A stift (also called a bispedømme), or a diocese, is the highest church jurisdiction in Denmark. The diocese was split into smaller deaneries that were then divided into parishes. The diocese was run by the bishop, who was the spiritual supervisor of all priests. He would also supervise the upkeep of church buildings, schools, cemeteries, etc. Poor relief was also provided by the diocese until 1803 or 1868 in the cities. The bishop would visit each church and school every three years and create reports of his visits. With his supervision, came the creation of different records.
When trying to research a priest or other worker of the Danish church, it will be important to check the diocese records. The diocese kept records such as histories of the parishes/priests, some land records (especially concerning the diocese property), and court records. Marriage records were also kept by the diocese. These records are kept at the local bispearkiv, diocese archive, which is found in the landsarkiv for each area. The only exception is the bispearkiv for Sjælland’s diocese, which are kept at the Copenhagen University archives at the Rigsarkiv. There are also a few extracts at http://www.kkermit.dk/, under bispearkiver.
8 dioceses in 1053:
7 dioceses after the Reformation, 1520’s:
- Aalborg (Vendsyssel)
Changes after the Reformation:
- Lolland-Falster diocese created in 1803 from the Fyn
- Als and Ærø diocese, 1819-1864, created from Fyn’s diocese and Slesvig’s diocese. It excluded Sønderborg city and Kegnæs island
- Southern Jylland was taken over by Germany in 1864. As a result, the dioceses Als and Slesvig went to Germany and Ærø was returned to Fyns diocese. When Denmark was reunited in 1920, west Slesvig became part of the Ribe diocese and the rest became a new diocese, the Haderslev diocese, established in 1922.
- København and Roskilde dioceses created from the Sjælland diocese, 1922
- Helsingør diocese split from København in 1960-1961
12 Dioceses today:
- Skaaning, Jytte and Bente Klercke Rasmussen. Find Din Slægt - og Gør den Levende: Håndbog i Slægtshistorie, 2d ed. Syddansk Universitetsforlag, 2006.
- Worsøe, Hans H. Politikens Håndbog i Slægtshistorie. København (Copenhagen): Politikens Forlag A/S, 2005.
- Wikipedia. "Stift." <http://da.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stift>. Accessed 8 May 2011.