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Saint Thorfinn

Saint Thorfinn
  • Century: 13th Century
  • Patronage: Advocate for Separation of Church and State, Religious Freedom
  • Feast Day: January 8th

St. Thorfinn was born in Norway and was believed to have been a Cistercian Monk before becoming the Bishop of Hamar.  He achieved a fair amount of fame as a saint, but few details are known about his life.  

St. Thorfinn and many other Bishops of the area disagreed with the sitting King Eric II of Norway, regarding a number of issues, one being the Episcopal elections.  King Eric received the nickname “Priest hater” from his less than successful relations with the Church.  There had been an agreement, the “Tonsberg Concord”, signed in 1277 between King Magnus VI of Norway and Jon Raude, the Archbishop of Nidaros.  The agreement confirmed certain privileges of the Clergy, the freedom of Episcopal elections and similar matters.  

In 1282, King Eric repudiated this agreement, and a fierce dispute between Church and State ensued.  Eventually the King outlawed Archbishop Jon Raude and his two chief supporters, Bishop Andres of Oslo, and Bishop Thorfinn of Hamar.  Bishop Thorfinn, after many hardships including shipwreck, made his way to the Abbey of Ter Doestat Lissewege, in Belgium.  He died there on January 8, 1285.  One of the monks at Ter Doest at the time wrote a poem praising the character of Bishop Thorfinn.  He remembered Bishop Thorfinn staying in the monastery and the impression he had made of gentle goodness combined with strength.  His mild exterior covered a firm will against whatever he esteemed to be evil and ungodly.  The monk posted this poem above his tomb.  

Practical Take Away 

St. Thorfinn was born in Norway and was a Cistercian Monk before becoming the Bishop of Hamar.  He achieved a fair amount of fame as a saint, but few details are known about his life.  He and two other Bishops went toe to toe with King Eric II of Norway.  King Eric repudiated an earlier agreement that gave Clergy privileges for Episcopal elections and similar matters.  St. Thorfinn stood up to the King and started forging the separation of Church and State.  He is buried at the Cistercian Abbey of Ter Doestat in Belgium.