De expulsione fratrum minorum

From medieval

by Jørgen Nybo Rasmussen

The work originates from certain Danish Franciscan friars ca. 1532–1534 with the purpose of describing the expulsion of the friars from fifteen of their Danish convents through the Lutheran movement during the years 1528–1532. Besides the fifteen chapters it consists of an opening prayer, an index and a preface. No single author is mentioned, and therefore one of the targets of research has been to determine the real authorship of the “Chronicle”.


De expulsione fratrum minorum (About the expulsion of the Minorite Friars) is the title used by GERTZ for his edition (1922). But these words are selected from the original title above the Prefatio, namely: Cronica seu brevis processus in causa expulsionis fratrum Minoritarum de suis cenobiis provincie Datie (Chronicle or short statement in the case of the expulsion of the Minorite Friars from their convents in the province of Dacia). JOHANNESSON (1948) was the first to see the juridical purpose of the “Chronicle” expressed with this choice of words, which meant that because all property of the order as a consequence of its vow of poverty since 1288 formally belonged to the Holy See, the Danish Franciscans with their work aimed at an action in Rome against the devastators of their convents. Nevertheless the historical-sounding designation “Chronicle” has been upheld as a title by translations also.


Oratio deprecativa contra hereticorum diabolique versutias et tentationes...


Explicit qualiscunque modus et ordo in causa profligationis fratrum Minoritarum provincie Danice.


Ca. 54 standard pages.


  • Partial quotations from the manuscripts in Erik Pontoppidan: Annales Ecclesiæ Danicæ 2, 1744 and in Frederik Münter: Den danske reformations historie, 1802.
  • KNUDSEN, H. 1849–1852: “En gammel krønike om gråbrødrenes udjagelse af deres klostre i Danmark” (An old Chronicle about the expulsion of the Grey Friars from their convents in Denmark) in Kirkehistoriske Samlinger 1, 325–419 (the first complete edition, where the work is also abundantly commented on).
  • GERTZ, M.CL. 1922: “De expulsione fratrum minorum” in SMD 2, 325–67 (a scholarly, almost perfect, edition with codicological introduction).


  • (Danish) FENGER, J.F. 1851: “En gammel Krønike om Graabrødrenes Udjagelse af deres Klostre i Danmark,” in Dansk Kirketidende 6, 1, no. 26–29.
  • (Danish) KARUP, C.F.W.J. 1859: “En gammel Krønike om Graabrødrenes Udjagelse af deres Klostere i Danmark,” in Den katholske Kirke i Danmark, Copenhagen, 292–337.
  • (German) KARUP, W.J. 1863: “Eine alte Chronik über die Vertreibung der Graubrüder (Franziskaner) aus ihren Klöstern in Dänemark,” supplement to Geschichte der katholischen Kirche in Dänemark vom Beginn bis zur Gegenwart, Münster, 1–40.
  • (French) KARUP, G.J. 1861: “Ancienne Chronique sur la suppression de l´ordre des franciscains en Danemark,” supplement to Historie de L'Église Catholique en Danemark depuis le neuvième siècle jusqu´au milieu du seizième, Bruxelles, 297–337.
  • (German) SCHMIEDERER, P.G. 1908–1909: “Eine alte Chronik. Deutsch bearbeitet von P. Gaudenz Schmiederer CssR” in St. Franziszi-Glöcklein. Monatsschrift für die Mitglieder des dritten Orden des Hl. Franziskus 31, 119–21, 177–78, 274–76, 304–6, 332–34, 365–67.
  • (Danish) HEILESEN, H. 1967: Krøniken om Graabrødrenes fordrivelse fra deres klostre i Danmark (Selskabet til historiske kildeskrifters oversættelse, skrifter 19), Copenhagen.

