by Peter Ståhl
Birgerus Gregorii, in Swedish known as Birger Gregersson, was probably born in 1327 and died 11 March 1383. He was canon of Strängnäs Cathedral from 1342, dean of Uppsala Cathedral from 1356 and finally archbishop of Uppsala from 1366. Birger is the author of two rhymed offices, Triumphantis milicie in honour of >Sanctus Botvidus, and Birgitte matris inclite in honour of >Sancta Birgitta, the names of the offices referring to the first lines respectively. His literary talent is also reflected in several letters and documents, of which he is supposed to be the dictator.
- 1 Sources
- 2 Biography
- 3 (1) Officium Sancti Botvidi (Triumphantis milicie)
- 4 (2) Officium Sancte Birgitte (Birgitte matris inclite)
- 5 (3) Epistulae
- 6 Bibliography
The sources (prior to the seventeenth century) of the life of Birger, are the following: (1) The Chronicle of the Archbishops of Uppsala in the Registrum ecclesie Upsalensis, Stockholm, National Archives, A 8, fol. 15r, (ed. SRS III:2, 101); (2) Historia metropolitanae ecclesiae Upsalensis by Johannes Magnus (ed. SRS III:2, 55-57); (3) Medieval charters, letters and other documents on parchment and paper (whereof many edited in DS, BÅÅTH 1936-1957, etc.), preserved in the National Archives and in other archives.
Birger belonged to a noble family, whose principal estate was the manor Malsta in the Swedish province of Uppland. He was the son of Gregers Johansson. The brother of the latter was Tomas Johansson, Bishop of Växjö, who belonged to the household of St. Birgitta on some of her pilgrimages. It is reasonable to believe that the uncle’s strong support contributed to the unusually fast and early career of Birger in the ecclesiastical domain. He was probably only fifteen years old when he became a canon of Strängnäs Cathedral in 1342 (BRILIOTH 1915, 359). Since Birger later is mentioned as baccalaureus in legibus, he is supposed to have studied in Paris, as did his uncle before him, and maybe also in Orléans (UNDHAGEN 1960, 10; ÖNNERFORS 1966, 68; LIEDGREN 1980, 69). For some years, at the same time as being canon, he held the position as vicar in Österhaninge (SRAP no. 1754) until he was appointed Dean of Uppsala Cathedral by the pope in 1356 (DS no. 5564; cf. BÅÅTH 1936-1957, no. 520). This appointment was surely a reward from the Apostolic See, since Birger had very eagerly collaborated with the Apostolic collector in Sweden during the 1350s, Johannes Guilaberti, who actually had the deanary of Uppsala before he resigned for the benefit of Birger. Like his uncle Birger supported the new king Albrecht, who was a German from Mecklenburg, and between 1364 and1366 he is mentioned as the king’s chancellor.
On 6 November 1366, Birger was elected Archbishop of Uppsala (DS no. 7453), with a strong support by the Apostolic nuncio, Guido de Cruce, who played an unusually active part at the election while being one of the three compromissarii. In order to get the papal confirmation of the election Birger went to Italy, and the bull was issued by pope Urban V in Viterbo on 23 July of the following year (DS no. 7559). It is possible that he took the opportunity to visit Birgitta Birgersdotter in Rome, even though the evidence for such a meeting is absent. He was probably back in Sweden in the beginning of 1368 and in September of the same year he took active part in the provincial council, which was held in Uppsala (DS no. 7777). The statutes adopted by the council deal, for instance, with the possibility of having the same godparents at baptism and confirmation, due to the lack of people (after the Black Death), and with the concubinate of the clergy. Other provincial councils under the aegis of Birger are known from the years 1377 and 1379-1382. The main subjects of these events, except the council of 1380, are the canonization of Birgitta and the renewal of the tax for the benefit of Vadstena Abbey, in Swedish “vårfrupenning”, which had been initiated already in the 1360s. The council of 1380, on the other hand, focuses on the violence against the clergy and the ecclesiastical privileges.
