Bornholm og Ertholmene


Oluf Ottesen (Uf) was a freeman (frimand), and was Chief Justice (Landsdommer) for Bornholm from 1508-1522, this during the period in which Hanseatic League free-city of Lübeck was in control of Bornholm. In 1510 he was ordered to travel to Lübeck, and on July 16th he was a signer of the "Landets Overenskomst" agreement, in which the Lübeck'ers demanded extortionary amounts of tax-payments from Bornholm's populace. He probably lived on Simlegård (a.k.a. Simblegård) in Klemensker. According to Zarthmann he can be found mentioned in documents dating from 1508 and 1522. (Source: Bornholmske Samlinger, volume 16, page 139.)

From the "Dansk adelsvåbner, en heraldisk nøgle", by Sven Tito Achen,Politikens Forlag, 1973, København:
Uf "I". Våben: En sparre (rød i hvidt? se Heraldisk Tidsskrift nr. 23,1971, side 111). (Arms: A chevron (red on white?) see H.T.) Hjelmfigur ukendt. (Helmet unknown.) Uradel, Skåne. (Noble origins: Skåne.) Niels Uf, 1302; Oluf Ottesen, landsdommer på Bornholm 1522. NDA side 299.

Oluf Ottesen (Uf) is known to have been alive in 1522, and is recorded as being deceased in a document dated October 2, 1546.

The following has been extracted from a translation of the article "Landsdommer-patriciatet på Bornholm", part 1, by Sigvard Mahler Dam,published in SAXO, 1987:

As an institution the Danish Landsting (High Court or Parliament) probably stems from the old Germanic tradition of the folkeforsamling(gathering of the people), where in all the arms bearing warriors met to talk over their common concerns and make necessary decisions. Later, during the Middle Ages, the High Court was the meeting place only for Frie Mænd, which constituted the kingdoms upper-class of frimænd(freemen) and selvejerbønderne (freehold farm-owners); the fæstebønder(copyhold peasants) and trælle (slaves), which constituted the vast majority of the Danish populace, were not allowed to participate. Needles to say, the king had the ultimate say on any given issue.

However, during the 1200s things changed: the king probably became too busy and therefore he appointed a substitute to oversee each county's gathering. By the 1300s the man chosen by the king to represent him in each of the counties was known as a Landsdommer (Chief Justice); further, the king now also appointed a group of 8 to 12 men from each county to sit alongside that county's judge on 4 stokke (benches); they were knownas the Tingmændene (or Stokkemændene).

Under each county's Landsting were a number of lower courts, the Herredsting (District Court). Bornholm had its own Landsting, which was situated in the middle of the island near Aa Kirke (Aa Church) - this probably had a great impact on the growth of Åkirkeby, which was the only township on the island without a harbour. The judgement of a Landsting could only be overruled during a Herredag (Herre: Gentleman, Master, or Lord; and dag: day), where in the king himself presided. Each county's Landsting also functioned as a local Herreting, for a freeman could not be judged by his local Herredsting, but rather only by his county's Landsdommer, who - as another freeman - was his social equal. This obviously favoured the kingdom's freemen over their fellow citizens - and they often took advantage of this situation. (see note nr. 1)

During this period of transition Bornholm's Landsting issued a documenton May 24th 1319. (note 2) From this document we can see that Bornholm's ting (gathering of people) still looked much like the old Germanic folketing: there was as yet no judge chosen by the King, as documents from that time shows was the case for Sjælland's Landsting. A few of the King's men are noted as being present, perhaps on account of the particulars of the case in question - unfortunately there are no other documents to compare with, so we can not know for certain. At the May 1319 meeting of the Landsting the participants ask for the King's intervention against the Archbishop's encroachments, and at the same time promising to help their king with all their might: ". . . vi der bebor fornævnte land alle som en er kommet sammen, vi har med alles enstemmige raad og samtykke ved vor tro lovet nævnte vor herre kongens udsending paa samme konges vegne med mod himlen hævede hænder og svoret, at vi i fasthed vil staa nævnte herre konge bi mod all og tro tjene ham. . . tilvidnes byrd herom har vi ladet nævnte lands segl og de gode mænd, ridder Jens Kandes, ridderne Tule Mus' og Peder Mogensens segl hænge under dette brev." (. . . we who live here have all come together and agreed to swear our allegiance with our hands outstretched up to Heaven to our king as faithful servants. . . and as witness to above we place our land's seal and the good men, Knight Jens Kande's, and the Knights Tule Mus' and Peder Mogensen's seals are placed onto this document.)

