Gustavus Adolphus: Defender of the Faith
I’ve been enjoying looking through the high resolution photos taken recently of every coin and medallion in the collection of Concordia Historical Institute. Come to find out after careful review and analysis of the entire collection it is, unquestionably, the largest collection of such things in North America and the largest outside of European collections. The coins tell many an interesting story, and more later on how a study of these coins provides documentation of the decline of Lutheran orthodoxy from the 16th up to and through the 19th century.
For now I simply wanted to share one of the coins that stood out. It is a coin minted in 1632 to commemorate the death of Gustavus Adolphus who was killed during the Battle of Lützen, in 1632. He was only 38 years old.
Gustavus was not without his faults, of which he was painfully aware. But, from all acounts, hagiography aside, he was a devout and pious orthodox Lutheran who truly believed he had been called to defend Lutheran territories from the ravaging armies of the Pope and secular princes allied withe the Papacy during the Thirty Years War. He was a military genius whose use of artillery and certain formations with long pikes, revolutionized warfare in his day and led to his many achievements on the battlefield, before his death. He was also unique in that he absolutely demanded his troops refrain from the raping and pillaging that was par-for-the course during warfare in these days. He was eager to lead his troops into battle, preceded always by a full Lutheran Divine Service, with the singing, most often, of Luther’s hymn, “Fear Not O Little Flock.” After his death, his armies lost a good bit of the discipline he had instilled and sought their revenge indiscriminately throughout Germany. You can read more details about his faith and life here. Obviously, there are romanticized versions of his life, but in response, attempts to disparage or underestimate his genuine Christian piety and devotion to duty are equally false.
Here is what he during a meeting with his the leaders of the various estates of his kingdom. Prophetic words indeed.
“I know,” said he, “the dangers I am about to encounter; l know that it is probable I shall never return; I feel convinced that my life will terminate on the field of battle. Let no one imagine that I am actuated by private feelings or fondness for war. My object is to set bounds to the increasing power of a dangerous empire before all resistance becomes impossible. Your children will not bless your memory if, instead of civil and religious freedom, you bequeath to them the superstitions of monks and the double tyranny of popes and emperors. We must prevent the subjugation of the Continent before we are reduced to depend upon a narrow sea as the only safeguard of our liberties; for it is delusion to suppose that a mighty empire will not be able to raise fleets, if once firmly established on the shores of the ocean.”
Here is the coin minted to commemorate his death.
Image: bust of Gustavus Adolphus
GUST[AVUS] ADOLPH[US] D[EI] G[RATIA] SUEC[ORUM] GOT[HORUM] VA[N]D[ALORUM] R[EX] M[AGNUS] PRINC[EPS] FI[N]LA[N]D[IAE] DUX E[S]THO[NIAE] ET CARELLAE IGRIAE D[OMINUS] 1632
Gustavus Adolphus, by God’s grace King of the Swedes, Goths, and Vandals, the Great Prince of Finland, Duke of Estonia and Karelia, and Lord of Ingria. 1632
Image: figure of knight stepping on people, note carefully one of the figures is clearly intended to be Satan, depicted as a fierce dragon, the other figure, one might speculate, intended to depict the whore of Babylon>
MILES EGO CHRISTI, CHR[IST]O DUCE, STERNO TYRANNOS, PARCERE CHRISTICOLIS, ME DEBELLARE FEROCES
HAERETICOS SIMUL ET CALCO MEIS PEDIBUS PAPICOLAS, CHRIST[US] DUX ME[US], EN ANIMAT.
I, a soldier of Christ, with Christ as my captain, throw down the tyrants. Behold, Christ my captain endows me with courage to spare the worshipers of Christ, [but] to vanquish the savage heretics; and with my feet I tread upon the worshipers of the pope.