As archbishop Birger had to visit different parts of his large province. In October 1369, for instance, he appears in Åbo (Turku) where he decrees that old customs concerning taxes to the Church should be observed by the laymen (DS no. 7979). In 1374 he made a long visitation of the northern part of his diocese. The main reason for this journey, which lasted at least from April to October, was the controversy about the border between the Dioceses of Uppsala and Åbo (see e.g. DS X, no. 319; DS no. 8666; AHNLUND 1920, 211 f.). From 1375 and onwards, however, Birger’s concern over the canonization of Birgitta (d. 1373) is more and more noticeable. On 2 May 1375, he was in Vadstena in order to confirm the first collection of miracles that was sent to the curia (COLLIJN, I. 1924-1931, 163; DS no. 8772; FRÖJMARK 1992, 32). In the following year he is the issuer – together with Bishop >Nicolaus Hermanni of Linköping and Bishop >Mathias Laurentii of Västerås – of a supplication to pope Gregory XI concerning the canonization, dated 9 October 1376 (DS no. 9340). On 9 December of the same year a second collection of miracles was sent to the curia. Birger and the two bishops, mentioned above, had a meeting at the convent of the Grey Friars in Stockholm, where they confirmed the authenticity of the miracles by putting their seals on the document (DS no. 9378; FRÖJMARK 1992, 37-38). It is to be noted that further supplications for the canonization were issued by the Swedish clergy and others in the following years.
During the last years of his life Birger seems to have spent a lot of time at the manor Arnö (today’s Biskops-Arnö) by the lake Mälaren, where he could find the peace he needed to write and to contemplate. In the mid-1370s he had started to compose a rhymed office (historia) in honour of (St.) Birgitta (see works below). The working process can be followed in four private letters, transmitted in the “Large copy-book of Vadstena Abbey” (Stockholm, National Archives, A 20). All four letters are addressed to the confessor general and the brothers of Vadstena Abbey respectively. The year of issue is not indicated, but they are supposed to have been written in 1376 (DS nos. 9224, 9229, 9240 and 9246; ENGSTRÖM 1932, 272 f.; UNDHAGEN 1960, 23 f.). In the first letter, dated 13 March, Birger announces that he is sending an arm made of silver, which should be put in front of the relics of (St.) Birgitta in the abbey, since he had been suffering of ache in his right arm. In another letter, dated 6 May (1376), he discusses the issue of sending money to Catherine Ulfsdotter (>Sancta Katherina), (St.) Birgitta’s daughter, who was in Italy at the moment in order to present the first collection of her mother’s miracles to the curia.
Birger’s relations with king Albrecht were seriously deteriorated from 1381 due to a dispute about the hospital of Enköping and the appointment of the new manager. The king’s German candidate Johannes de Gelthinge, who was at the same time the king’s chaplain, could not be accepted by Birger, who referred to the archbishop’s old right to appoint the managers of the hospital (SRAP no. 1601). We can assume that Birger, who had already shown great interest in the hospital by issuing the statutes (HEDQVIST 1893, 140-45), had no wish to increase the German influence in the Swedish Church and in the country as a whole; this influence was very strong already and it was also very unpopular among the Swedish population at the time (BRILIOTH 1925, 93; PERNLER 1999, 101). Johannes de Gelthinge then declared that he had the intention to appeal to the pope. Some time later, probably during the autumn 1382, it is obvious that the king had withdrawn his support from Johannes, and was then proposing his chancellor Heinrich van Ranten as manager of the hospital. In his answer to the king, Birger declared that he could not support the new candidate, since the case of Johannes de Gelthinge was still under investigation (RPprH no. 55). Unfortunately, we have no information about the solution of the conflict.
Posterity was very appreciating where Birger’s personal qualities are concerned. The oldest chronicle of the Archbishops of Uppsala (Stockholm, National Archives, A 8) tells us that he was “vir magne liberalitatis et sani consilii vir in omni sciencia, precipue theologie, legum et canonum peritus” (SRS III:2, 101). Johannes Magnus (d. 1544), in his history of the archbishops, emphasizes Birger’s learning in like manner (SRS III:2, 55).
(1) Officium Sancti Botvidi (Triumphantis milicie)
The work is a complete rhymed office including texts for the canonical hours and for the mass, with nine lessons containing the legend of St. Botvid. Traditionally it has been assumed that St. Botvid’s death occurred around 1120. Some scholars, however, have suggested that he died ca. 1080 (>Sanctus Botvidus).
According to a private letter on paper (RPprH nr 12, without date of issue) Birger’s own title was “Istoria beati Botuidi”. In later literature, the work is often referred to as “Officium Sancti Botvidi”.
