Torstila, Pernå, Uusimaa (Nyland), Finland
|Died||9 April 1557
Mikael Agricola ( pronunciation (help·info)) (c. 1510 – 9 April 1557) was a clergyman who became the de facto founder of written Finnish and a prominent proponent of the Protestant Reformation in Sweden (including Finland). He is often called the "father of the Finnish written language". Agricola was consecrated as the bishop of Turku (Åbo) in 1554 without papal approval. As a result, he began a reform of the Finnish church (then a part of the Church of Sweden) along Lutheran lines. He translated the New Testament, the prayerbook, hymns, and the mass into Finnish, and through this work set the rules of orthography that are the basis of modern Finnish spelling. His thoroughgoing work is particularly remarkable in that he accomplished it in only three years. He died suddenly while returning from a trip during which he negotiated a treaty with the Russians.
Mikael Olavinpoika ("son of Olavi", Mikko Olavinpoika, Michael Olaui, or as some Swedish documents show, "Mikkel Olafsson") was born in Uusimaa (Nyland) in the village of Torstila in Pernå, Finland, around the year 1510. He was named after the patron saint of Pernaja's church. The exact date of his birth, like most details of his life, is unknown. 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 Viborg (Viipuri) for Latin school and some priestly training, where he attended the school of Erasmus.
When he studied in Viborg (Viipuri) he assumed the surname Agricola ("farmer" gv. "agriculture"); surnames based on one's 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. The Viipuri 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 center of the Finnish side of the Swedish realm and the capital of the bishopric, and became a scribe in 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. Särkilahti died in 1529, and it was up to Agricola to continue his work. He was ordained for priesthood circa 1531.
In 1536 the bishop of Turku sent him to study in Wittenberg in Germany. He concentrated on the lectures of Philipp Melanchthon, who was an expert in Greek, the original language of the New Testament. In Wittenberg he studied under Luther. He got recommendations to Gustav Vasa from both of the reformists. He sent two letters to Gustav, asking for a confirmation for a stipend. When the confirmation came, he bought books (for example, the complete works of Aristotle). In 1537 he started translating the New Testament into Finnish.
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 the 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 a more menacing tone. This episode probably affected their relations negatively.
In 1546 Agricola lost his home and school in the Fire of Turku. On 22 February 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 11 December 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 Canon of the Mass.
In 1557 he joined the delegation that was going to Russia and was in Moscow from 21 February to 24 March negotiating a peace treaty. On 9 April 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 the Finnish language. He was buried inside Viipuri's church, but the exact location of the grave is not known.
He is commemorated as a bishop by the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America on 10 April.
(nowadays "ABC-kirja" ABC-book) Agricola had thought about translating the New Testament in his early years of studying. At the time, however, there was no standard written form of Finnish. He started developing it. His first book, "Abckiria" was a primer for reading and a catechism, and it was first time printed in 1543. The catechism was included because only very few people could afford the whole Bible at the time. The first print contained 16 pages. There was a second print released in 1551 with 24 pages.
Agricola's Rucouskiria (Rukouskirja- prayer book)was printed in March 1544. In the beginning of the book Agricola wrote about many topics concerning all-round education and the Reformation's effects in Finland. The book includes four prefaces and about 700 prayers, and on many topics it has even twelve different prayers instead of the 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.
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 the sick, mourning and dying people. It is translated from Olaus Petri's corresponding work excluding the christening and marriage parts (which are from Luther). It also contains minor parts translated from Caspar Huberinus' works.
Messu eli Herran echtolinen includes the form for a service. It is also based on Olaus Petri's work and a 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 the German version, but some parts are influenced by the Swedish version and of course his own translation of the New Testament.
Mikael Agricola was recently selected as the main motif for a high value commemorative coin, the €10 Mikael Agricola and Finnish language commemorative coin, minted in 2007. This collector coin is issued to honor Mikael Agricola's lifework as a contributor of Protestant reformation in Finland and father of Finnish written language. The reverse of the coin shows a quill referencing the writer; while the obverse side contains an artistic interpretation of a human figure.