The Reformation Project Austrått 1537
A Norwegian contribution to the international Luther decade
Portrait of Henrik Ibsen by Eilif Pettersen (1895), Agnes Mowinckel as ”Lady Inger of Østeraad” 1921, The Manor of Austrått in Ørland.
Austrått and the Norwegian Reformation
On the first of April 1537 Archbishop Olav Engelbrektsson fled Norway. Several years of civil war in Denmark combined with religious turmoil in Europe had placed the Archbishop in the midst of a power struggle he ended up losing. The Archbishops journey out the Trondheims Fjord therefore marks the end of the history of Norway as a catholic country and what historians have defined as the Norwegian Middle ages. The last known act of the Archbishop before he left for exile was to send his men ashore to the manor of Austrått. Here they plundered Lady Ingerd Ottesdatter (known as Lady Inger of Austrått). A woman that in the years leading to the reformation stood out as one of Olav Engelbrektssons most important opponents. This mighty woman and her role in the political struggle in the reformation years is the basis of The Reformation Project Austrått 1537.
Lady Inger was married to Norway’s most prominent nobleman, Lord Chamberlain Nils Henrikssøn. They had five daughters and all were married to prominent and progressive Danish noblemen. The son-in-law’s were all important fief holders in Norway and three sat as ministers in the Norwegian council. After Lady Inger became a widow she developed into a considerable political player and bound together the most powerful clan in Norway in the years leading to the countries fall as a sovereign state and the reformation in 1537.
The oldest sources on the ”secta Lutherana” in Norway
The first known complaints about “Lutheran heresy” are almost completely connected to Lady Inger and her family. Already in the autumn of 1526 the bishop of Bergen wrote to the Archbishop and asked permission to leave the city so he could live in peace from Lady Inger’s son-in-law Vincens Lunge, who then controlled Bergen castle on behalf of the king. The bishop complained in the letter about “all the brutal harassment and damage he has done and his desecration of our Holy Church through the Secta Lutherana…”
In 1529 the people of Sogn in western Norway pleaded the Archbishop to help them against the vogt’s of Lady Inger and Vincens Lunge that tried to take away “…their holy religion that they had inherited from their fathers.” They sent four lawmen to Trondheim to confirm that the accusations was correct.
The parish priest Nils Mogenssøn of Herøy sent a letter to the Archbishop that same year complaining about similar matters.
“Noble Lord! Your grace need to know that the servants of Lady Inger have started to sing before meals in Giske (a manor held by Lady Inger in Western Norway) and all other places in these lands, just like Lord Vincens (Lunge) use to do in Bergen against all good traditions that used to be. The songs that they sing are made from Deus miseratur (probably a Danish rewriting of the title of Martin Luthers hymn Aus tiefer Noth schrei ich zu dir that was translated to Danish and distributed secretly in Denmark and Norway from 1528) and psalms from the Psalter (The Hymns of David). And especially the scribe Oluff, that came to your grace from Oslo, is a leading hymn singer and the worst to embarrass the priests with the poems of Luther.”
Another of Lady Ingers´ vogt’s, the scribe Rasmus, is characterised as “a sinful singer of hymns” and they complain that this constable brought heretics to Giske that stole incoms rightfully belonging to the church.
On top of accusations on Lutheran heresy Lady Inger and her son-in-law’s point out as the most prominent destroyers of the countries monasteries in the years before the reformation. This was naturally done to get hold of the vast estates owned by the monasteries, but maybe also motivated by religious convictions. Vincens Lunge started by driving the nuns out of Nonneseter convent in Bergen and remodelled the convent into a mansion. Lunge later also got hold of Munkeliv monastery outside Bergen. In Tønsberg the local fief holder Erik Urup, who was also one of Lady Inger’s son-in-law’s, captured the monastery of St. Olav in the city and forcefully drove the monks out before taking the monastery as his own possession. In Trøndelag Lady Inger’s son-in-law Nils Lykke bought the Cistercian Abbey of Tautra by it’s corrupt abbot, drove the monks off, and rebuilt it into his personal manor house. Lady Inger her self forced the nuns of the convent of Rein close to Austrått to elect her as protector of the convent and after that she treated the estate as her own property.
Because of the complaints of Lutheran heresy and the destruction of the monasteries, Archbishop Olav Engelbrektsson declared war on Lady Inger and her family in 1529. When the Archbishop sailed out the Trondheims fjord on the first of April 1537 and sent his men to plunder Austrått this was the third time this had happened in ten years. The son-in-law’s and ministers Nils Lykke and Vincens Lunge had both been killed on the Archbishops orders. (Sources: Diplomatarium Norvegicum and Terje Bratberg og Håkon Andersen: Austrått – Herregård i 1000 år (2011).
The story of the Norwegian Reformation is not about a popular religious movement as is the case in the other Nordic countries. The Norwegian Reformation is a tale of brutal struggle for power and some few individuals fight for faith, dominion and wealth in some of the most turbulent years of Norwegian history. The history of the reformation is also strongly connected to Norway’s loss of sovereignty.
The manor of Austrått and the story of Lady Inger and her clan is in that sense the closest we can come to the characteristics of the reformation in Norway.
Because of Lady Inger and her family’s role during the reformation in Norway we want to establish Ørland as a place for marking this schism in Norwegian political and religious history. We want to do this through local, national and international activities.
Since 2010 Ørland cultural centre have arranged an annual seminar in cooperation with different Norwegian universities. The aim of the seminar is to stimulate to increased consciousness on the reformation and our Lutheran heritage. The 2014- seminar had “Luther and the law” as it’s theme and had a primary focus on Lutheran influence on the constitution of 1814 and other Norwegian legal history. The seminar will be held annually until the international reformation jubilee in 2017
The young Henrik Ibsen was fascinated by the character Lady Inger and her role in the power struggle in the reformation years. He therefore wrote the play Lady Inger of Østeraad in 1854. The play was written in a time when the access to the original sources was very limited, but this became one of his first historical plays.
Ingerid Wardund as Lady Inger i Norwegian televisions staging of Ibsen’s play in 1975
The monk in Wittenberg is right: There is nothing between God and mankind! (from Lady Inger’s monologue in Ibsen’s play)
The actor Juni Dahr and director Harry Guttormsen has adapted Ibsen’s text into a concentrated chamber play that had it’s first rehearsal in Ørland cultural centre in april 2014. We wish to stage the play as a annual event and a cultural highlight connected to the Reformation seminar every year.
The Reformation Project is to day Ørland municipality’s most important historical priority and is implemented in the teaching in Ørland’s kindergardens, primary schools and secondary school. This work will continue until 2017
Olav Engelbrektsson and his men plundering Austrått in From Opphaug school’s staging of Martin
1537, from Opphaug school’s Lady Inger-play i 2010 Luther’s table speeches in 2012
The Reformation project is a priority for the Bishopric and bishop of Nidaros. Ørland is registered as one of the European reformation sites and is connected to the international reformation network. Ørland has close contact with Wittenberg and got it’s own tree in the Luthergarten in 2013. In 2014 representatives from Wittenberg visited Ørland and plant a sibling tree close to Lady Ingers grave in Ørland parish church.
The mayor of Ørland Hallgeir Grøntvedt og pastor Ola Garli plants a tree in the Luthergarten in Wittenberg 2013