Date and place

As the purpose of the work was to describe how the Minorite or Franciscan friars were driven out of their convents, looking forward to some coming lawsuit, such events are dated and documented with considerable precision. On the other hand the “Chronicle”, that is, the unfinished collection of different chapters which exists today, is not dated. The terminus post quem might be the first expulsion in Flensburg in June 1528, but as the most important author, Friar Jacobus Johannis, was the socius of the minister, Erasmus Clausen Ulf, who was in office 1531–1535, it is more feasible to regard these years as the time of origin of the work. The last event described in the “Chronicle” is the expulsion of the friars from Horsens on 29 December 1532. In any case the death of King Frederik I in April 1533 created a quite new political situation for the Church. The Council of the Realm (Rigsrådet), with its majority of Catholics, took over power in the country. The resolution (Reces) from the Assembly (Herredag) on 3 July contained the decision that no further abolition of monasteries or convents should take place, and with regard to the already destroyed mendicant convents, their case had to be treated by the next assembly (“schall ythermere handles i tillkommendis herredag”), planned to take place on St. John the Baptist's Day, 1534. This promise of the government presents a much more realistic frame for the origin of the “Chronicle of Expulsion” than a problematic lawsuit in distant Rome, as JOHANNESSON (1948) imagined. Its purpose then would be to present to this “Herredag” a detailed description of how the expulsions from the Danish Franciscan convents had taken place. The task therefore was fulfilled by the provincial minister and his collaborators during the period between June 1533 and June 1534. But as the planned “Herredag” never took place, because of the outbreak of the civil war (“Grevens Fejde”) in June 1534, the “Chronicle of Expulsion” was never used according to its purpose, and in fact never quite finished. The existing fair copy, Copenhagen, Royal library, NKS 276, 80, besides some losses in later times, has also original lacunas. The chapter about Copenhagen only consists of a prolonged title, and for the chapter on Trelleborg two empty, unwritten pages are reserved. This manuscript must therefore have been written when a reasonable hope of finishing it was still held by the writer, who therefore must have been one of the Franciscan friars and not a later copyist. On the other hand the work must have been done before the promulgation of the Church Ordinance (Kirkeordinansen) 2 September 1537 finally prohibited all mendicant orders in the Danish monarchy. This date must therefore be regarded as the terminus ante quem.

Two different friars are mentioned as writers of two of the chapters. At the end of the Viborg chapter Friar Jacob, socius (secretary) of the provincial minister (leader of the Franciscan province Dacia), relates how he has got the information from the former guardian (leader) of the Viborg convent, Friar Nicolaus Tybo, now vice-guardian in Ribe. As a conclusion to the chapter about Ystad, Friar Erasmus Olai in a similar way maintains the reliability of his narrative by mentioning the former guardian of the convent, Friar Andreas Bartholdy, as his source. Both writers, Jacob and Erasmus Olai, also figure elsewhere in the “Chronicle”. When the Lutherans tried to occupy the convent in Næstved in 1532, Erasmus Olai, now with the title lector, found assistance from the socius, Jacobus Johannis, and together with him appealed against Mogens Gøjes’s accusations against the friars in Næstved to the concilium regni (Herredagen) in Copenhagen. In the same chapter it is stated that Jacob resided with the provincial minister in Roskilde. These connections indicate that the “Chronicle of Expulsion” was no accident, but the result of conscious planning by the leaders of the Danish Franciscan province of Dacia.

The questions about this planning and the authorship of the preface and of the remaining chapters have been vividly discussed. The first editor of the whole work (KNUDSEN 1851) restricted himself to what could be read directly from the text, as shown above. In the preface to the authoritative critical edition, GERTZ (1922) suggested that lector Erasmus Olai might be the responsible shaper of the entire “Chronicle”. This theory was strengthened by JOHANNESON (1948), as he concluded through an analysis of the opening formulas of the preface and of some chapters that all these “editorial contributions” seemed to be written by Erasmus Olai. Consequently he only regarded the chapters about Viborg and Tønder as works of Jacobus Johannis.

