Gregorius Holmiensis

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by Alexander Andrée

Gregorius Holmiensis (Frater Gregorius), from 1403 lector at the Dominican convent of Stockholm, died most probably between 1431 and 1436, diffinitor of the provincial Dominican chapter at Skänninge in 1403, vicar for the provincial prior for the convents of Reval, Åbo and Visby in 1418, diffinitor for the province of Dacia at the general chapter in Lyon 1431.

Sources

Gregorius is known to us through charters, notes in manuscripts and through the collection of miracles ascribed to him, the Miracula defixionis Domini (“The miracles of the Deposition of the Lord”).

Biography

Gregorius is mentioned as lector of the Dominican convent of Stockholm in 1403. At the occasion he is acting as the diffinitor (assistant to the provincial prior) at the provincial chapter of the Dominican order in Skänninge. On 9 August 1418, Gregorius visited the convent of Åbo in his function as the provincial prior’s vicar for the convents of Åbo, Reval and Visby (“The Baltic Sea Convents”). In 1431 we find him again as diffinitor, this time for the entire Nordic province of Dacia, at the general chapter in Lyon. He seems to have died a few years after the general chapter, as in 1436 a new lector has been appointed to the Stockholm convent.

The known life of frater Gregorius is intimately connected to the collection of miracles associated with the Dominican convent of Stockholm, the Miracula defixionis Domini. The convent, founded in 1343, was famous for its image of the Deposition of Christ (“defixio Domini” in Latin, “helga lösen” in Swedish), probably a statue or group of statues of similar grandeur as the St. George’s group by Berndt Notke in the Cathedral of Stockholm (St. Nicolas, “Storkyrkan”). In the case of illness or suffering, it was customary to make a vow to visit and venerate this image. Once the grace and help had been obtained, the promise was fulfilled by means of a pilgrimage to the shrine where a votive offering was made.

Some time in the early fourteenth century Gregorius recorded the miracles that had occurred in connection with the image and, himself relying on the miraculous powers of the image in order to be cured from genital pestilence, vowed to make them public. This collection, the Miracula defixionis Domini, is preserved in one manuscript from the fifteenth century, Linköping, Diocesan Library, Kh 27, probably a direct copy of Gregory’s original. The parchment codex consists of 24 folios written by a single scribe in a Gothic cursiva formata, with rubrics in red and initials alternately in red and blue. The collection comprises eighty-two miracles collected by Gregorius together with another five probably added by the scribe of the manuscript, also a Dominican friar. The contents of the miracle stories, occurring in the years 1408–1471, are of major importance for the knowledge of practices of popular piety in medieval Sweden and give interesting details about persons and places.

The Stockholm Deposition was the object of an intense cult from ca. 1350 to the dissolution of the convent during the reformation. Buried beneath it was Magister Mathias (d. ca. 1350), confessor of St. Birgitta and a theologian of international reputation, who was venerated as a saint after his death. Three miracles in the collection are said to have been worked through his intercession. There is evidence of people of high social standing who relied on the powers of the miraculous image. Queen Margaret, for instance, sovereign of the three Nordic countries, stipulates in her testament of 8 August 1411 that a pilgrimage is to be made to the shrine of the Deposition and that three masses should be sung there for the repose of her soul (LUNDÉN 1949).

Work

A collection of eighty-seven miracles worked between 1408 and 1471 in connection with the image of the Deposition of Christ at the Dominican convent in Stockholm.

Title

In the extant manuscript, there is no title given to the collection of miracles. The present title, Miracula defixionis Domini, is adopted from the edition of LUNDÉN 1949.

Incipit

The codex is mutilated: one or two folios at the beginning have been lost. The preface to the collection is thus incomplete. … cessat benefacere. Alioquin non est dignus dandis qui non agit gracias de datis.

Explicit

Vix votum emiseram apparuit puellula in loco prope vbi sepius iam egeram disquisicionem diligentem. Sit deus per omnia benedictus.

Size

The collection comprises ca. 36 printed pages.

Editions

  • ROBERG 1725.
  • SRS II, 276–79 (parts).
  • STRÖMBERG 1944 (parts).
  • • LUNDÉN 1949.

Translation

  • (Swedish) LUNDÉN 1949.

Bibliography

  • • LUNDÉN, T. (ed.) 1949: Miracula defixionis Domini: En mirakelsamling från Stockholms dominikankloster efter Kh 27 i Linköpings stifts och landsbibliotek utgiven med inledning, översättning och register, (Göteborgs högskolas årsskrift 55, 4).
  • BÄÄRNHIELM, G. & MYRDAL, J. 1994: Kvinnor, barn och fester i medeltida mirakelberättelser (Skrifter från Skaraborgs Länsmuseum 19), Skara.
  • ROBERG, L. (ed.) 1725: Miracula sanctae crucis Stockholmiae. Seculo XV. ineunte annotata per fratr. Gregorium monachum ord. praedicatorum Stockholmiae, Uppsala.
  • STRÖMBERG, B. 1944: Magister Mathias och fransk mendikantpredikan (Samlingar och studier till Svenska kyrkans historia 9), Stockholm.