Winstrup, Peder (1605 – 1679), bishop, initiator of Lund University
Peder Winstrup was the last Dane and the first bishop in the diocese of Lund. He was born in Copenhagen and the son of the bishop of the diocese of Sjaelland. He went to school in Sorø, the Danish equivalent of Eton at that time and later made a several-year educational tour of the continent where he met many contemporary scholars.
Upon his return, he was appointed professor of physics but did not have time to devote himself to the subject as he together with other academic teachers were assigned to revise first Latin and then Greek grammar. Peder Winstrup was a man of the Renaissance – being interested in both science and linguists as well as theology. He was awarded a doctorate following his dissertation on the importance of languages and natural sciences within theology. Among other things, he believed that knowledge of geometry was necessary to correctly assess the size of Noah’s ark and other biblical buildings. He believed that only those who could calculate the circumference and surface of the earth were in the position to explain the enormity of God’s mercy. He often preached in Latin and was appointed royal chaplain in the household of King Christian IV.
Ordained bishop of the diocese of Lund.
In 1638, Winstrup was ordained bishop by the clergy of the diocese of Lund. He was a well-liked, caring and ardent head of the diocesan. He often made long journeys within the diocese and was particularly involved in teaching and education at various levels.
He was also very aware of his rights and often participated in conflicts and bitter disputes with colleagues and the authorities. When Skåne became Swedish, in 1658, he declared his loyalty to the new king, Charles X Gustav. He invited the king home and introduced the idea of a university in Lund. He outlined what it should look like and made several proposals.
However, it was the government of the new king Charles XI, whilst under guardian rule, that made the proposal a reality. When the university was inaugurated in 1668, Winstrup gave the inaugural sermon. Through means of intrigue, his fiercest rival and enemy, Pastor Bernhard Oelreich, managed to become pro-chancellor of the new academy, a post for which Winstrup otherwise would have been the most obvious candidate. However, this was later redressed, and he was awarded the pro-chancellorship in 1671
Despite controversies and suspicions of disloyalty to both the Danish and Swedish crowns, he managed to remain bishop and pro-chancellor. He always had the full support of the clergy in the diocese.
After a few years of illness, Winstrup died in 1679. He was buried in the Cathedral – but after 335 years, his coffin was removed from the crypt and taken away for temporary research. It was reported that it was in a strangely well-preserved condition.
He has since been laid to rest in the north tower of the Cathedral.
Text: Solveig Ståhl