We can easily imagine them gathered on that beautiful day in May under the open sky by Aa Church, where upon they discussed the state of affairs and finally all as one, with their hands stretched towards Heaven, asked their king to come to their aid. We also find that, as is the case foreach township, Bornholm's Landsting had its own seal. Later it became the norm for only the Landsdommer and Tingmændene to seal documents, and so the Bornholmer Landsting seal was never seen again.

Queen Margrethe's Laws of 1396 bestowed far greater responsibility and influence to the Landsdommer than ever before: ". . . landsdommeren skal dømme alle ret og skel imellem, som han vil forsvare det for Gud og kongen" (. . . the chief justice must set forth a just verdict for every case, a verdict worthy of God and king). Still it was seldom for the judge to act alone, as was commonly seen only after the Reformation. Maybe this is why the Lübeckers (who ruled Bornholm from 1525-1575) complained when the king chose two "bisiddere" (besiddere: officials) to sit alongside their chosen judge because of his partiality and bias. Finally, on November 16th 1597 (note 3) a decree was issued that the chief justice and his official clerk could only issue judgements.

The Right to choose the "Landsdommer":

As a rule it was the king's privilege to choose, which of course stemmed from the custom of having an official of the crown present at the Landsting - we have only a few instances where in a Lensmand has chosen the judge, probably with the king's approval.(note 4) This might very well be the case on Bornholm, which was the archbishop's lien, and so the Archbishop of Lund had the right to choose the judges. The first known chief justice for Bornholm, Peter Bosen, had been made a nobleman by the archbishop on account of his faithful service, and on June 6th 1443 heswore allegiance to the archbishop. This, of course, does not prove anything - but does look to be suspicious. A judge received taxes from several farmsteads on top of his income as a judge, which supposedly would make it unnecessary for him to take bribes. The farms in question belonged to the archbishopric during the 1400s. After the Reformation the king took back the Church's possessions, and Bornholm had been described in the early tax books as being under "den gejstlige jurisdiktion" (ecclesiastical jurisdiction) (note 5), and it is interesting to note that it was always the property previously under the Church's jurisdiction that were given as lien to the chief justice - and we can even see that it is mostly the same farms given in lien downthrough the years, from the first lien document of 1448 until the last in 1629! Even in the tax protocols the residents of these Vornede-gaarde(peasant farms) are named as being "Landsdommerbønder" (the chiefjustice's peasants).

So we can presume that the Archbishop of Lund had the right to choose the chief justice up to the time of the Reformation. After that event the king confiscated the Church's estates and thus should have the right to choose the island's Landsdommer, but by then Bornholm had been given as lien to the free-city of Lübeck. Early on we find that a couple of the king's chosen justices receiving some of the formerly ecclesiastical estates, however they supported an open rebellion against Lübeck. As the next two justices seemed to be friendly towards Lübeck we might suspect that the right of choosing had been taken over by the Lübeckers. Which is probably why we next find the king's foged (bailiff) confiscating the ecclesiastical estates from the Lübeck friendly Landsdommer. Leaving us with the situation where in the estate lands farmed by the "Landsdommerbønder" were under the jurisdiction of the king's bailiff, and therefore not obliged to pay taxes to Lübeck or their representative!

The Status of the Island's Chief Justices:

The legislations of 1513 and 1523 stated explicitly that chief justices had to be noblemen - none the less we often see it written that on Bornholm the chief justice often was not a freeman. However, this is a mistake based on two out-dated treatises written on Bornholm's freemen by Jørgensen and Zarthmann (note 6), which suffers greatly from something you could call "a Bornholmer inferiority complex"! Many a hair has turned grey and much paper has been wasted trying to explain why Bornholm's freemen could not be noblemen, even though they were taxexempt and served valiantly to defend their island. The freemen were remnants of the past. After the end of the Viking era the nobility began to take form: as a reward for performing military duty a man was given freeman status, which meant having tax free status on your farm. As time went by some men acquired more land and farmsteads, and they became known as "høj adelen" (high nobility); others had only one tax-free farm, and they often served as fogeder (bailiffs) for the king or were lensmændene(vassals), and they became known as "lav adelen" (low nobility). The difference between the low nobility and the selvejerbønder (freeholdfarm-owners) was not a great distinction, and many inter-marriages took place, and not only on Bornholm! The Bornholmer freemen were known as low nobility, and they did not disappear until the middle of the 1600s - and therefore lasted for nearly 100 years longer than their counterparts in the rest of Denmark. The coronation ceremonies of the 1600s show us that Bornholm is the only place in all of Denmark where the freemen performed the ceremony separately from the peasantry, and also from the Commandant of Hammershus Fortress (who was of the high nobility). The Bornholm officers were not able to keep pace with the development of the nobility in the rest of the country because they were prohibited from founding dynasties with counts and barons. The frigårdene (freemen's farms) could no longer keep their distinct status, and at the death in 1668 of the last freeman, Berild Hansen, they disappeared to be swallowed up among the freehold farm-owners.

In the following we will see that the island's chief justices were ranked among the nobility (only in the 1650s do we first see a chief justice of common heritage) and what is more: they formed a local upper-class which inter-married. We can trace from the earliest known chief justices up to Mads Kofoed who died in 1646. Some of the justices could even trace their ancestry back to the commanders of Hammershus in the Middle Ages.

Peter Bosen:

The first known chief justice on Bornholm, Peter Boesen, was the faithful servant of the Archbishop of Lund. Peter was made a freeman on April 26th 1412, and as well the archbishop conferred free status on all his legitimate male descendants.(note 7) At the same time he was issued a coat of arms, which was similar to that of the Drefeldt family - which can be seen by their seals on documents. The above newly minted freemanofficer, Peter Bosen, was probably already married and with children, as in 1429 he appears to have a son of legal age, Bo Pedersen, an officer in Pedersker parish who owned a part of a farmstead together with Officer Hans Bentsen from the neighbouring Bodilsker parish. The only freeman's farm in Pedersker is the later named Eskesgård, and since a family which used "Bent" as a prominently re-occuring name resided at Eskesgård later on, it seems very probable that the farm which Bo Pedersen had a deed of convience on in 1429 was an inheritance after his mother, and that his mother must be from the "Bent-family", as it looks like Peter Bosen's family-line stopped with his son Bo, who even died before his father, which would indicate that some of Peter Bosen's sibling's children inherited their farms.

On March 29th 1416 Peter Bosen paid 5 silver Mark for a deed of conveyance on some land in Åby, in Nyker parish, from "væbner Splid"; the Åby land consisted of two freehold farms (nr. 23 and 24) (note 8), on both sides of Åby Brook - later called Muleby Brook. Not too far from Åby is Kyndegård, a freeman's estate; signifying that this was "tingsted" (a gathering place for Tingmændene). Kyndegård was a farm for the herredfoged (the district's bailiff), which leads us to presume that Peter Bosen was the bailiff for Rønne Herred (later called Vestre Herred) before he was appointed the island's chief justice.(note 9)

As chief justice we find Peter Bosen mentioned in two documents dated June 5th 1429 and July 13-20th 1429 where in he places his seal on two private deeds of conveyance, which is where we first encounter his son Bo. On November 7th 1433 he undersigns a High Court judgement, and on June 6th 1443, alongside other freemen, he swore his allegiance to the Archbishop of Lund. He probably reached a very old age before he passed away sometime within the next five years.

Sevid Nielsen:

In a document dated July 16th 1448 we first encounter the next chiefjustice for Bornholm, and he must have been only recently appointed, as in that document he acknowledges receiving from the Archbishop in Lund alife time deed given to him, and his wife Kirstine, to a hovedgård (manorfarm) and its 8 vornedegårder (copyhold peasant farms) spread out over five parishes. These farms are probably the same ecclesiastical estatelands that we later find under the pervue of following island's chiefjustices. This is the first chief justice deed of conveyance documentknown on Bornholm.

From their daughter's arms we can see that the family's shield is vertically divided into two fields, with the first field displaying a half fleur-de-lis attached to the partition - exactly the same shield as that used by the Clausen-Køller family!

