Saint Bridget of Sweden
Altarpiece in Salem church, Södermanland, Sweden (restored digitally)
|Died||23 July 1373|
Rome, Papal States
|Venerated in|| Catholic Church |
|Canonized||7 October 1391 by Pope Boniface IX|
|Major shrine||Vadstena Abbey|
8 October (General Roman Calendar of 1960)
7 October (Sweden)
|Attributes||Pilgrim's hat, staff & bag; crown, writing-book.|
|Patronage||Europe, Sweden, Widows|
Bridget of Sweden (c. 1303 – 23 July 1373); born as Birgitta Birgersdotter, also Birgitta of Vadstena , or Saint Birgitta (Swedish : heliga Birgitta), was a mystic and saint, and founder of the Bridgettines nuns and monks after the death of her husband of twenty years. Outside of Sweden, she was also known as the Princess of Nericia and was the mother of Catherine of Vadstena. (Though normally named as Bridget of Sweden, she was not a member of Swedish royalty.)
Vadstena is a locality and the seat of Vadstena Municipality, Östergötland County, Sweden, with 5,613 inhabitants in 2010. From 1974 to 1979 Vadstena was administered as part of Motala Municipality.
Swedish is a North Germanic language spoken natively by 10 million people, predominantly in Sweden, and in parts of Finland, where it has equal legal standing with Finnish. It is largely mutually intelligible with Norwegian and to some extent with Danish, although the degree of mutual intelligibility is largely dependent on the dialect and accent of the speaker. Written Norwegian and Danish are usually more easily understood by Swedish speakers than the spoken languages, due to the differences in tone, accent and intonation. Swedish is a descendant of Old Norse, the common language of the Germanic peoples living in Scandinavia during the Viking Era. It has the most speakers of the North Germanic languages. While being strongly related to its southern neighbour language German in vocabulary, the word order, grammatic system and pronunciation are vastly different.
Mysticism is the practice of religious ecstasies, together with whatever ideologies, ethics, rites, myths, legends, and magic may be related to them. It may also refer to the attainment of insight in ultimate or hidden truths, and to human transformation supported by various practices and experiences.
She is one of the six patron saints of Europe, together with Benedict of Nursia, Saints Cyril and Methodius, Catherine of Siena and Edith Stein.
A patron saint, patroness saint, patron hallow or heavenly protector is a saint who in Roman Catholicism, Anglicanism or Eastern Orthodoxy, is regarded as the heavenly advocate of a nation, place, craft, activity, class, clan, family or person.
Benedict of Nursia is a Christian saint venerated in the Catholic Church, the Eastern Orthodox Church, the Oriental Orthodox Churches, the Anglican Communion and Old Catholic Churches. He is a patron saint of Europe.
Saints Cyril and Methodius were two brothers who were Byzantine Christian theologians and Christian missionaries. Through their work they influenced the cultural development of all Slavs, for which they received the title "Apostles to the Slavs". They are credited with devising the Glagolitic alphabet, the first alphabet used to transcribe Old Church Slavonic. After their deaths, their pupils continued their missionary work among other Slavs. Both brothers are venerated in the Orthodox Church as saints with the title of "equal-to-apostles". In 1880, Pope Leo XIII introduced their feast into the calendar of the Roman Catholic Church. In 1980, Pope John Paul II declared them co-patron saints of Europe, together with Benedict of Nursia.
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The most celebrated saint of Sweden was the daughter of the knight Birger Perssonof the family of Finsta, governor and lawspeaker of Uppland, and one of the richest landowners of the country, and his wife Ingeborg Bengtsdotter, a member of the so-called Lawspeaker branch of the Folkunga family. Through her mother, Ingeborg, Birgitta was related to the Swedish kings of her era.
Finsta is a locality situated in Norrtälje Municipality, Stockholm County, Sweden with 244 inhabitants in 2010.
A lawspeaker or lawman is a unique Scandinavian legal office. It has its basis in a common Germanic oral tradition, where wise people were asked to recite the law, but it was only in Scandinavia that the function evolved into an office. Two of the most famous lawspeakers are Snorri Sturluson and Torgny the Lawspeaker.
