Hans Tausen

Hans Tausen the protagonist of the Danish Reformation
Reformation in Denmark
The Reformation in Denmark–Norway and Holstein was the transition from Roman Catholicism to Lutheranism in the realms ruled by the Copenhagen-based House of Oldenburg in the first half of the sixteenth century...

, was born at Birkende
Birkende is a town with a population of 578 located in the Kerteminde municipality, on the island of Funen in central Denmark....

 on Funen
Funen , with a size of 2,984 km² , is the third-largest island of Denmark following Zealand and Vendsyssel-Thy, and the 163rd largest island of the world. Funen is located in the central part of the country and has a population of 454,358 inhabitants . The main city is Odense, connected to the...

 in 1494 and died in Ribe
Ribe , the oldest extant Danish town, is in southwest Jutland and has a population of 8,192 . Until 1 January 2007, it was the seat of both the surrounding municipality, and county...

 in 1561.


Very little is known about his childhood and youth, but apparently he was a pupil at the grammar schools at Odense
The city of Odense is the third largest city in Denmark.Odense City has a population of 167,615 and is the main city of the island of Funen...

 and Slagelse
Slagelse, a town in east Denmark, is in Slagelse municipality on the island of Zealand. It is about 100 km southwest of Copenhagen. The population is 31,979 ....

, finally settling down as a friar
A friar is a member of one of the mendicant orders.-Friars and monks:...

 in the monastery of the Order of Saint John of Antvorskov
Antvorskov was the principal Scandinavian monastery of the Roman Catholic Order of Saint John of Jerusalem, located about one kilometer south of the town of Slagelse on Zealand, Denmark....

 near Slagelse. After studying at Rostock
Rostock -Early history:In the 11th century Polabian Slavs founded a settlement at the Warnow river called Roztoc ; the name Rostock is derived from that designation. The Danish king Valdemar I set the town aflame in 1161.Afterwards the place was settled by German traders...

, where he got the degree of a master of arts and also after being ordained as a priest, he studied for a short time at the University of Copenhagen
University of Copenhagen
The University of Copenhagen is the oldest and largest university and research institution in Denmark. Founded in 1479, it has more than 37,000 students, the majority of whom are female , and more than 7,000 employees. The university has several campuses located in and around Copenhagen, with the...

, and was then again sent abroad by his prior
Prior is an ecclesiastical title, derived from the Latin adjective for 'earlier, first', with several notable uses.-Monastic superiors:A Prior is a monastic superior, usually lower in rank than an Abbot. In the Rule of St...

, visiting, among other places, the newly founded University of Leuven in Belgium
Belgium , officially the Kingdom of Belgium, is a federal state in Western Europe. It is a founding member of the European Union and hosts the EU's headquarters, and those of several other major international organisations such as NATO.Belgium is also a member of, or affiliated to, many...

 and making the acquaintance of the Dutch humanists. He was already a good linguist, understanding both Latin and Hebrew. Subsequently he translated the books of Moses from the original.

In May 1523 Tausen went to Wittenberg
Wittenberg, officially Lutherstadt Wittenberg, is a city in Germany in the Bundesland Saxony-Anhalt, on the river Elbe. It has a population of about 50,000....

, where he met Martin Luther
Martin Luther
Martin Luther was a German priest, professor of theology and iconic figure of the Protestant Reformation. He strongly disputed the claim that freedom from God's punishment for sin could be purchased with money. He confronted indulgence salesman Johann Tetzel with his Ninety-Five Theses in 1517...

 and studied for a year and a half, when he was recalled to Antvorskov. In consequence of his professed attachment to the doctrines of Martin Luther he was transferred, in the spring of 1525, to the monastery of the Order of Saint John at Viborg
Viborg, Denmark
Viborg , a town in central Jutland, Denmark, is the seat of both Viborg municipality and Region Midtjylland. Viborg is also the seat of the Western High Court, the High Court for the Jutland peninsula...

 in Jutland
Jutland , historically also called Cimbria, is the name of the peninsula that juts out in Northern Europe toward the rest of Scandinavia, forming the mainland part of Denmark. It has the North Sea to its west, Kattegat and Skagerrak to its north, the Baltic Sea to its east, and the Danish–German...

, where he continued to preach the Lutheran belief, and eventually was allowed to use the pulpit of the Saint Johns Church. At Viborg the seed sown by Tausen fell upon good soil. Very soon Hans Tausen had a large group of followers in the town.

