Andreas Virginius (1596–1664)

Under släktföreningensresa till Estland i september 2019 besöktes Universitetet i Tartu som under ett flertal år stod under rektorskap av vår släkting Andreas Virginius. Ken Ird från University of Tartu Museum höll ett mycket uppskattat föredrag om Virginius och hans tid i Tartu. Nedan har släktföreningen fått ta del av Ken Irds anteckningar inför föreläsningen.


Background to the history of Estonia before the 17th century:

  • before 13th century Estonia was inhabited by pagan Estonian tribes;
  • in the beginning of the 13th century crusades from German lands and Denmark, conquest and formation of small states governed by German and Danish speaking minority, Estonian speaking people deemed to remain as farming serfs;
    • until the beginning the 20th century German speaking higher strata upheld its dominative position in Estonia.
  • In the 16th and the 17th century a long period of wars between Russia, Poland, Sweden and Denmark with Sweden for conquering the nowadays Estonia. Sweden ended up a winner in the 1620s.

In 1632 foundation of an academia in Tartu;

  • during the time of Polish rule in the second half of the 16th century and the beginning of the 17th century here was a Jesuit gymnasium in Tartu as a base of re-catholicisation of South-Estonia;
  • in 1629 Tartu was finally taken from the Poles by Sweden and a year later in 1630 a Lutheran gymnasium was opened as a counterpart to an old catholic Jesuit gymnasium;
  • already 1632 this gymnasium was turned into a university with the name of Academia Gustaviana.

On 21st June, 1631 the Swedish king Gustav II Adolf, stationed in Stettin, personally invited Andreas Virginius to fill a post of a professor of theology in the newly founded academia in Tartu ASAP.

Origins of Andreas Virginius and historical background of his homeland Pomerania:

  • Andreas Virginius was born in 1596 into a noble family of Pomerania
  • during the Thirty Years’ War (1618–1648) the protestant duchy of Pomerania became a battlefield between Habsburg imperial catholic forces and protestant German;
  • in 1629 Sweden entered the Thirty Years’ War in order to protect the protestant cause and follow its own imperialistic intentions, thus Pomerania was occupied by the Swedish forces.

Virginius arrived to Tartu already in November 1631 and took active part in the founding of the academia:

  • in October 1632 as the primal professor of theology he preached at the festive opening of the university in Tartu St. Mary’s church;
  • he became the first pro-rector of the university, but was actually de facto rector, because the first elected rector (rector illustris) was actually 19 years old student Jacob Skytte, son of the local general governor and the first chancellor of the university Johan Skytte, as an honorary gesture towards the high official of the Swedish state;

In 1633 Virginius was elected as a proper rector, the first proper rector, the only nobleman, altogether served the post in the academia four or five times (1633, 1638–1639, 1641–1642, 1645–1646), also he was pro-rector and dean of the faculty of theology on numerous occasions

Academic activities in Academia Gustaviana;

  • as primal professor of theology in Tartu, he was the only theology professor remained in office throughout the period of the existence of Academia Gustaviana (1632–1657);
  • supervised (in fact mostly co-wrote) 135 dissertations, which formed 2/3 of all the dissertations of theology in the Academia Gustaviana;
  • Late scholar Marju Lepajõe, who was one of the best contemporary classical philologists and church historians in Estonia, has argued that Virginius was a sharp witted person who dearly cherished teaching and deemed discussion constructive and essential

Other activities of Virginius in Tartu:

  • Member of the local church administration, at some point served there as deputy superintendent. In 1637 he applied for a position of superintendent in Ingria. In 1638 he was appointed inspector of the estates of the academia in Ingria.
  • In 1656 during the Swedish-Russian war (1656–1661) the Russian troops conquered Tartu, but allowed every sole to leave the city on their own will. All the professors and students of the academia left to Tallinn, which had still remained under the Swedish rule. Andreas Virginius was the very last to leave Tartu in 1657.
  • In 1657 Virginius made try to reopen the academia in Tallinn, but the idea was contested by Tallinn gymnasium due to competitive reasons. The magistrates of Tallinn also objected the idea.
  • Virginius fought fiercely for the preservation of the privilege of the academia in Tallinn, but sadly in vain.
  • Eventually the academia was allowed to continue with lectures, but soon after Tallinn was smitten with the plague and almost all professors and students fled from Tallinn, including Virginius.
09 26 till 30 Resa med Virginska slktfreningen till Estland 67
University of Tartu

Virginius was ordinated a bishop of Estonia in Stockholm in 1658 and after the cessation of the plague epidemic he returned to Tallinn to serve his bishopric until his death in 1664.

Notes by Ken Ird, University of Tartu Museum 2019–2020