Carmelite opponent of the Reformation in Denmark, b. at Warberg about 1480; d. after 1534
Heliae, PAUL (POVL HELGESEN), Carmelite, opponent of the Reformation in Denmark, b. at Warberg (in the Laen of Halland), about 1480; d. after 1534, place unknown. In early youth he entered the Carmelite convent of his native town, where he received his first education, and in course of time obtained the degrees of Lecturer on Holy Scripture and Bachelor of Divinity; he was elected provincial in 1519 and soon after professor at the University of Copenhagen. In these positions he had to choose sides in the religious strife which broke out on the appointment of a Lutheran pastor to the parish of St. Nicholas, and the introduction of a new ecclesiastical code of distinctly schismatical tendencies. In a sermon preached at court he warmly defended the Catholic Faith and made some pointed remarks on the king’s morals, with the result that he had to seek safety in flight until the dethronement of Christian II and the election of Frederick I procured a short respite to the Catholic religion. Unfortunately Helgesen, through misdirected zeal, rendered his own faith suspect; he preached against simony, avarice, and other clerical vices with a vehemence peculiar to Protestant invectives, and also published a Danish translation of Luther’s “Betbuchlein” (prayer book on the commandments, the Creed, the Our Father and Hail Mary); his object in placing Luther’s work before the Catholics of Denmark was evidently to eliminate what was unsound in faith and to preserve only that which agreed with the doctrine of the Church; yet, owing to hurry, Helgesen allowed much to pass which should have been omitted, and failed to emphasize some of the most important dogmas.
The result was that both Catholics and Protestants remained for some time uncertain as to his real belief, and afterwards, when his attitude proved him to be an uncompromising adherent of the Catholic religion, he was nicknamed Vendekaabe (weathercock), under which name he went down to posterity. Nevertheless he missed no occasion to attack heresy, writing no less than six works in defense of the old faith, and taking part in public disputations. But all in vain; protected by the king (in flagrant violation of his oath), and fostered both by Germany and Sweden, the new religion grew every day more powerful; Catholic worship was gradually abolished, and Helgesen had the sorrow to see the convents of his order secularized. Nothing is known concerning his last days; Schmitt inclines to think that he met with a violent death during or after the siege of Roskilde (1536), and thus gained a martyr’s crown; others are of opinion that he may have withdrawn to some convent abroad, perhaps in Holland.