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Saint Birgitta

Saint Birgitta, also known as St. Bridget of Sweden (1303 - July 23, 1373), saint, mystic, pilgrim, and founder of the Bridgettine Order.

The most celebrated saint of Sweden and the northern kingdoms, was the daughter of Birger Persson, governor and lagman (provincial judge) of Uplandia, and one of the richest landowners of the country.

Saint Birgitta
Saint Birgitta

In 1316 she was married to Ulf Gudmarson, lord of Nericia, to whom she bore eight children, one of whom was afterwards honoured as St. Catherine of Sweden. Birgitta’s saintly and charitable life soon made her known far and wide; she gained, too, great religious influence over her husband, with whom (1341-1343) she went on pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela.

In 1344, shortly after their return, Ulf died in the Cistercian monastery of Alvastra in Ostrogothia, and Birgitta now devoted herself wholly to religion. As a child she had already believed herself to have visions; these 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 prior of Alvastra, obtained a great vogue during the Middle Ages. It was about this time that she founded the order of St. Saviour, or the Bridgettines of which the principal house, at Vadstena, was richly endowed by King Magnus II of Sweden and his queen.

About 1350 she went to Rome, partly to obtain from the pope the authorization of the new order, partly in pursuance of her self-imposed mission to elevate the moral tone of the age. It was not till 1370 that Pope Urban V confirmed the rule of her 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 July 23, 1373. She was canonized in 1391 by Pope Boniface IX, and confirmed by the Council of Constance, 1415.

In 1999, Pope John Paul II chose Birgitta as Europe's patron saint. Her feast is celebrated on July 23 (formerly October 8).

See also: List of saints, Patron saint

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Last updated: 10-24-2004 05:10:45