Bridget (Birgitta) of Sweden

Mystic, Religious, Patron Saint of Sweden

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Bridget (Birgitta) of Sweden

By Heliga_Birgitta_på_ett_altarskåp_i_Salems_kyrka.jpg: Hermann Rode (late 15th century) derivative work: Beao [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Bridget (or Birgitta) came from a very prosperous family, and at the age of 13 or 14 was married to a pious nobleman, by whom she had eight children, one of whom, Catherine, is also honoured as a saint. She and her husband lived at the court of the Swedish king, Magnus II. From 1335 Bridget attempted to persuade the royal family to reform their life-style.

Bridget made various pilgrimages, and on one of these to Compostella in Spain in 1344 her husband died. After that Bridget devoted herself to her religious inclinations. About 1346 she founded the Order of the Holy Saviour (Brigittines) at Vadstena. In 1349 Bridget went to Rome to seek papal approval for her order. She never returned to Sweden, but continued her austere discipline in Rome, while continuing to make pilgrimages, including one to the Holy Land. She devoted herself to the care of the sick, the poor and pilgrims, until her death.

From the age of seven, Bridget saw visions of Christ crucified, and during her solitary life she had many more visions and revelations about prominent people of her time. The accounts of her many visions were later published in eight volumes. Those covering the life of our Lord are amazing for their graphic depiction and close attention to detail. These visions were greatly valued in the Middle Ages, though some theologians questioned their orthodoxy. We have access to her work only through the editions issued by her directors, who exercised a degree of control over the material. These visions and revelations formed the basis of her actions, always with the emphasis on charity rather than spiritual favours. Bridget corresponded with popes and princes, urging them to reform in the face of the wrath of God’s justice. In particular she tried to persuade Pope Clement VI to return to Rome from Avignon. Bridget also tried to influence King Magnus who, while never fully reforming, gave her the lands and buildings to found a monastery for men and women of her order. The Brigittines are still in existence, though there is no longer an order of monks.

BORN: 1303, Uppland, Sweden

DIED: 23 July 1373, Rome, Papal States.