Uppland is a historical province or landskap on the eastern coast of Sweden, just north of Stockholm, the capital. It borders Södermanland, Västmanland and Gästrikland. It is also bounded by lake Mälaren and the Baltic sea. On the small uninhabited island of Märket in the Baltic, Uppland has a very short and unusually shaped land border with Åland, an autonomous province of Finland.
She was born in 1303. There is no exact recording for which precise date. In 1316, at the age of 14she married Ulf Gudmarsson of the family of Ulvåsa, Lord of Närke, to whom she bore eight children, four daughters and four sons. Six survived infancy, which was rare at that time. Her eldest daughter was Märta Ulfsdotter. Her second daughter is now honored as St. Catherine of Sweden. Her youngest daughter was Cecilia Ulvsdotter. Bridget became known for her works of charity, particularly toward Östergötland's unwed mothers and their children. When she was in her early thirties, she was summoned to be principal lady-in-waiting to the new Queen of Sweden, Blanche of Namur. In 1341 she and her husband went on pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela.
Ulvåsa, or Ulfåsa, is a mansion by lake Boren outside Motala in Östergötland, Sweden. The construction of the present mansion began in the 16th century. In the early 19th century a third floor was added and it obtained its present architecture.
Närke is a Swedish traditional province, or landskap, situated in Svealand in south central Sweden. It is bordered by Västmanland to the north, Södermanland to the east, Östergötland to the southeast, Västergötland to the southwest, and Värmland to the northwest. Närke has a surface area of 4,126 km² and a total population of 208,376.
Margareta "Märta" Ulfsdotter, in Norway known as Merete Ulvsdatter (1319-1371), was a Swedish noble and lady in waiting. She was the daughter of Saint Bridget of Sweden and the head lady in waiting of Margaret I, Queen of Denmark.
In 1344, shortly after their return, Ulf died at the Cistercian Alvastra Abbey in Östergötland. After this loss, Birgitta became a member of the Third Order of St. Francis and devoted herself to a life of prayer and caring for the poor and the sick.
The Cistercians officially the Order of Cistercians, are a Catholic religious order of monks and nuns that branched off from the Benedictines and follow the Rule of Saint Benedict. They are also known as Bernardines, after the highly influential St. Bernard of Clairvaux ; or as White Monks, in reference to the colour of the "cuccula" or white choir robe worn by the Cistercians over their habits, as opposed to the black cuccula worn by Benedictine monks.
Alvastra Abbey was a Cistercian monastery located at Alvastra in Östergötland, Sweden. It was founded in the first half of the 12th century by a donation of land from King Sverker I of Sweden to the Cistercian Order. It was dissolved and appropriated by the Crown at the time of the Protestant Reformation in accordance with the Reduction of Gustav I of Sweden.
Östergötland is one of the traditional provinces of Sweden in the south of Sweden. It borders Småland, Västergötland, Närke, Södermanland and the Baltic Sea. In older English literature, one might also encounter the Latinized version, Ostrogothia. The corresponding administrative county, Östergötland County, covers the entire province and parts of neighbouring provinces.
It was about this time that she developed the idea of establishing the religious community which was to become the Order of the Most Holy Saviour, or the Brigittines, whose principal house at Vadstena was later richly endowed by King Magnus IV of Sweden and his queen. One distinctive feature of the houses of the Order was that they were double monasteries, with both men and women forming a joint community, though with separate cloisters. They were to live in poor convents and to give all surplus income to the poor. However, they were allowed to have as many books as they pleased.
The Abbey of Our Lady and of St. Bridget, more commonly referred to as Vadstena Abbey, situated on Lake Vättern in the Diocese of Linköping, Sweden, was the motherhouse of the Bridgettine Order. The abbey started on one of the farms donated to it by the king, but the town of Vadstena grew up around it. It was active from 1346 until 1595.
Magnus IV was King of Sweden from 1319 to 1364, King of Norway as Magnus VII from 1319 to 1355, and ruler of Scania from 1332 to 1360. By adversaries he has been called Magnus Smek.
