Petter Dass

Petter Pettersen Dass (c. 1647 – 17 August 1707) was a Lutheran priest and the foremost Norwegian poet of his generation, writing both baroque hymns and topographical poetry.

Petter Dass
Portrait of 1684 in Melhus Church thought to be of Petter Dass
Portrait of 1684 in Melhus Church thought to be of Petter Dass
BornC. 1647
Herøy in Nordland
DiedAugust 17, 1707
Alstahaug in Nordland
Signature of Petter Dass from the census of 1701
Petter Dass relief
by Ambrosia Theodora Tønnesen
Bergen Cathedral


He was born at Northern Herøy (Dønna), Nordland, Norway. His father was a merchant originally from Dundee, Scotland, Peter Dundas who had established himself as a trader along the northern Norwegian coast. His mother was Maren Falch (1629–1709[1]) whose father had been the local bailiff, a large land owner in Helgeland and manager for the Dønnes estate of Henrik Rantzau. His father died in 1653, when Petter was 6, and the children were cared for by relatives and friends. His mother remarried, but Petter remained with his mother's sister, Anna Falck, who was married to the priest at Nærøy.

At 13, Petter began attending school in Bergen, and later studied theology at the University of Copenhagen. He was lonely during his years in Copenhagen, but intellectually stimulated. After his years in Copenhagen, he returned to Norway and became a tutor in Vefsn. He fathered a child out of wedlock, and had to travel to Copenhagen and seek pardon from the Danish king. In 1689, he was appointed parish priest at Alstahaug Church. His parish was quite large covering an area which included the villages of Hattfjelldal, Vevelstad, Leirfjord, Vefsn, Herøy, Dønna, Nesna, Hemnes and Rana.[2]

Petter Dass Chapel in Husøya
Interior of Petter Dass Chapel
Petter Dass Museum in Alstahaug, Norway
Interior of Petter Dass Museum

He was also a writer of texts and hymns. Most of his writings were not published until after his death. His most famous work is the versified topographical description of northern Norway, Nordlands Trompet ("The Trumpet of Nordland"), and some psalms still in use, most prominently Herre Gud, ditt dyre navn og ære ("Good Lord, thy precious name and glory"). In the Faroe Islands, which were Norwegian until 1814, his Bibelsk Viise-Bog[3] and Katechismus-Sange[4] have continued to be used among folk singers until the last decades of the 20th century.[5]

The only existing portrait of Petter Dass is traditionally believed to be one found in the Melhus church in Norway. However, the claim is hotly disputed, with some historians who studied the painting concluding that Dass is most likely not the subject. Several modern statues and bust of Petter Dass have been erected in Norway, including a bas-relief by Norwegian sculptor Ambrosia Theodora Tønnesen (1859-1948) at the Bergen Cathedral. The community of Sandnessjøen has a modern statue of Petter Dass located prominently in the town centre.[6][7]

Petter Dass was deeply mourned after his death, and many fishing vessels of Northern Norway carried a black cloth in their sail for 100 years after his death, as a sign of mourning. He is still the subject of folklore of Nordland. There is, for example, a legend of how he fooled the devil to carry him to Copenhagen to preach for the king.

Petter Dass ChapelEdit

Petter Dass Chapel (Petter Dass-kapellet) is located in Husøya, the administrative centre of Træna municipality, in Nordland county, Norway. The chapel was opened on 28 June 1997 as a memorial of Petter Dass.[8]

Petter Dass PrizeEdit

Petter Dass Prize (Petter Dass-prisen) is an annual award extended by the Norwegian newspaper Vårt Land. the prize was first granted during 1995. It is awarded in recognition of a person or organization that has helped to put the Christian faith on the agenda in society.[9]

Petter Dass MedalEdit

The Petter Dass Medal (Petter Dass medaljen) is an award given annually by Nordlændingernes Forening in Oslo to people from Northern Norway that have distinguished themselves in their work for the region's development. The society is a fraternal association of people that have emigrated from the counties of Nordland, Troms, and Finnmark. Nordlændingernes Forening was founded by the Norwegian educator, clergyman, and engineer Ole Tobias Olsen (18 August 1830 – 6 July 1924) and the Norwegian theologian and hymn writer Elias Blix. In honor of the society's 50th anniversary in 1912, a commemorative medal was first established in memory of Petter Dass.[10]

