Arnold Johan Messenius

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Arnold Johan Messenius (Gdańsk, 1607 – Stockholm, 1651) was a Swedish enfant terrible and Rikshistoriograf who was condemned to death and executed under the reign of Christina, Queen of Sweden.

Early life[edit]

Arnold was the son of the historian Johannes Messenius. He spent much of his youth in the fortress of Kajaneborg in Arctic Finland, where his father had been imprisoned on suspicion of being a Catholic and collaborating with the king of Poland Sigismund III Vasa and the Jesuits.[1]

His father was sentenced to death in July 1616, but the king changed the sentence to prison, probably for life. Messenius wrote during his imprisonment Scandia illustrata, a history of the Nordic countries in 14 volumes, which treated Sweden's history from the deluge to Messenius' own time. When Messenius suspected that the government wanted to publish this work in its own name, he demanded freedom for his son, who was also imprisoned, and free passage for himself to wherever he wished. Shortly after Messenius died, and the government offered his widow, Lucia Grothusen, 500 Swedish riksdaler for Scandia illustrata. However, she left the kingdom with the manuscripts.

Buildings of the Collegium Hosianum
Korela Fortress is the main landmark of Kexholm

Arnold had a restless adolescence. In 1621, at the age of 14, the Swedish authorities locked him up in Uppsala in a boarding school run by Lutherans. He was forced to flee (1623) for being accused of what seems to be accidentally killing a classmate during a dispute and, after an adventurous escape through Norway and Denmark, he arrived in Gdańsk, where he was welcomed by his mother's family. In October 1623 he was accepted at the prestigious Jesuit Collegium Hosianum in Braunsberg (Poland), where his father also had studied, but, undisciplined, he left shortly afterwards. After wandering in Prussia, Poland, Silesia, Bohemia and Austria, he returned to Sweden in July 1624 in the wake of Krzysztof Radziwiłł, a noble Lithuanian Protestant and opponent of Gustav II Adolf of Sweden.

In Sweden, the boy was brought to trial on charges of spying for Poland; the process, during which he was accused of defending his father, ended with the death sentence of Arnold Johan, as a traitor. He was pardoned by King Gustav II Adolf and in 1626 sent to Kexholm as a prisoner.


He was pardoned 14 years later, in 1640 through Count Per Brahe, the governor of Swedish Finland and went to Stockholm to obtain employment in government service. He was arrested in August at the Danish border and put in Stockholm jail. The Councils instructed him to go to Poland and find the manuscript Scandia illustrata, left there by his mother after his father's death. Messenius was able to fulfill this mission and found a number of curious Swedish documents. Arnold Johan was instructed to write an official history of Sigismund and Charles IX's reign and won a generous patronship by the admiral Carl Carlsson Gyllenhielm. In 1645 he was appointed royal historian by Queen Christina, and peered, but he had not the talent of his father for history, nor his critical instinct, nor perseverance and hard work. When Christina ordered him, after a scandal, to supply his sister with some of the fiefs, their animosity began.

Subsequently in 1649 and 1650 he made connections with opposition leaders known as the "Messen conspiracy", and Swedish noblemen were alarmed.[2]


Messenius wrote some satires on Axel Oxenstierna and accused Christina of serious misbehavior and being a Jezebel, for which he was beheaded together with his 17-year-old son.[3][4]


  1. ^ "Linnasta linnaan". Retrieved 2011-10-26. 
  2. ^
  3. ^ "The case of Arnold Johan Messenius", In: Oskar Garstein, Rome and the Counter-Reformation in Scandinavia: the age of Gustavus Adolphus and Queen Christina of Sweden, 1622-1656, Leiden: Brill Editore, 1992, pp. 285-295, ISBN 90-04-09395-8, ISBN 9789004093959(Google books)
  4. ^ Henry Woodhead, Memoirs of Christina, Queen of Sweden, 2 voll., London: Hurst and Blackett, 1863, Vol. II, pp. 86-97 (Google books)