A double monastery is a monastery combining a separate community of monks and one of nuns, joined in one institution. More common in the monasticism of Eastern Christianity, where they are found since the 4th century, in the West the establishment of double monasteries became popular after Columbanus and were found in Anglo-Saxon England and Gaul. Double monasteries were forbidden by the Second Council of Nicaea in 787, though it took many years for the decree to be enforced. In a significantly different way, double monasteries were revived again after the 12th century, when a number of religious houses were established on this pattern, among Benedictines and possibly the Dominicans. The 14th-century Bridgittines were consciously founded using this form of community.
In 1350, a Jubilee Year, Bridget braved a plague-stricken Europe to make a pilgrimage to Rome accompanied by her daughter, Catherine, and a small party of priests and disciples. This was done partly to obtain from the Pope the authorization of the new Order and partly in pursuance of her self-imposed mission to elevate the moral tone of the age. This was during the period of the Avignon Papacy within the Roman Catholic Church, however, and she had to wait for the return of the papacy to Rome from the French city of Avignon, a move for which she agitated for many years.
It was not until 1370 that Pope Urban V, during his brief attempt to re-establish the papacy in Rome, confirmed the Rule of the Order, but meanwhile Birgitta had made herself universally beloved in Rome by her kindness and good works. Save for occasional pilgrimages, including one to Jerusalem in 1373, she remained in Rome until her death on 23 July 1373, urging ecclesiastical reform.
In her pilgrimages to Rome, Jerusalem and Bethlehem, she sent "back precise instructions for the construction of the monastery" now known as Blue Church, insisting that an "abbess, signifying the Virgin Mary, should preside over both nuns and monks."
Bridget went to confession every day, and had a constant smiling,glowing face.Although she never returned to Sweden, her years in Rome were far from happy, being hounded by debts and by opposition to her work against Church abuses. She was originally buried at San Lorenzo in Panisperna before her remains were returned to Sweden. She was canonized in the year 1391 by Pope Boniface IX, which was confirmed by the Council of Constance in 1415. Because of new discussions about her works, the Council of Basel confirmed the orthodoxy of the revelations in 1436.
At the age of ten, Bridget had a vision of Jesus hanging upon the cross. When she asked who had treated him like this, he answered:
|“||They who despise me, and spurn my love for them.||”|
She was so impressed that from that moment the Passion of Christ became the center of her spiritual life.The revelations she had received since childhood now became more frequent, and her records of these Revelationes coelestes ("Celestial revelations") which were translated into Latin by Matthias, canon of Linköping, and by her confessor, Peter Olafsson, prior of Alvastra, obtained a great vogue during the Middle Ages. These revelations made Bridget something of a celebrity to some and a controversial figure to others.
Her visions of the Nativity of Jesus had a great influence on depictions of the Nativity of Jesus in art. Shortly before her death, she described a vision which included the infant Jesus as lying on the ground, and emitting light himself, and describes the Virgin as blond-haired; many depictions followed this and reduced other light sources in the scene to emphasize this effect, and the Nativity remained very commonly treated with chiaroscuro through to the Baroque. Other details often seen such as a single candle "attached to the wall," and the presence of God the Father above, also come from Bridget's vision.
The Virgin kneels to pray to her child, to be joined by Saint Joseph, and this (technically known as the "Adoration of the Child") becomes one of the most common depictions in the fifteenth century, largely replacing the reclining Virgin in the West. Versions of this depiction occur as early as 1300, well before Bridget's vision, and have a Franciscan origin, by which she may have been influenced, as she was a member of the Franciscan Order.Her visions of Purgatory were also well known.
In addition, "she even predicted an eventual Vatican State, foretelling almost the exact boundaries delineated by Mussolini for Vatican City in 1921."
Pope Benedict XVI spoke of Bridget in a general audience on 27 October 2010, saying that the value of Saint Bridget's Revelations, sometimes the object of doubt, was specified by Pope John Paul II in the letter Spes Aedificandi: "Yet there is no doubt that the Church," wrote my beloved predecessor, "which recognized Bridget's holiness without ever pronouncing on her individual revelations, has accepted the overall authenticity of her interior experience."
