Torbjørn Olavssøn Bratt

Approximately 1500-1548
The Reformation in 1537 brought a new order in religious and church affairs in Norway. Beyond that, Norway also lost much of its independence to Denmark. When the Catholic Archbishop Olav Engelbrektsson fled from Norway, there was no church system that was ready and in place to take over his functions. There was a long hiatus in church affairs, and it took nine years before the first Protestant superintendent (somewhat like a bishop!) was in place in Trondheim.
Torbjørn Olavssøn Bratt, born on Andøya in northern Norway, belonged to the low Norwegian nobility. He was schooled in Trondheim, where his brother Jens was a trusted employee with the Archbishop, Olav Engelbrektsson. Torbjørn was matriculated at the University of Cologne in 1527, and later came to Copenhagen. There he spent some of the time at the court as a tutor. At this time, he came across Lutheran ideas, and was probably influenced by them. It is uncertain whether he returned to Trondheim before Engelbrektsson had left Norway. In 1538 he was appointed the dean at the Cathedral Chapter House, and in 1542 he was elected as its first "superintendent". Formally he did not receive confirmation of the royal appointment until 1546, after he had stayed in Wittenberg with Martin Luther and his character had been vouched for.
Bratt started his work on rectifying the moral decay in the county by introducing fresh ideas. The conditions in Katedralskolen were a particular focus of his efforts. But he received little support from Copenhagen. After an unsuccessful visit there he died of the plague on the way home in 1548, and was buried at Ringsaker church (not far from Lillehammer). A long road (but not very steep [his surname Bratt means steep in Norwegian]) now bears his name. The library of the Royal Norwegian Society of Sciences and Letters has two volumes from the collection of books he left behind.
Recommended reading: Trygve Lysaker: Reformasjon og enevelde [Reformation and absolute monarchy] 1537-1804 p.37-47. Nidaros domkirkes restaureringsarbeider 1987.

Author: Einar Rædergård