver laestadianum Nordh.[4]

Lars Levi Læstadius named many plant species: List of plants named by Laestadius in IPNI

Books authored

See also


  1. ^ L. Laestadius, Fragments of Lappish Mythology , Trans. Börje Vähämäki, Aspasia Books, Beaverton, Ont. Canada. (2002), p49.
  2. ^ Lars Levi Laestadius, Fragments of Lappish Mythology, Juha Pentikainen ed. Aspasia Books (December 1, 2002), p.36-44 ISBN 0968588190
  3. ^ L. Laestadius, Fragments of Lappish Mythology , Trans. Börje Vähämäki, Aspasia Books, Beaverton, Ont. Canada. (2002), p45. (Citation on the page also describes "Bibl. Nat. 3303)
  4. ^ a b Franzén, Olle: Naturalhistorikern Lars Levi Laestadius. Luleå, Tornedalica 1973, nr 15.
  5. ^ "Author Query". International Plant Names Index.  

External links

  • Laestadius - Revivalist and Botanist
  • Laestadius sermons in English, Swedish and Finnish in text and audio files
  • [1] Pajala Library Special website containing Laestadius' original manuscripts and works
  • A Godly Heritage, edited by Aila Foltz and Miriam Yliniemi with assistance from Rodger Foltz, Jouko Talonen, and Elmer Yliniemi, is a collection of articles about the Laestadian Revival Movement. [2]


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