Saint Bridget prayed for a long time to know how many blows Jesus Christ suffered during His terrible Passion. Rewarding her patience, one day He appeared to her and said, "I received 5480 blows upon My Body. If you wish to honor them in some way, recite fifteen Our Fathers and fifteen Hail Marys with the following Prayers, which I Myself shall teach you, for an entire year. When the year is finished, you will have honored each of My Wounds."
The prayers became known as the "Fifteen O's", because in the original Latin, each prayer began with the words O Jesu, O Rex, or O Domine Jesu Christe.Some have questioned whether Saint Bridget is in fact their author; Eamon Duffy reports that the prayers probably originated in England, in the devotional circles that surrounded Richard Rolle or the English Brigittines.
Whatever their origin, the prayers were quite widely circulated in the late Middle Ages, and became regular features in Books of Hours and other devotional literature. They were translated into various languages; an early English language version of them was printed in a primer by William Caxton. The prayers themselves reflect the late medieval tradition of meditation on the passion of Christ, and are structured around the seven last words of Christ. They borrow from patristic and Scriptural sources as well as the tradition of devotion to the wounds of Christ.
During the Middle Ages, the prayers began to circulate with various promises of indulgence and other assurances of supernatural graces supposed to attend from their regular recitation over the course of a year. These indulgences were repeated in the manuscript tradition of the Books of Hours, and may constitute one major source of the prayers' popularity in the late Middle Ages. They promise, among other things, the release from Purgatory of fifteen of the devotee's family members, and that they would keep fifteen living family members in a state of grace.
The extravagance of the promises made in these rubrics—one widely circulated version promised that the devotee would receive "his heart's desire, if it be for the salvation of his soul"—attracted critics early and late. In 1538, William Marshall enjoined his readers to "henseforth ... forget suche prayers as seynt Brigittes & other lyke, whyche greate promyses and perdons haue falsly auaunced." In 1954, the Supreme Sacred Congregation of the Holy Office found the alleged promises (though not the prayers themselves) unreliable, and directed local ordinaries not to permit the circulation of pamphlets containing the promises.
In 1651 the Brigitta Chapel was erected in Vienna, and in 1900 the new district Brigittenau was founded. In Sweden, adjacent to Skederid Church, built by Bridget's father on the family's land, a memorial stone was erected in 1930.
On 1 October 1999 Pope John Paul II named Saint Bridget as a patron saint of Europe.Her feast day is celebrated on 23 July, the day of her death. Her feast was not in the Tridentine Calendar, but was inserted in the General Roman Calendar in 1623 for celebration on 7 October, the day of her 1391 canonization by Pope Boniface IX. Five years later, her feast was moved to 8 October (although the Church in Sweden celebrates it on the 7th), where it remained until the revision of the General Roman Calendar in 1969, when it was set on the date currently used. Some continue to use the earlier General Roman Calendar of 1954, the General Roman Calendar of Pope Pius XII, or the General Roman Calendar of 1960.
The Third Order of St. Francis includes her feast day on its Calendar of Saints on same day as the general Church, honoring her as a member of the Order.
Bjärka-Säby Monastery has a portrait of Bridget of Sweden venerated by Christians of several denominations. An hour away from this monastery, Vadstena Abbey, also known as Blue Church, contains relics of the saint, with her body being venerated by both Lutheran and Catholic believers.
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|Sacred Heart of Jesus|
In Sweden itself, different images of Bridget have prevailed over the centuries: the Swedish nationalist image, the ecumenical, the European, the spiritual and mystical, even accusations associating her visions with mental illness.