During Sevid Nielsen's time there are long gaps in the historical record, and the next time he is mentioned is also the last before his death: on February 2nd 1469 the archbishop commanded "Sevidh Landsdommer" to summon Peder Lauridsen's heirs in Ibsker parish to court vs. Per Lang of "Walløse" (Vollsjö in Færs district, Skåne). Twenty years as chiefjustice is a long time, and soon after this Sevid Nielsen died.

Anders Uf:

Anders Uf, the son of Otte Pedersen Uf and his wife from the Galen-family, had married Sevid Nielsen's daughter, Anne, and we have an undated document stating that the couple had been deeded the manor farm and its 8 attached copyhold peasant farms previously belonging to Sevid Nielsen. The old deed of 1448 stated that Sevid Nielsen could occupy the manor until his death, meaning that by now he must have passed away, and his son-in-law Anders Uf had been appointed as his successor. However, no documents were saved from his time as chief justice. An "Anders Ufmin kære frænde" (Anders Uf my dear relative) is mentioned in Anders Galen's will of 1511, but since Chief Justice Anders Uf was dead for many years, the person mentioned must be his son, who in 1499 - after studying in Lund - was admitted on November 26th to Greifswald University: "Andreas U de Bornholm"; on that same day the son of Lund citizen was also admitted: "Tycho Nicolai de civitate Lundensi", they achieved Baccalaureate (Bachelor's degree) in 1500 and wer probably fellow travellers. The "Hr. Peder Uf, min kære frænde" mentioned in Anders Galen's will, must have been the son of the younger Anders Uf's father's brother; there seems to be no other possibilities, since Anders Galen is not related to the rest of the Uf-family. Anders Galen's sister had three children in another marriage: Jørgen Hals and his sisters Anne and Else, but Anders Galen would not accept them, and according to several documents he considered them illegitimate.(note 10)

(Note: I disagree with the above assertion that the Anders Uf who was married (before 1469) to Anne Sevidsdatter is the son of Otte Pedersen Uf(-1493-1497-); I believe it more likely that Chief Justice Anders Uf is the brother of Otte Pedersen Uf. And that the Anders Uf and Peder Uf mentioned in the 1511 will are brothers, the sons of Otte Pedersen Uf and his wife from the Galen-family; that the very reason they are mentioned in the will is because they are the nephews of Anders Galen. - NormanLee Madsen, September 19, 2003)

Jacob Split:

Anders Uf's widow, Anne Sevidsdatter, now married Jacob (or Jep) Split, who immediately thereafter became the next chief justice for Bornholm!!! Maybe their marriage had taken place in 1487 when officials in Lund deeded "Jacobus Splijt" four farms on Bornholm - perhaps they were several of the "Landsdommerbønder" (the chief justice's peasants). The first time he is mentioned as chief justice is in letters dated: August 14th 1490, next on July 2nd 1491, and then on July 10th 1493; the letters all concerned the personal affairs of Per Lang of Vollsjö, and it's indeed thanks to Per Lang's private archives that these few documents concerning Bornholm have been preserved.

On August 10th 1497 yet another farm was deeded to Per Lang, and the deed of conveyance document was witnessed by a varied group from the upperclass: Chief Justice Jep Split, Per Truelsen (of the Baad-family in Halland - probably a cousin of Split), Otte Pedersen Uf, and Oluf Ottesen Uf (Otte' son, and a future chief justice)! Jep Split's seal can still be recognized under several of these documents, it displayed a "geddekæft" (a pike's jawbone, aka: "halv hummerklo" = half lobster claw) on the shield, and in his seal is written: "Andreas Split", so he must have inherited his father's seal (on June 6th 1443 Andreas is referred to as Andreas "Splid Ipsen").

Both of Anne Sevidsdatter's husbands could count among their ancestors commanders of Hammershus. Jep Split descended from a daughter of Jacob Split (originally Splitaf), an faithful military officer under King Valdemar Atterdag. Jacob Split was from Jylland, and was installed as commander of Hammershus after it was retaken in 1361.(note 11) The following commander, Jens Uf, was the great-grandfather of Chief Justice Anders Uf, and they all were counted among the nobility. There is no evidence that Anne Sevidsdatter gave birth to any children, and the Split-family seems to have died out. Later, in the 1500s, a family: "The Bjergegaard-family" appears, using the exact same arms as that belonging to Jep Split. They can not be direct descendants of Jep Split, so it seems likely that they are a branch of the family which stopped using the Split family-name during the 1400s. Chief Justice Laurids Pedersen, whom we will meet later, was a member of that branch.