Petter Dass MuseumEdit

The Petter Dass Museum (Petter Dass-museet) in Alstahaug municipality in Nordland county, Norway was established in 1966 and is currently a division of Helgeland Museum. The opening of the new museum building took place during Autumn 2007, 300 years after the death of Petter Dass. The facility inspires the teaching, research, artistic creative work, study and contemplation, and dialogue about culture and values. Since 1983, Petter Dass has also been honored with the traditional Petter Dass days at Alstahaug.[11]

Modern cultural influenceEdit

Noted Norwegian Classical songwriter Edvard Grieg included the words of Petter Dass in his composition Fisherman's Song (Fiskervise. 1894) from 7 Barnlige Sange, Op.61. More recently Norwegian folk singer, Jack Berntsen has written songs based on poems by Petter Dass and Norwegian playwright Lars Berg wrote the play Petter Dass (1967). Mit navn er Petter Dass, a music album published in 2008 with lyrics by Petter Dass, was written by Kari Bremnes with her brothers Lars and Ola.

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ "Maren Pernille Pedersdatter Falch, Nord-Herøy".
  2. ^ "Alstahaug church". Petter Dass-museet. Retrieved July 15, 2016.
  3. ^ Petter Dass (1711): Aandelige Tids-Fordriv eller Bibelske Viise-Bog, Copenhagen. Published in Petter Dass, Samlede Verker, Vol. 2, edited by Kjell Heggelund / Sverre Inge Apenes, Oslo 1980
  4. ^ Petter Dass (1714): D. Mort: Luthers lille Katechismus, forfatted I beqvemme Sange, Copenhagen (known as Katechismus-Sange). Published in Petter Dass, Samlede Verker, Vol. 2, edited by Kjell Heggelund / Sverre Inge Apenes, Oslo 1980
  5. ^ Marianne Clausen (2006): Andlig Vísuløg í Føroyum / Spiritual Songs in the Faroes, 542 pp., Stiðin, ISBN 99918-42-41-1
  6. ^ Stautland, Helge Johan (20 December 2004). "Dette er ikke Petter Dass" (in Norwegian). Kristelig Pressekontor. Archived from the original on 8 June 2009. Retrieved 2009-05-29.
  7. ^ Petter Dass – a Poet and a Priest (Archives for sandnessjøen)
  8. ^ Petter Dass-kapellet (Hærverk kommunale) Archived 2011-09-17 at the Wayback Machine
  9. ^ Petter Dass-prisen (Vårt Land)
  10. ^ Petter Dass medaljen (Nordlændingernes Forening)
  11. ^ Om Museet (Petter Dass Museum) Archived 2010-12-12 at the Wayback Machine

Other sourcesEdit

  • Andersen, Per Thomas (1997) Fra Petter Dass til Jan Kjærstad: Studier i diktekunst og komposisjon (Cappelen akademisk forlag) ISBN 978-82-456-0511-2
  • Akslen, Laila (1998) Norsk barokk: Dorothe Engelbrettsdatter og Petter Dass i retorisk tradisjon (Oslo: Cappelen) ISBN 978-82-456-0445-0
  • Apenes, Sverre Inge (1978) Rapport om Petter Dass: Presten som diktet makt til folket (Gyldendal) ISBN 978-82-05-11406-7
  • Forfang, Sven Erik (1999) Som siges at præsten paa Næsne har gjord" : søkelys på Petter Dass' liv og verk (Høgskolen i Nesna) ISBN 82-7569-044-7
  • Hansen, Kåre (2006) Petter Dass, mennesket, makten og mytene ISBN 978-82-997397-0-2
  • Harr, Karl Erik (1988) Guds nordenvind : vandringer med Petter Dass (Cappelen) ISBN 82-02-11336-9
  • Midbøe, Hans (1947) Petter Dass (Gyldendal) ISBN 82-05-23161-3
  • Nesset, Sigmund (1997) ‘Herr Petter 350 år : et festskrift fra Universitetet i Tromsø (Universitetsbiblioteket i Tromsø) ISBN 82-91378-14-2
  • Ustvedt, Yngvar (1976) Pa tomannshand med dikterne: Nye intervjuer med norske klassikere fra Petter Dass til Arnulf Øverland (Gyldendal) ISBN 978-82-05-08888-7

External linksEdit