RASMUSSEN in collaboration with the Latinist PINBORG (1963) reacted against this opinion. The analysis was extended from the opening formulas alone to the contents and shape of the whole text. PINBORG’s point of departure consisted in well-known principles of modern textual analysis, namely that an author may be characterised by the way he structures his texts and by his choice between different words expressing the same meaning. Using this procedure on the two chapters whose authors were known, Jacob for Viborg and Erasmus Olai for Ystad, he made lists of the characteristics of them both. Jacob had a theological perspective, used a “broken” composition and the “classisistic” Latin vocabulary of Humanism, whereas Erasmus argued juridically, wrote more strictly chronologically and chose his words according to medieval traditions. With these lists as a key for the analysis of the other parts of the “Chronicle”, PINBORG could show with great certainty that Jacobus Johannis was the writer of the chapters about Flensborg, Viborg, Tønder and Malmø – the longest and most detailed of them all – and in all probability about Kolding and also the preface, whereas Erasmus besides Ystad possibly also wrote about his own convent, Næstved. The authorship of the other chapters could not be determined. The conclusion was that not Erasmus, but the socius of the provincial minister, Friar Jacobus Johannis, must be regarded as the author of the greater part of the “Chronicle” and also as responsible for its design, although under the authority of the provincial minister, Erasmus Clausen Ulf, who, according to the contemporary historian of the order, >Petrus Olai, held this office in 1531–1535.

The knowledge that the author of the longest and richest chapter, namely about Malmø, was Jacobus Johannis allowed a further recognition of his identity. A thorough study of the text showed that the central figure in this detailed description of the fate of the Malmø convent in its years of distress was not the guardian, Friar Gabriel, but the vice-guardian, Friar Jacob. His verbal collisions with the Lutheran preachers are described, and his points of view concerning the inner strife among the friars about the right attitude to their difficulties are reproduced, and – above all – some episodes, in which he took part, are told as only he as an eye-witness would be able to do it. The reasonable conclusion is that the determined vice-guardian Jakob in Malmø 1527–1530 was the same person as the later socius and main author of the Chronicle.

In a special work (RASMUSSEN 1986) I have presented extensive arguments for the theory that the later fate of Friar Jacob can also be concluded from the historical material. According to this he must be identical with the last provincial minister of Dacia in exile in Mecklenburg 1539, Jacobus Gottorpius. From here he emigrated in 1542 via Spain to Mexico, where, under the name Fray Jacobo Daciano, he worked as a Franciscan missionary and a defender of the human rights of the Indians in Michoacan until his death ca. 1566. Even the seemingly incredible statement of the Mexican Chroniclers, that this Franciscan friar was a descendant of the Danish royal house, can be shown to be reliable through a scrupulous examination of the sources, which identify him as the third son of King Hans and Queen Christine. Contrary to this, no further evidence about the second author of the Chronicle, Erasmus Olai, seems to exist.

Summary of contents

In the opening prayer, Oratio, God's help against the persecutors of the order is passionately invoked in the form of a paraphrase of Ps. 79 (80, 15–17). Then follows the index: “Order of the years for the destruction of the convents” (Ordo annorum conventuum profligatorum), listing the fifteen convents in approximately the same chronological order as the chapters in the text, although without the intended mention of the years of the expulsions. The preface develops the object of the Oratio into a short theological analysis of Lutheranism, which by rejecting the value of good deeds and so also of religious life has undermined the faith of many friars and given the Danish rulers a pretext for devastating and robbing the convents. Among these persecutors the foremost is the chancellor, Mogens Gøje.

The descriptions of the events in the fifteen convents are very different in size and content. This following survey gives for every chapter the size in standard pages and the date for the final expulsion: Flensborg: Two and a half pages, 7 June 1528. Viborg: Four pages, before 27 February 1530. Tønder: One and a half page, 15 September 1530. Malmø: Sixteen and a half pages, ca. 10 May 1530. Copenhagen: Four lines, 25 April 1530. Kolding: One and a half page, 9 November 1529. Ålborg: One page, March 1530. Randers: Two pages, 20 February 1530. Trelleborg: missed, before March 1532. Køge: One half page, after 1 March 1531. Halmstad: Six and a half pages, 19 March 1531. Ystad: Eight and a half pages, after 16 March 1532. Næstved: Two pages, 16 August 1532. Kalundborg: One half page, 14 September 1532. Horsens: Two pages, 29 December 1532.