A key document dating from July 10th 1508 concerning the above two justices is Anne Sevidsdatter's gift to the cathedral in Lund in the amount of 200 Lübeck-Mark to honour her family. Anne's seal can be found on the document, which mentions both of her deceased husbands, and it is canon Peder Uf of Lund who manages the donation to the cathedral, which states that if the church neglects the saying of Mass for her soul, then the Uf-family can rightfully take back the 200 Mark - the Reformation is on the way! Her other relations also act as witnesses: Oluf Ottesen(Uf), who by this time was himself chief justice and that half brother of the younger Anders Uf (common father), Jørgen Hals was next (he was Anders Uf's half brother - common mother), and freeman Jens Olsen of Klemensker (possibly Oluf Ottesen's mother's brother?), and finally Oluf Jensen of Bjergegård in Vestermarie (his son was married to a niece of Jørgen Hals).

Oluf Ottesen (Uf):

Oluf, Otte Pedersen Uf's youngest son (from a second marriage to the sister of Jens Olsen of Klemensker?), had a sister, whose name likewise is not known, but who is known to have been married to freeman Oluf Tuesen of Klemensker; the fact that neither of these siblings are mentioned in Anders Galen's will of 1511 (while their brothers Anders Uf and Peder Uf are mentioned), must mean that Otte Pedersen Uf was married twice. Oluf Ottesen is first mentioned, alongside his father, as a witness to a private deed of conveyance on August 10th 1497, and he was so young that he did not have a seal of his own and so he placed his father's seal under his signature; later he would cease using Uf family-name altogether.

This was a rough period for Bornholm's chief justice! King Christian II tried to prevent the Hanseatic Merchant League's free trade by strengthening the native merchants. The Hansa hit back with a massive war effort: on August 31st 1509 the Hansa navy landed on Bornholm and threatened the populace with murder and fire, which the Bornholmers chose not to risk. They agreed to pay a fire-tax of 4,000 Lübeck marks and to hand over eight hostages. (note 12) The following year Denmark was in open conflict with the Hansa, who responded by sending a fleet of 30 vessels to Bornholm. But this time the islanders mobilized and met the fleet with fortifications around Nexø, however things turned out badly: the archbishop's commander turned tail and ran, he jumped on his horse and retreated to Hammershus fortress, and the Bornholmers fled like frightened sheep. Nexø was burned down until only three houses were left standing, and in Åkirkeby fires were also started before negotiatons were started. Over in the rest of Denmark it was rumoured that all of Bornholm had been burned down - it was not that bad, but its coffers had to be emptied to avoid that fate! On July 12th 1510 a treaty was signed with humiliating conditions: 4,000 gold coins - a huge sum of money, and 8,000 measures of pure silver. Also, three hostages were given over until the debt was fully paid, they were: Pastor Peder Laurentsen of Ibsker parish, "Peter Kovoth" (Peder Kofoed, who was from Lübeck), and Jens Skaaning.(note 13) Chief Justice Oluf Ottesen acted as the representative for Bornholm, since the Commander of Hammershus was still hiding in the fortress!

Oluf is mentioned several more times in the following years in his official capacity as chief justice, the last time on May 22nd 1522 when he, together with a number of "good men" from the Landsting, witnessed that Jørgen Hals and his two sisters, Anne and Else, are legitimate and rightful heirs after Anders Galen of Lund. Below this document his seal is well preserved, and we can see the Uf-family arms, with its "sparre"(chevron) on the shield, and the helmet with its two vessel-horns.

Oluf Ottesen probably married a daughter of Hans Myre, of Klinteby in Ibsker, and along with her inherited her family-farm, which became part of the Uf-family property for several generations. Their only child was named Hans Olufsen.


