In the South Hall: Luther, the Reformation, and the Book
Date: 7.6 - 20.10.2012
Place: In the South Hall
Lutheranism and early literary culture in Finland
The National Library of Finland’s exhibition, Luther, the Reformation and the Book, is associated with the international conference, whose theme is Luther as Teacher and Reformer of the University, that will be held in Helsinki during August 2012. The organising committee of the conference is chaired by Professor Risto Saarinen, who together with Professors Simo Heininen and Tuija Laine, also designed the National Library exhibition. The exhibition will be accompanied by a book, edited by Tuija Laine, containing various articles and the exhibition catalogue.
The emergence of vernacular literature
As a result of the Reformation, Finland, then part of the Swedish empire, broke away from the Catholic Church and turned to Lutheranism during the 1500s. Martin Luther had emphasised that everyone should be allowed to acquire personal knowledge of the foundations of Christianity; implementing this doctrine required both literacy skills and the publication of literature written in the vernacular. Even ordinary Finns could now immerse themselves in the literary world on their own, not only as passive listeners.
The Reformation spread to Finland directly from Luther’s sphere of influence at the University of Wittenberg, from where many Finns attending on study trips returned not only with new literature, but also new ideals and ways of thinking. As the initiator of the Reformation, Luther played a key role through his writings, particularly The Small and Large Catechisms, in the teaching of Christian doctrine, also in the Swedish empire.
The catechism was also used to spread the Lutheran faith among other religious groups, including non-Christians. For this purpose, a Lutheran catechism was printed in Cyrillic letters as part of the Treaty of Stolbovo in 1618 for the Orthodox Karelian regions annexed to Sweden. Additionally, Swedish- and Sami-language catechisms were drawn up to teach the Christian doctrine to the Sami and, as the most far-reaching project, a catechism was compiled in both Swedish and a Native American language to convert the Native Americans living in the Swedish colony of Delaware in North America. All these catechisms were published in the 1600s, although some Sami catechisms were also published later.
In the early 1800s, Finnish translations of Luther’s catechisms were augmented with translations of his other works. At the time, several active revivalist movements in Finland considered themselves followers of the work of Luther. Particularly popular among translators were Luther’s postils, the Church Postil and the House Postil, as well as various sermons. Luther’s works have also been published in Finnish in a series entitled Valitut teokset (“Selected works”) in 1908–1934, 1958–1959 and 1983. The publication and translation into Finnish of Luther’s works continues to the present day.
Further information:Professor Tuija Laine, University of Helsinki,Tel. 050 3602100 email@example.com
Cultural Coordinator Inkeri Pitkäranta, National Library of Finland, Tel. 050 3027238 firstname.lastname@example.org