Tausen's preaching was so revolutionary that he no longer felt safe within the Order of Saint John, so he boldly discarded his religious habit
Religious habit
A religious habit is a distinctive set of garments worn by members of a religious order. Traditionally some plain garb recognisable as a religious habit has also been worn by those leading the religious eremitic and anachoritic life, although in their case without conformity to a particular uniform...

 and placed himself under the protection of the burgesses of Viborg. At first he preached in the parish church of St John, but this soon growing too small for him he addressed the people in the market-place from the church tower. When the Franciscans refused to allow him to preach in their large church, the mob broke in by force. A compromise was at last arranged, whereby the friars were to preach in the forenoon and Tausen in the afternoon. The bishop, very naturally averse to these high-handed proceedings, sent armed men to the church to arrest Tausen, but the burghers, who had brought their weapons with them, drove back "the bishop's swains."

In October 1526 King Frederick I
Frederick I of Denmark
Frederick I of Denmark and Norway was the King of Denmark and Norway. The name is also spelled Friedrich in German, Frederik in Danish, and Fredrik in Swedish and Norwegian...

, during his visit to Aalborg
-Transport:On the north side of the Limfjord is Nørresundby, which is connected to Aalborg by a road bridge Limfjordsbroen, an iron railway bridge Jernbanebroen over Limfjorden, as well as a motorway tunnel running under the Limfjord Limfjordstunnelen....

, took Hans Tausen under his protection, appointed him one of his chaplains, and charged him to continue for a time "to preach the holy Gospel" to the citizens of Viborg, who were to be responsible for his safety, thus identifying himself with the new doctrines in direct contravention of the plain letter of his coronation oath.

Tausen found a diligent fellow-worker in Jørgen Viberg,whose sister, Dorothea, he married, to the great scandal of the Catholics. He was indeed the first Danish priest who took unto himself a wife. He was also the first of the reformers who used Danish instead of Latin in the church services, the "Even song" he introduced at Viborg being of great beauty. Tausen was certainly the most practically gifted of all the new native teachers. But he was stronger as a preacher and an agitator than as a writer, the pamphlets which he now issued from the press of the German printer Hans Vingaard, who settled down at Viborg, being little more than adaptations of Luther's opuscula. He continued to preach in the church of the Franciscan monastery, while Sadolin, whom he had "consecrated" a priest, officiated at the church of the Dominicans, who had already fled from the town. The stouter-hearted Franciscans only yielded to violence persistently applied by the soldiers whom their opponents quartered upon them.

In 1529 Tausen's "mission" at Viborg came to an end. King Frederick now recommended him to Copenhagen to preach at the church of St Nicholas, but here he found an able and intrepid opponent in Bishop Rønne. Serious disturbances thereupon ensued; and the Protestants, getting the worst of the argument, silenced their gainsayers by insulting the bishops and priests in the streets and profaning and devastating the Catholic churches. A Herredag, or Assembly of Nobles, was held at Copenhagen on 2 July 1530, ostensibly to mediate between the two conflicting confessions, but the king, from policy, and the nobility, from covetousness of the estates of the prelates, made no attempt to prevent the excesses of the Protestant rabble, openly encouraged by Tausen. On the other hand, the preachers failed to obtain the repeal of the Odense recess of 1527 which had subjected them to the spiritual jurisdiction of the prelates.

On the death of King Frederick, Tausen, at the instance of Rønne, was, at the Herredag of 1533, convicted of blasphemy and condemned to expulsion from the diocese of Sjælland, whereupon the mob rose in arms against the bishop, who would have been murdered but for the courageous intervention of Tausen, who conducted him home in safety. The noble-minded Rønne thereupon, from gratitude, permitted Tausen to preach in all his churches on condition that he moderated his tone. On the final triumph of the Reformation Tausen was appointed bishop of Ribe
Ribe , the oldest extant Danish town, is in southwest Jutland and has a population of 8,192 . Until 1 January 2007, it was the seat of both the surrounding municipality, and county...

 (1542), an office he held for twenty years.

At the Ribe Cathedral a statue of Hans Tausen is found. In Viborg at the place of the now demolished church of the Franciscan monastery a modern monument in memory of Hans Tausen was put up in 2004, the 475th year of the reformation of the town of Viborg. The monument was made by the Danish artist Bjørn Nørgaard
Bjørn Nørgaard
Bjørn Nørgaard is a Danish artist who has been active in a variety of fields. He has significantly influenced the art scene in Denmark both through his "happenings" and his sculptures in Danish cities...


See Suhr, Tausens Levnet (Ribe, 1836); Danmarks Riges Historie, vol. III (Copenhagen, 1897–1905).


  • Engelstoft & Dahl (ed.): Dansk Biografisk Leksikon (The Danish Dictionary of Biography), Copenhagen 1942

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