  1. Regarding the nordic landsting: "Kulturhistorisk Lexicon for Nordisk Middelalder", under "Landsting" and "Domare". See also W. Christensen's "Dansk Statsforvaltning i det 15. Århundrede", København, 1903.
  2. "Danmarks Riges Breve"/DRB, 2nd edition, volume 8, nr. 103; regarding further happenings on Bornholm see also SAXO 1985 yearbook, page 45.
  3. "Kancelliets Brevbøger", see the date mentioned.
  4. "Kult. Lex." (see note nr. 1), volume 3, page 154, shows one example, but we surmise that in the mid-1400s on Bornholm it was the right of the archbishop, and in the mid-1500s, in a few cases, it was the right of the Lübeckers - see the following.
  5. The ecclesiatical jurisdiction entailed the management of all farms which before the 1536 Reformation belonged to the Lund Archbishopric, and which were later taken over by the king and managed by his bailiff. The take over of church property took place while the Lübeckers had Bornholm under their 50 year lease, and since the king wished to take away as much power from the Lübeckers as possible, he used his bailiff (as well as the island's chief justice) as his resistance fighters.
  6. "Væbnere, adel og frimand på Bornholm", by J.A. Jørgensen, Rønne, 1905, is hopelessly out of date, and only refers to "Hübertz Aktstykker til Bornholms Historie"/Hüb. and that only superficially; the author did not even try to document family relationships, the only family researched by him is the Kofoed-family, and his family tree is incorrectly written down and not even verified by "Hüb.", in spite of this it later found its way into "Danmarks Adels Årbog"/DAA, 1906 edition, under "Kofoed". Not a milestone in Bornholm's historical literature! "Bornholms Frimænd" by M.K. Zahrtmann in "Bornholmske Samlinger", volume 16, Rønne, 1920, pages 120-159, is a bit better, although still out of date. Some of the "Væbnere" (arms carriers) have been incorrectly documented, something easily avoided if the author had checked their seals. He insisted that it was impossible to trace a Bornholm officer-family over three generations, which is indeed nonsense. Further mistakes include Jacob Køller's seal (see under "Sevid Nielsen", this article), where he states that Jacob carried the Brahe-family arms (which is displays a pole instead of a half fleur-de-lis!). Also, that Captain Anders Hansen (in the 1600s) belonged to the Lang-family (coat of arms: three oak-leaves), even though it had been over 100 years since the family had been on Bornholm, and that Anders Hansen carried a rose in his arms. A further mistake is that of Mette Hansdatter's arms (the wife of Chief Justice Peder Hansen Uf), he changed her half lobster claw (aka pike's jawbone) to one ant in order to make her fit into his faulty hypothesis, etc.,etc.
  7. "Svensk Diplomatarium"/SD, 2nd volume, nr. 496.
  8. Østre (Eastern) and Vestre (Western) Åbygård, but it is not likley that the "væbner" (arms carrier) bought these freehold farms; for these freemen were only allowed to buy "frigods" (free-estates) or "vornedegårde" (copyhold peasant farms), otherwise their entire landholdings were subject to be heavily taxed as per an old ecclesiastic(archbishopric) law.
  9. "Bornholms Stednavne", København 1950-51, volume 1, (Nyker parish, Vestre district); Kyndegård: a name derived from the old-danish "kynde"(bekyndtgøre = make a statement). Possibly this was a "tingsted"(meeting place for the court) and the residence for the district's bailiff.
  10. "Kirkehistoriske Samlinger", 4th edition, VI, page 373, ("Danske og Norske Studenter i Greifswald"). Anders Galen's will of November 19th 1511 ("Repertoriet" / Rep. Dipl. II edition, Nr. 11962) and witnessed by Commander Niels Jepsen (Bryske) in 1522, recorded in Bornholm's Landsting meeting on May 22nd 1522 (in "Hüb." nr. 62 and 64: the originals with seals in Mogens Gyldenstjerne's private archives, packet F.9. in Rigsarkivet/RA); a parish testimonial of 1530? mentions the two sisters("Hüb." nr. 78 - Topographisk Samlinger RA, Bornholm, nr. 119). For further information see in the yearbook "SAXO", 1986, page 79.
  11. "SAXO", 1986, page 71.
  12. Jørn Klindt's excellent book: "På spor af de første Kofod'er",Rønne, 1979; he states his source as "Hanserecesse III.5, 31 Aug. 1509".
  13. As with note nr. 12: "Hanserecesse III.6", note on page 97; July 5th 1510, July 16th 1510, November 20th 1510, and August 15th 1511. See also "Hüb." nr. 42.