Concerning the value as a historical source it may be said in short that not only the assurances of the authors themselves and their references to other identified witnesses give the impression of a high measure of credibility, but above all the fact that there is a very good correspondence between the narratives in the “Chronicle” and external historical material, above all the numerous royal letters of King Frederik I about the convents and the expulsions, preserved in the copy-books of the Danish Chancellery, and in many cases refered to in the “Chronicle” itself (KNUDSEN, 1851, LINDBÆK 1914). The difference in style between the contributions of the friars Jacobus Johannis and Erasmus Olai has already been mentioned. The chapter about Halmstad for example has yet another character, for more than any other it has kept its peculiarity as a roughly coherent collection of different materials, and this also applies to a formal list of the dispersed possessions of the friars (JOHANNESSON 1948). Once having recognized the primary juridical purpose of the work, one easily understands its characteristics. Not only are the events described and – above all by Jacob – evaluated in their context with phases of the general religious contest, but the persons, which in the eyes of the Franciscans were responsible for the expulsions, are pointed out by name and accused for their illegal deeds. The work is really a plea for the planned case to regain the convents, referred to in its title and in its last words, but never realized.

The primary manuscript (I) is Copenhagen, Royal Library, NKS 276 8°. Its history is known since the end of the seventeenth century, when it belonged to the collections of the mayor in Ribe, Mathias Worm. The antiquarian Thomas Bartholin sent his amanuensis, young Arne Magnussen, to make a copy (II), now in Copenhagen, University Library, Bartholiniana, K., p. 539–64. The significance of II is that I then still possessed three pages, later lost, whose content therefore is only known from II, and this is also true of the opening Oratio, and the Tønder-chapter. These losses must have occurred before I (1726) was placed in the Royal Library. The loss of one of the pages in the Malmø-chapter had taken place already before the copying of II. After II Arne Magnussen had yet another copy written (III): AM 870, 80. After 1726 he personally collated III with I, and so not only improved the text, but deciphered some deletions made by an eager Lutheran reader of I, who apparently had felt himself offended by Catholic judgements in the Chronicle. These manuscripts are the basis for the editions of KNUDSEN (1851) and GERTZ (1922).


  • LINDBÆK, J. 1914: De danske franciskanerklostre, Copenhagen (With long citations from the Chronicle the final fate of the convents was illustrated, but without any formal historical criticism of the work).
  • JOHANNESON, G. 1948–1950: “Hur tillkom "krønikan" om gråbrödernas bortjagande ur Danmark?” Kirkehistoriske Samlinger 6, ser. 6, 17–31 (First attempt at a critical discussion about the character and authorship of the Chronicle. Recognition of its mainly juridical character and insufficient attempt to establish its authorship through analysis of the introductory formulas of its chapters alone).
  • JØRGENSEN, K.R. 2001: “Tabernes historie. Franciskanernes Uddrivelseskrønike, forfattere, datering, formål,” Kirkehistoriske samlinger 2001, 37–102 (Particularly the identification in RASMUSSEN & PINBORG 1963 of the authorship of the different chapters and of the origin and purpose of the chronicle is by means of a pedantic analysis of words and phrases in the Chronicle drawn seriously in question. However the omission of many historical facts makes *JØRGENSEN’s own alternative theory less credible. An accurate philological examination is still needed to decide whether this criticism of earlier research is justified or not).
  • RASMUSSEN, J.N. & PINBORG, J. 1963: “Broder Jacob Johansen og Uddrivelseskrøniken,” HistTD ser. 12, vol. 12, 193–223 (The texts of the two signed chapters, Viborg and Ystad were stilistically analysed. This key was used in search of the authorship of the other parts of the Chronicle. So Jacob Johansen could be recognized as author of roughly its first 3/5, Erasmus Olai of the chapters on Ystad and probably Næstved, while the origin of the rest remained unknown. Responsible for the whole project was the provincial minister, Erasmus Clausen Ulf. The identity of his “socius” Jacob Johansen with the former vice-guardian Jacob, the central person in the Malmø chapter, was established).
  • RASMUSSEN J.N. 1986: Broder Jakob den Danske, kong Christian IIs yngre broder (Odense University Studies in History and Social Sciences 98), Odense (In the chapter “Uddrivelseskrøniken,” 82–90, the identification of Jacob Johansen with the later missionary in Mexico, Jacobo Daciano, and Jacob, son of the Danish King Hans, was discussed. The purpose of the Chronicle was the intention to use it for the planned lawsuit concerning the re-establishment of the Danish mendicant convents at the (later prevented) Assembly of the Realm 1534).