AGRICOLA, Michael

(1508-1557)
Michael Agricola was a reformist bishop who helped introduce Lutheran wor­ship to the vernacular culture of Finland. Born on the southern coast of Finland, Agricola attended school in Viipuri (Viborg). He arrived in Turku (Abo) in 1528 and became secretary to Bishop Martin Skytte (1528-50), a pious Catholic reformist. Bishop Skytte did not oppose the evangelical piety of the Reformers; rather, he fostered it and throughout the 1530s sent talented young students to Wittenberg for study. This decision had lasting implications for the Reformation in Finland.
Due to Skytte, Agricola left for Wittenberg in 1536 and remained there for three years. He heard Martin Luther* lecture on Genesis and Philip Melanch-thon* on the Greek classics. In 1539 he received the master's degree and re­turned to Finland. He then accepted a position as headmaster of a Latin school in Turku, the most respected in Finland. Nine years later he became an assistant to Skytte. After Skytte's death, Agricola succeeded to his position. When war broke out between Russia and Sweden in 1555, Agricola became increasingly involved in the diplomatic negotiations between the two countries. He died in 1557 while returning from Moscow on a peace mission.
Through his extensive writings, Agricola laid the foundation of Finnish or­thography. He is known as the father of Finnish literature. His first printed book was an alphabet that included a translation of Luther's Small Catechism.He published a biblical prayer book in 1544 that consisted of a short calendar and a collection of prayers from the Bible, Luther, Erasmus,* and Catholic mystics such as Thomas a Kempis. As early as his time at Wittenberg, Agricola had worked on a Finnish translation of the New Testament; it was published in 1548. He also translated Psalms into Finnish and produced church manuals and missals in the vernacular.
Although Agricola was a Reformer, he proceeded cautiously. He accepted various forms of religious life and doctrine and remains a prime representative of the tolerant attitude in Finnish religious thinking in the early Reformation period. As a Reformer, Agricola laid the foundation for the national development and independence of the Finnish church, even though the country would remain a part of Sweden until the nineteenth century.
Bibliography
O. Grell, ed., The Scandinavian Reformation, 1995.
Andrew G. Traver

Renaissance and Reformation 1500-1620: A Biographical Dictionary. . 2001.

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