Although initially interested in Bridget's Revelations, Martin Luther would come to view her visions mere ravings. [ citation needed ], compared because she too moved to Rome. Some 19th-century writers presented her as a forerunner of the Protestant Reformation due to her criticism of popes, bishops and other clergy for not living in accordance with the teaching of their religion. However, she never criticized that teaching or the church as such.Queen Christina of Sweden said she preferred to be counted among the sensible rather than among the saints
Of her as depicted in his play Folkungasagan August Strindberg explained Bridget as "a power-hungry, vainglorius woman who intentionally vied for sainthood", adding "of this unpleasant woman and according to the historical documents I made the uncontrollable ninny now in my drama, although in her honor I let her awaken to clarity about her silliness and her arrogance."
In Throne of a Thousand Years (1996) it is described how Bridget damaged King Magnus and Queen Blanche by accusing them of "erotic deviatons, extravagance and murderous plots",criticism particularly noted by Dala-Demokraten as likely to upset Swedish nuns. With the translation of her Latin works into Swedish, however, there is now more understanding and appreciation of her in some Swedish circles.
Saint Catherine of Siena, a laywoman associated with the Dominican Order, was a mystic, activist, and author who had a great influence on Italian literature and the Catholic Church. Canonized in 1461, she is also a Doctor of the Church.
Pope Alexander I was the Bishop of Rome from c. 107 to his death c. 115. The Holy See's Annuario Pontificio (2012) identifies him as a Roman who reigned from 108 or 109 to 116 or 119. Some believe he suffered martyrdom under the Roman Emperor Trajan or Hadrian, but this is improbable.
Pope Silverius ruled the Holy See from 8 June 536 to his deposition in 538, a few months before his death. His rapid rise to prominence from a deacon to the papacy coincided the efforts of Ostrogothic king Theodahad, who intended to install a pro-Gothic candidate just before the Gothic War. Later deposed by Byzantine general Belisarius, he was tried and sent to exile on the desolated island of Palmarola, where he starved to death in 538.
Pope Sabinian was Pope of the Catholic Church from 13 September 604 to his death in 606, during the Byzantine domination of the Papacy; he was the fourth former apocrisiarius to Constantinople to be elected pope.
Saint Catherine of Sweden, Katarina av Vadstena, Catherine of Vadstena or Katarina Ulfsdotter was a Swedish saint. Her father was Ulf Gudmarsson, Lord of Ulvåsa, and her mother was Saint Birgitta.
The Order of the Most Holy Savior, abbreviated as O.Ss.S., and informally known as the Brigittine or Bridgettine Order is a monastic religious order of Augustinian nuns, Religious Sisters, and monks founded by Saint Bridget of Sweden (Birgitta) in 1344, and approved by Pope Urban V in 1370. There are today several different branches of Bridgettines.
The Catholic Church in Sweden was established by Archbishop Ansgar in Birka in 829, and further developed by the Christianization of Sweden in the 9th century. King Olof Skötkonung is considered the first Christian king of Sweden.
Catherine Jagiellon was a Polish princess and the wife of John III of Sweden. As such, she was Duchess of Finland (1562–83), Queen of Sweden (1569–83) and Grand Princess of Finland (1581–83). Catherine had significant influence over state affairs during the reign of her spouse, and negotiated with the pope to introduce a counter reformation in Sweden. She was the mother of the future Sigismund III Vasa, King of Poland.
Margaret Mary Alacoque, V.H.M. (1647–1690), was a French Roman Catholic Visitation nun and mystic, who promoted devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus in its modern form.
The Scala Sancta are a set of 28 white marble steps that are Roman Catholic relics located in an edifice on extraterritorial property of the Holy See in Rome, Italy proximate to the Archbasilica of Saint John in Laterano. Officially, the edifice is titled the Pontifical Sanctuary of the Holy Stairs, and incorporates part of the old Papal Lateran Palace. Replica stairs flank the original staircase, which may only be climbed on one's knees. The Holy Stairs lead to the Church of Saint Lawrence in Palatio ad Sancta Sanctorum or simply the "Sancta Sanctorum", which was the personal chapel of the early Popes.
Saint Maria Elizabeth Hesselblad, was a Swedish nurse who was a convert to the Catholic Church and founded a new form of life of the Bridgettines known as the Bridgettine Sisters. She was a professed member of the Bridgettine order.
