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Mikael Agricola

Mikael Agricola (1510 - 1557) Finnish clergyman who became de facto founder of written Finnish and one of the prominent proponents of Protestant Reformation in Finland.

Early life Mikael Olavinpoika ("son of Olavi") was born in Uusimaa, Finland, about 1510 in a peasant family. This, like many dates about his life, is inexact. His teachers apparently recognized his aptitude for languages and his rector sent him to Viipuri for priest training.

When he studied in Viipuri he took as a surname Agricola ("farmer" gv. "agriculture"); surnames based on father’s status and occupation were common at the time. 1528 he followed his teacher Bartholomeus to Turku, the capital on the Finnish side of the Swedish realm, and became a scribe in the bishop’s office. In Turku he became familiar with ideas of humanism and reformation. He was presumably ordained for priesthood in 1531.

In 1536 the bishop of Turku sent him to study in Wittenberg in Germany. He concentrated on lectures of Melanchthon, who was expert in Greek, the original language of the New Testament. Agricola was already thinking about a Finnish version of the Bible. In Wittenberg he also met Martin Luther.

In 1539 Agricola returned to Turku and ended up as a rector of Turku University till 1548. At the time the king of Sweden Gustav Vasa had confiscated the property of church when he was consolidating his power but also supported the reformation. 1546 Agricola lost his home and school in the Great Fire of Turku[?]. At this time he was already married but history knows his wife only by name; Birgitta Olavintytär (“daughter of Olavi”) His only son Kristian was born December 11 1560.

Bishop’s life When an old bishop died 1554, Gustav Wasa had him consecrated as the ordinarius of Turku parish – for all practical purposes Bishop of Turku and by extension the first Lutheran bishop for all Finland. Agricola was not particularly virulent in reform although he did remove the Mass.

1557 he joined the delegation that was going to Russia and was in Moscow from February 21 to March 24 negotiating a peace treaty. April 9 he died in the Kyrönniemi village on the Karelian Isthmus.

Literary achievements Mikael Agricola created first form of written Finnish language. The first book, "ABC-Kiria" (primer for reading and a catechism), was printed in 1538. His most prominent book is the first Finnish-language translation of the New Testament. The work took 11 years, and was based on both German and Swedish bibles although he was also proficient in the original Greek version. The New Testament, printed in Stockholm in 1548, was still based mainly on Turku dialect. He also translated liturgy and wrote a large prayer book ("Rucouskiria") in 1544.



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