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Note: This article was taken from the 1909 edition of the Catholic Encyclopedia, and is presented here for its historic value.


A department or province of the Russian Empire ; bounded on the north by Norway, on the west by Sweden and the Gulf of Bothnia, on the south by the Gulf of Finland. Its limits extend from about 60° to 70° N. lat., and from about 19° to 33° E. long.; the area is 141,617 sq. miles. Finland abounds in lakes and forests, buit the proportion of arable soil is small. The population numbers 2,900,000 souls, chiefly Finns; the coasts are inhabited by the descendants of Swedish settlers.

Up to the beginning of the twelfth century the people were pagans, about this date efforts for the conversion of the Finns were made from two sides. The Grand Duke of Novgorod, Vassievolodovich, sent Russian missionaries to the Karelians, Finns living on the Lake of Ladoga in east Finland, while in 1157 King Erik of Sweden undertook a crusade to Finland. Erik established himself firmly on the south-western coast and from this base extended his power. Henrik, Bishop of Upsala, who had accompanied Erik on this expedition, devoted himself to preaching the Gospel and suffered the death of a martyr in 1158. His successor, Rodulfus, met the same fate about 1178, while the next following bishop, Folkvin, died a natural death.

Finland attained an independent church organization under Bishop Thomas (1220; d. 1248), whose see was Räntemäkai; at a later date the episcopal residence was transferred to Åbo. The successors of Thomas were: Bero I (d. 1258); Ragvald I (1258-66); Kettil (1266-86); Joannes I (1286-90); Magnus I (1290-1308), who was the first Finn to become bishop ; he transferred the see to Åbo; Ragvald II (1309-21); Bengt (1321-38); Hemming (1338-66), who made wise laws, built numerous churches, began the collection of a library, and died in the odour of sanctity ; in 1514 his bones were taken up, the relics now being in the museum of the city of Åbo, but he was not canonized ; Henricus Hartmanni (1366-68); Joannes II Petri (1368-70); Joannes III Westfal (1370-85), a bishop of German descent; Bero II (1385-1412); Magnus II Olai Tavast (1412-50), the most important prince of the Church of Finland, who, when eighty-eight years old, undertook arduous visitations ; he also went on a pilgrimage to the Holy Land whence he brought back objects of art and manuscripts ; Olaus Magni (1450-60), who in earlier years was twice rector of the Sorbonne, a college of the University of Paris, and was also procurator and bursar of the "English nation" at the university. As representative of these he settled the disagreement between Charles VII and the university arising from the part the latter had taken in the burning of Joan of Arc ; Conrad I Bitz (1460-89), who in 1488 had the "Missale ecclesiæ Åboensis" printed; Magnus III Stjernkors (1489-1500); Laurentius Suurpää (1500-06); Joannes IV Olavi (1506-10); Arvid Kurck (1510-20), who was drowned in the Baltic; Ericus Svenonis (1523), the chancellor of King Gustavus Vasa; this prelate resigned the see as his election was not confirmed by Rome. He was the last Catholic Bishop of Finland. The king now, on his own authority, appointed his favourite, the Dominican Martin Skytte, as bishop ; Skytte did all in his power to promote the violent introduction of Lutheranism. The people were deceived by the retention of Catholic ceremonies ; clerics and monks were given the choice of apostasy, expulsion, or death. The only moderation shown was that exhibited towards the Brigittine nunnery of Nidendal. But on the other hand, the Dominicans at Åbo and Viborg, and the Franciscans at Kökars were rudely driven out and apparently the inmates of the monastery of Raumo were hung. Then, as later, the Church of Finland did not lack martyrs, among them being Jöns Jussoila, Peter Ericius, and others.

By the end of the sixteenth century the Catholic Church of Finland may be said to have ceased to exist. In its place appeared an inflexible and inquisitorial Lutheranism. When in 1617 Karelia (East Finland) fell to Sweden, an effort was made to win the native population, which belonged to the Greek Orthodox Church, for the "pure Gospel ". As this did not succeed, the war of 1566-68 was used for the massacre and expulsion of the people. In consequence of the victories of Peter the Great matters after a while took another course; in 1809 Russia became the ruler of Finland and the Orthodox Greek Church has of late grown in strength. It numbers now 50,000 members under an archbishop ; it has fine church buildings, especially in Helsingfors, wealthy monasteries (Valaam and Konevetz), a church paper published at Viborg, and numerous schools. Under Russian sovereignty the long repressed Catholic Church received again (1869 and 1889) the right to exist, but it is still very weak, and numbers only about 1000 souls ; there are Catholic churches at Åbo and Helsingfors. The great majority of the inhabitants belong now, as before, to the various sects of Protestantism. The State Church of former times, now the "National" Church, to which the larger part of the population adhere, is divided into four dioceses : Åbo, Kuopio, Borgå, and Nyslott; these contain altogether 45 provostships and 512 parishes. The finest of its church buildings are the domed church of St. Nicholas at Helsingfors and the church at Åbo, formerly the Catholic cathedral.

Education is provided for by a university and technical high school at Helsingfors, by lyceums of the rank of gymnasia, modern scientific schools, and primary schools. Finland has a rich literature both in Swedish and Finnish. Besides the followers of Christianity there are both Jews and Mohammedans in Finland, but they have no civil rights. Since the middle of the nineteenth century about 200,000 Finns have emigrated to the United States, settling largely in Minnesota and Michigan. The town of Hancock, Michigan, is the centre of their religious and educational work.

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The Catholic Encyclopedia is the most comprehensive resource on Catholic teaching, history, and information ever gathered in all of human history. This easy-to-search online version was originally printed between 1907 and 1912 in fifteen hard copy volumes.

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Copyright © Catholic Encyclopedia. Robert Appleton Company New York, NY. Volume 1: 1907; Volume 2: 1907; Volume 3: 1908; Volume 4: 1908; Volume 5: 1909; Volume 6: 1909; Volume 7: 1910; Volume 8: 1910; Volume 9: 1910; Volume 10: 1911; Volume 11: - 1911; Volume 12: - 1911; Volume 13: - 1912; Volume 14: 1912; Volume 15: 1912

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