Philippa of England, also known as Philippa of Lancaster, was Queen of Denmark, Sweden, and Norway from 1406 to 1430 by marriage to Eric of Pomerania. She was the daughter of King Henry IV of England by his first spouse Mary de Bohun and the younger sister of King Henry V. Queen Philippa participated significantly in state affairs during the reign of her spouse, and served as regent of Denmark from 1423 to 1425.
Since the Crucifixion of Jesus Christ on Calvary, a number of people have claimed to have had visions of Jesus Christ and personal conversations with him. Some people make similar claims regarding his mother, the Blessed Virgin Mary. Discussions about the authenticity of these visions have often invited controversy. The Catholic Church endorses a fraction of these claims, and various visionaries it accepts have achieved beatification, or even sainthood.
Ingegerd Knutsdotter was a Swedish nun and noble, the first official abbess of the Bridgettine Abbey of Vadstena in 1385/88–1403.
Maribo Cathedral is a Gothic cathedral church in Maribo on the island of Lolland in the southeast of Denmark. It was originally part of Maribo Abbey which was founded in the early 15th century. The chancel, the oldest section of the cathedral, probably dates from 1416. The plan of the church is unusual in that the chancel is at the west end of the building rather than the east as a result of the design instructions left by Saint Bridget.
Margareta, was a Swedish Sami missionary. She was given permission by the Swedish crown to preach and convert her fellow samis from Paganism to Christianity. Her position was unique for her as both a Sami and a woman.
Saint Ingrid of Skänninge was a Swedish abbess venerated as a saint in the Roman Catholic Church. She founded Skänninge Abbey, a nunnery belonging to the Dominicans, in 1272. Her feast day is on September 2.
Anna Paulsdotter, was a Swedish Bridgettine nun. She was the abbess of Vadstena Abbey from 1486 until 1496.
Bridget—or Birgitta as she is known in Sweden—left her homeland and travelled to Rome, Jerusalem, and Bethlehem, sending back precise instructions for the construction of the monastery I am now entering, known as the "Blue Church" after the unique color of its granite. Birgitta insisted that the abbess, signifying the Virgin Mary, should preside over both nuns and monks.
Faced with the corruption of the Avignon papacy, she even predicted an eventual Vatican State, foretelling almost the exact boundaries delineated by Mussolini for Vatican City in 1921.
But the Lutheran pastor who met us there was not the steward of an empty shell, but instead oversaw a living devotional site frequented by Protestants and Catholics alike. (It does not hurt that Birgitta's forceful critique of the papacy led some to see her as proto-Protestant.) After placing our fingers in the holes, my companions and I entered the complex, and were met with a beautiful cross celebrating Birgitta and her daughter Catherine, painted by a Pentecostal icon painter. Most remarkable was the vaulting of this massive Gothic complex. Brigittine nuns wear the "Crown of the Five Holy Wounds" with five red symbolic stones. In the same way, the five bosses connecting the Gothic ribbing are here painted red, causing pilgrims to momentarily become Brigittines themselves, their heads enclosed with the five wounds as they step under every vaulted bay. Although there was some destruction and damage to statues from invading Danish soldiers, most here have survived. We make our way to the still-preserved relics of Birgitta, but are interrupted by a bell. Thirty pilgrims stop to gather in the rear of the church for a Taizé prayer service before a gorgeous Byzantine icon of Christ made by that same Pentecostal painter.
Martin Luther may have called her die tolle Brigit, "crazy Birgitta," but there was her body—enclosed in a red casket, now tastefully tended by Lutherans.
Like England, Sweden went Protestant during the Reformation. But the Lutheran pastor who met us there was not the steward of an empty shell, but instead oversaw a living devotional site frequented by Protestants and Catholics alike. (It does not hurt that Birgitta's forceful critique of the papacy led some to see her as proto-Protestant.)
Saint Birgitta's Revelaciones, that is, her Revelations written in Latin, appeared in critical editions during the years 1956 to 2002 under the aegis of the Royal Academy of Letters, History and Antiquities, Stockholm.
English translations are: