Sanctus Nicolaus (Hermanni), episcopus Lincopensis

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by Anders Fröjmark

Nicolaus Hermanni in Swedish Nils Hermansson, bishop of Linköping, born in ca. 1326 and died 1391.

Biography

Born in a family of burghers in Skänninge, Östergötland. Probably on his mother’s side, he was related to Birgitta Birgersdotter, the future Saint Birgitta, and was tutor for some of her children. After studies in Paris and Orléans, he obtained the grade of baccalaureus in legibus. In 1361, he was archdeacon at Linköping Cathedral, where he distinguished himself as a defender of the liberties of the Church in a turbulent time. In 1374 he was elected Bishop. Due to resistance from King Albert, he was not able to take office in Linköping until October, 1376. His time was one of restoration for the Linköping Church, with frequent visitations of parishes, standardization of the liturgy, and the consecration of Vadstena abbey in 1384. When he died on May 2, 1391, he was remembered as a saintly person and as the author of offices and liturgical songs (GEJROT, Claes, ed., Diarium Vadstenense, p. 123).

At the tomb of Bishop Nils in Linköping Cathedral, miracles were reported from 1401, and in 1417, a canonization process was initiated in the form of a processus in partibus (the part of a canonization process that was held in the saint’s own country) in Vadstena and Linköping. Permission for translation was given by Pope Alexander VI on July 16, 1497, and translation was carried out on February 4, 1515.

Beginning in 1519, the Blessed Nils was commemorated on the first Sunday of May, which was—erroneously—held to be the day of his passing away. In 1520, a decision was made by the Bishop and Cathedral Chapter of Linköping to commemorate the translation of the Blessed Bishop on the Sunday following Septuagesima. The official letter of confirmation of the original feast day in 1518 allowed its celebration in all three Scandinavian kingdoms, but in reality both feast days were probably observed in the Linköping diocese alone. Texts related to Bishop Nicolaus Hermanni as a saint, that is the vita et miracula, the process documents, and a liturgical office in honor of the Blessed Bishop, will be dealt with in the following, while his authorship of liturgical texts will be dealt with under another heading.

Legendae

The vita of the Blessed Bishop Nils was composed at latest in 1414, and exists in one manuscript, the Codex Harleianus 612 of the British Library (earlier at the British Museum), which has once belonged to Syon Abbey. The vita of this manuscript goes back to a copy made for two brothers of Syon Abbey in Linköping in 1427. The text was edited by Henrik Schück in 1895 (BHL 6101).

Apart from the vita, there is also an office for the feast day of the Blessed Bishop, printed in 1523 (see below).


Vita beati Nicholai

Title

De Vita Sancti Nicholai.

Incipit of prologus Incipit prologus in vitam beati Nicholai quondam episcopi lincopensis. In nomine domini Amen. Nos Kanutus dei et apostolice sedis gracia episcopus

Incipit of vita Incipit vita eiusdem Nicholai episcopi. Beate igitur et venerande memorie Nicholaus quondam episcopus lincopensis ex honestis et iustis parentibus

Explicit requieuit anno incarnacionis eiusdem m° ccc xcj. sexto nonas Maii etatis sue anno lx° quinto, pontificatus vero sui anno xvij. regnante domino nostro Ihesu Christo, cui cum patre et filio et spiritu sancto sit honor laus et gloria in secula seculorum Amen.

Size

The vita covers 20 pages in the edition, prologus included.

Edition

BHL 6101: The text was edited by Henrik SCHÜCK in 1895: “Två svenska biografier från medeltiden: Meddelade af Henrik Schück.” Antiqvarisk tidskrift för Sverige 5 (1895), pp. 313–332 (with internal pagination, pp. 19–38). Electronic reproduction at [1]

Translations after 1530

A translation into modern Swedish was published by Tryggve LUNDÉN in 1958: “Den helige Nikolaus’ av Linköping liv och underverk: efter en medeltida urkund översatt av Tryggve Lundén.” Credo: Katolsk tidskrift 39 (1958), pp. 107–119.

Date and Place of Origin

The vita is in all probability produced at Linköping Cathedral, where the memories of Bishop Nils’s episcopate were still vivid in the 1410s. A first version of the Blessed Bishop’s vita et miracula, now lost, was completed by March 16, 1414, when a copy was sent to Pope John XXIII and the college of cardinals along with a demand that a canonization process be opened. The extant version was completed by July 20, 1414. It is not known whether or not the vita in the later version was identical with that of the first. The author of the vita cannot be identified with certainty. The editor, Henrik Schück, points out that Canon Laurentius Gedda was a very active participant in the canonization process (he is in fact cited in the processus in partibus as its procurator, p. 182), and may be the author of the vita. Tryggve Lundén, translator of the modern Swedish version, also points to Provost Laurentius Odonis as a candidate for the authorship. In addition, Bishop Knut Bosson — author of the Prologus —might be considered a likely candidate, but in fact, the author may just as well be a less well-known member of the Cathedral clergy.

Contents

In the Prologus, Bishop Knut Bosson points out that just as different countries venerate different saints, also the diocese of Linköping should labor for the canonization of Bishop Nils.

The vita sets forth Bishop Nils’s connections to Saint Birgitta—to whom he was a relative (consanguineus)—and her circle. It deals extensively with his brave defense of his Church against all tyrants, including the then kings and their officers. Bishop Nils is credited with the authorship of offices and legends of Saints Anne, Ansgar, Sigfrid, Birgitta, and others.

The vita cites a good number of name-given persons as witnesses to various deeds of the Blessed bishop. One of Saint Birgitta’s revelations (Rev. extr. 79) is cited in extenso. Composition and Style

The vita is a roughly chronological narrative of the life of Bishop Nils from his birth to his death. The style is that of a prose narrative.

Sources

The text is known from a single copy which is included in the Codex Harleianus 612 of the British Library, a codex dating from 1435–1457, which has previously belonged to Syon Abbey near London. The copy in the Codex Harleianus goes back to a now lost copy made in Linköping in 1427 for Syon Abbey from the originalis libellus of the legend.

Aim and Intended Audience

The vita is written with a biographic aim rather than to serve as base for liturgical offices, which nevertheless it eventually did in the 1520s. The immediate purpose of the text was to serve as a documentation of the holy life of the Blessed Bishop Nils in view of the opening of a canonization process.

Medieval Reception and Tradition

The vita came to use in the canonization process which in the form of a processus in partibus was held in Vadstena and Linköping in 1417 (see below). A number of passages of the vita go with little adaptation into the brief lectures of the printed officium of 1523.


Legenda of the printed officium of 1523

In the printed officium of 1523 there are nine lectiones, based to a large part on the vita, but highly abridged. For the officium in general, see below. Incipit Misericors Deus et miserator Dominus, qui vult omnes homines salvos facere Explicit Historias sanctorum Ansgarii, Anne matris intemerate virginis Marie, et Birgitte ornatissime composuit ac canonizationem eiusdem sollicite procuravit.

Contents

The legenda consists of nine lectiones. The first seven of those are adapted—often literally—from the biographical vita. The eighth lectio treats Bishop Nils’s editing of a book called the White Book and his transformations of edifying books to postillæ. The ninth lectio deals with his writing of offices and his efforts to promote the canonization of Saint Birgitta. Parts of these contents go back to testimonies in the canonization process of Bishop Nils.

Miracula and Processus Canonizationis

Miracula 1401–1414

The aforementioned vita (BHL 6101) is immediately followed by a collection of miracula post mortem (BHL 6102). The collection is an assembly of several minor collections, made by different members of the cathedral clergy. The different parts of the compilation are often clearly visible, and the final result is a collection that is not chronologically ordered in a strict sense. The introduction to the collection states that the order followed is not the order of events, but the order in which the witnesses have told about the events. This is however a less than exact statement, due to the final product’s character of compilation.

Title

De miraculis S. Nicholai.

Incipit Hic consequenter ponuntur aliqua miracula, pauca de multis, quibus post obitum suum a Deo clarificatus est Dominus Nicholaus

Explicit Datum Lincopie anno Domini Millesimo Quadringentesimo Quartodecimo Indictione vii vicesima die mensis Julij.

Size

The miracula cover 67 pages in the edition.

Edition

BHL 6102: The text was edited by Henrik SCHÜCK in 1895: “Två svenska biografier från medeltiden: Meddelade af Henrik Schück.” Antiqvarisk tidskrift för Sverige 5 (1895), pp. 333–400 (with internal pagination, pp. 39–106). Electronic reproduction at [2]

Translations after 1530

A translation into modern Swedish was published by Tryggve LUNDÉN in 1958: “Den helige Nikolaus’ av Linköping liv och underverk: efter en medeltida urkund översatt av Tryggve Lundén.” Credo: Katolsk tidskrift 39 (1958), pp. 120–166.

Date and Place of Origin

The miracula were recorded in Linköping Cathedral between 1401 and 1414.

Sources

The text is known from a single copy which is included in the Codex Harleianus 612 of the British Library, a codex dating from 1435–1457, which has previously belonged to Syon Abbey near London. The copy in the Codex Harleianus goes back to a now lost copy made in Linköping in 1427 for Syon Abbey from the originalis libellus of the Vita et miracula.

Aim and Intended Audience

The purpose of the text was to serve as a documentation of the fama sanctitatis of the Blessed Bishop Nils in view of the opening of a canonization process. Apart from this, miracles were cited at diocesan synods and by parish priests in their parishes as a means of propaganda of the cult.

Medieval Reception and Tradition

An extract of the miracle collection was made on March 16, 1414, and sent with the vita to the council of Constance to support the demand of the opening of a canonization process for the Blessed Bishop Nils. The extract has been lost, but judging from the articles of the processus in partibus held in Vadstena and Linköping in 1417 (see below), it consisted of circa two thirds of the collection as it is handed down to posterity in the version of July 20, 1414.


Processus canonizationis

Successful interventions to and lobbying at the Council of Constance led the latter to order the opening of a canonization process in a written communication of April 27, 1416. 41 articles concerning the holy life of Bishop Nils, and 50 articles concerning his posthumous miracles had been set up, based principally on the Vita et miracula. Interrogations with witnesses were held in Vadstena abbey, Skänninge, and Linköping, in May 1417. On May 18, the proceedings were closed in Linköping, and the acts were submitted to the supreme authorities of the Church. The part of a canonization process that is held in the homeland of the saint is usually referred to as a processus in partibus, and in the case of the Blessed Bishop Nils, no veritable canonization process at the papal curia has been held. The surviving acts of the processus in partibus (see below) are somewhat defective.

Incipit

Sacrosancte et generali synodo Constanciensi

Explicit

The end of the document is missing.

Size

The acts cover 167 pages in the edition.

Edition

BHL 6102 c. The text was edited by Tryggve LUNDÉN in 1963: Sankt Nikolaus av Linköping kanonisationsprocess: Processus canonizacionis beati Nicolai Lincopensis: Efter en handskrift i Florens utgiven med inledning, översättning och register, ed. Tryggve Lundén. Stockholm: Bonniers 1963, pp. 38–370 (even page numbers). The order of the text in Lundén’s edition is erroneous, something that is pointed out in a review by Herman Schück in Historisk tidskrift (Stockholm) 84 (1964), pp. 205–209. Fragments of the text are edited in “Två svenska biografier från medeltiden: Meddelade af Henrik Schück.” Antiqvarisk tidskrift för Sverige 5 (1895), pp. 444–462 (with internal pagination, pp. 150–168).

Translations after 1530

A parallel translation into modern Swedish by Tryggve Lundén goes with the 1963 edition mentioned above.

Date and Place of Origin

Vadstena, Skänninge, and Linköping, May 1417.

Sources

A rather complete manuscript where however the reading order is confused can be found in Firenze, Archivo di Stato, Carte di S. Maria nuova e monasterio del Paradiso, vol 6, ff. 106r–140v. Edition: Lundén 1963). Fragments of the acts exist in Stafsundsarkivet at the Swedish National Archives (Riksarkivet) Edition: Schück 1895.

Officium

Historia sancti Nicolai episcopi Lincopensis

Incipit Cristo sit pia laus.

Explicit Magnificat anima mea Dominum.

Size

The officium covers less than five pages in the edition of Benzelius.

Edition

BHL 6103: Edition: Gustaf Edvard Klemming, Fotolitografiska aftryck af svenska palæotyper [Stockholm 1870].

Edition: Erik Benzelius, Monumenta historica vetera ecclesiae Sveogoticae, Upsaliae 1709, pp. 109–114.

Partial edition: Gustaf Edvard Klemming, ed., Latinska sånger fordom använda i svenska kyrkor, kloster och skolor: Sveriges helgon. Holmiæ 1885, pp. 142–148.

Translations after 1530

Date and Place of Origin

COLLIJN 1934–1938, p. 280 cites a tradition that makes Bishop Hans Brask of Linköping (in office 1513–1527) the author of the officium. It is likely that it was composed for the translation of the Blessed Bishop Nils in 1515. It has survived in printed form, since Hans Brask had it printed in his printing house in Söderköping in 1523.

Sources

A single copy of Bishop Brask’s printed edition remains at the Royal Library of Stockholm.

Aim and Intended Audience

The intended audience was without doubt the Linköping Bishopric and Vadstena Abbey, where the liturgical celebration of the Blessed Bishop was observed. Permission for translation of the relics and for cult in the three union kingdoms was granted by pope Alexander VI in 1497, and translation was carried out on February 4, 1515. In 1518, the first Sunday of May was established as Feast Day of the Blessed Bishop, with effect from 1519.

HELANDER 1989, p. 149 points to the probability that the office was used by Bishop Hans Brask to gather the southern Swedish provinces under a common constellation of saints, named in the sequentia of the mass, and thus counterbalance the efforts from Uppsala to gather the whole kingdom behind the Officium patronorum regni.

Missa

Officium misse de sancto Nicolao, in Historia sancti Nicolai episcopi Lincopensis

Sequentia

Sanctitatis zelatorem pium patrem et pastorem

Secreta

Domine Jhesu Christe summe sacerdos

Complenda

Respice clementissime pater

Size

The missa covers less than two pages in the edition of Benzelius.

Edition

BHL 6103: Edition: Gustaf Edvard Klemming, Fotolitografiska aftryck af svenska palæotyper [Stockholm 1870].

Edition: Erik Benzelius, Monumenta historica vetera ecclesiae Sveogoticae, Upsaliae 1709, pp. 109–114.

Partial edition: Gustaf Edvard Klemming, ed., Latinska sånger fordom använda i svenska kyrkor, kloster och skolor: Sveriges helgon. Holmiæ 1885, pp. 149–150.

Translations after 1530

Date and Place of Origin

See above under the heading Officium.

Sources

A single copy of Bishop Brask’s printed edition exists at the Royal Library of Stockholm.

Aim and Intended Audience

See above under the heading Officium.

Sermones

Bibliography

  • BENZELIUS, Erik, Monumenta historica vetera ecclesiae Sveogoticae. Upsaliae 1709.
  • BERGMAN, Kerstin, ed., Nicolaus Hermanni 1391–1991: Dokumentation från firandet 3–4 maj 1991. Linköping: Akademi för kyrka och kultur i Linköpingss stift 1992.
  • CARLSSON; Gottfrid, “Anteckningar om ett par svenska helgon”. Kyrkohistorisk årsskrift 20 (1919), pp. 339–348.
  • COLLIJN, Isak, Sveriges bibliografi intill år 1600, band 1:1478–1530. Uppsala 1934–1938, pp. 279–284.
  • EKWALL, Sara, “Nicolaus Hermannis kanonisationsprocess: Förelöpande meddelande”. Historisk tidskrift 54 (1934), 29–32.
  • FRÖJMARK, Anders, Mirakler och helgonkult: Linköpings biskopsdöme under senmedeltiden. Studia historica Upsalensia 171. Uppsala 1992.
  • GALLÉN, Jarl, “Les causes de Sainte Ingrid et des saints suédois au temps de la Réforme”. Archivum fratrum praedicatorum 7 (1937), 5–40.
  • GEJROT, Claes, ed., Diarium Vadstenense: The Memorial Book of Vadstena Abbbey: A Critical Edition with an Introduction. Studia Latina Stockholmiensia 33. Stockholm: Almqvist & Wiksell International 1988.
  • HÄRDELIN, Alf, “‘Den ärorika Jungfrun Marias särskilde biskop’: Maria i Nils Hermanssons liv och verk”. In Maria i Sverige under tusen år: Föredrag vid symposiet i Vadstena 6–10 oktober 1994, ed. Sven-Erik Brodd and Alf Härdelin, pp. 311–323. Skellefteå: Artos 1996.
  • HELANDER, Sven, Ansgarskulten i Norden. Bibliotheca theologiae practicae: Kyrkovetenskapliga studier 45. Stockholm 1989.
  • HEß, Cordelia, ‘und wenn sie ward gepeten, so gab sie gar getrewen rat’: Heilige, Politik und Zensur in Kanonisationsprocessen des spätmittelalterlichen Ostseeraums. Unpublished Doctoral Thesis at Universität Hamburg 2007.
  • KLEMMING, Gustaf Edvard, ed., Fotolitografiska aftryck af svenska palæotyper [Stockholm 1870].
  • KLEMMING, Gustaf Edvard, ed., Latinska sånger fordom använda i svenska kyrkor, kloster och skolor: Sveriges helgon (Hymni, sequentiæ et piæcantiones in regno Sueciæ olim usitatæ: Sancti Suciæ.) Holmiæ: Norstedt 1885.
  • KLOCKARS, Birgit, Biskop Hemming av Åbo. Skrifter utgivna av Svenska litteratursällskapet i Finland 379. Helsingfors: Svenska litteratursällskapet i Finland, and København: Munksgaard 1960.
  • KRÖTZL, Christian, Pilger, Mirakel und Alltag: Formen des Verhaltens im skandinavischen Mittelalter (12.–15. Jahrhundert). Suomen Historiallinen Seura: Studia Historica 46. Helsinki.
  • LUNDÉN, Tryggve, “Den helige Nikolaus’ av Linköping liv och underverk efter en medeltida urkund översatta”. Credo: Katolsk tidskrift 39 (1958), pp. 97–173.
  • BHL 6102 c.
  • LUNDÉN, Tryggve, Sankt Nikolaus av Linköping kanonisationsprocess: Processus canonizacionis beati Nicolai Lincopensis: Efter en handskrift i Florens utgiven med inledning, översättning och register. [Acta academiae catholicae suecanae 4.] Stockholm: Bonniers 1963. BHL 6102 c.
  • LUNDÉN, Tryggve, Nikolaus Hermansson, biskop av Linköping: En litteratur- och kyrkohistorisk studie. Lund: Gleerup 1971.
  • SCHÜCK, Henrik, ed., “Två svenska biografier från medeltiden: Meddelade af Henrik Schück.” Antiqvarisk tidskrift för Sverige 5 (1895), pp. 313–400 (with internal pagination, pp. 19–106). BHL 6101–02. Electronic reproduction at [3]
  • SCHÜCK, Herman, Ecclesia Lincopensis: Studier om Linköpingskyrkan under medeltiden och Gustav Vasa. Stockholm Studies in History 4. Stockholm: Almqvist & Wiksell 1959.
  • SCHÜCK, Herman, Review of Tryggve Lundén, ed., “Sankt Nikolaus av Linköping kanonisationsprocess”, Stockholm 1963, Historisk tidskrift (Stockholm) 84 (1964), pp. 205–209.
  • SCHÜCK, Herman, “Nicolaus Hermanni”. In Svenskt biografiskt lexikon 26 (1987–89), pp. 602–606.
  • SVANBERG, Jan, “Nicolaus Hermannis ‘upphöjde’ gravsten i Linköping och de medeltida biskopshällarna i Strängnäs”. In Nordisk medeltid: Konsthistoriska studier tillägnade Armin Tuulse, ed. Sten Karling etc., 199–216. Uppsala 1967.