Pater vivens in secula.
In the poetic parts the iambic dimeter (rhythmical, 8 pp; NORBERG 1958, 106 f.) is predominant.
12 pages. The poetic parts comprise 285 verses including the sequence Celi chorus, esto gaudens, probably composed by >Nicolaus Hermanni (see Summary of contents below).
- SRS II:1, 383-88, Uppsala 1828.
- LUNDÉN, T. 1946: “Sankt Ansgars, Sankt Botvids och Sankt Davids officier,” Credo 27.
- • ÖNNERFORS, A. 1966: Zur Offiziendichtung im schwedischen Mittelalter. Mit einer Edition des Birger Gregersson zugeschriebene ‘Officium s. Botuidi’, in Mittellateinisches Jahrbuch vol. 3, also printed in: Lateinische Sprache und Literatur des Mittelalters, vol. 6 (Mediaevalia. Abhandlungen und Aufsätze), Frankfurt am Main 1977.
- Acta sanctorum, Julii tomus VI, Paris and Rome 1868, 635 (in selections).
- KLEMMING, G.E. 1885: Hymni, sequentiae et piae cantiones in regno Sueciae olim usitatae. Sancti Sueciae. (Swedish title: Latinska sånger fordom använda i svenska kyrkor, kloster och skolor. Sveriges helgon), Stockholm.
- AH, vol. 25 (ed. C. Blume, 179-81, Leipzig 1897); vol. 43 (ed. G.M. Dreves, 104-5, Leipzig 1903).
- LUNDÉN, T. 1983: Sveriges missionärer, helgon och kyrkogrundare. En bok om Sveriges kristnande, Malmö. (in selections).
- (Swedish) FOGELKLOU, E., LINDBLOM, A. & WESSÉN, E. (eds.): Legender från Sveriges medeltid illustrerade i svensk medeltidskonst, vol. 2, Stockholm 1917 (legend only).
- (Swedish) LUNDÉN, T. 1946: “Sankt Ansgars, Sankt Botvids och Sankt Davids officier,” Credo 27.
- (Swedish) LUNDÉN, T. 1983: Sveriges missionärer, helgon och kyrkogrundare. En bok om Sveriges kristnande, Malmö (poetic parts in selections).
Date and place
We do not know when the office was composed, but is has been suggested that Birger at least started to work on it during his time as canon of Strängnäs, i.e. between 1342 and 1356. This hypothesis has mainly been grounded on the fact that St. Botvid – together with St. Eskil – is one of the apostles of the Swedish province of Södermanland, where Strängnäs is situated and where, naturally, the cult of the saint was particularly vivid. Hence, this cult might have inspired Birger to compose the office. Since Birger had studied in France, it is possible that the rhymed office in honour of St. Botvid was his first test of learning of this very French genre. One scholar has imagined a certain youthful freshness in the office (BRILIOTH 1925, 60). However, it seems like Birger was still working on it during his time as archbishop. In a letter without date of issue (cf. Title above), addressed to Nils Johansson Helsing, prebendary at Uppsala Cathedral, Birger quotes the correct wording of the Responsory no. 7, verses 1-6, “Draco serpentem suscitat… Iahel necat sub pallio”. Where the literary and technical quality is concerned (rhymes, etc.), there is no indication of a debutant’s work. On the contrary, the rhyme technique is on the same level as in Birger’s Officium Sancte Birgitte or maybe on an even higher level (ÖNNERFORS 1966, 86).
Summary of contents
The office comprises 22 antiphons, 9 responsories, 9 lessons, 3 hymns and 1 collecta composed by Birger, and furthermore psalms and versicles based on biblical texts. The sequence Celi chorus, esto gaudens, which is transmitted in the Missale Strengnense (printed in 1487), in Uppsala University Library, C 420 and C 427, is probably not composed by Birger; it has been attributed to >Nicolaus Hermanni (ÖNNERFORS 1966, 68). The legend in Birger’s office is a very abridged version of the older legend of St. Botvid (see Sources below). After his arrival in England, Botvid was received by a priest (lesson no. 1), who taught him the Christian faith (no. 2). Having returned to Sweden (no. 3), Botvid went out fishing together with his servants and neighbours (no. 4). The landowner Bovinus forbade them to fish, unless they offered him a fourth of the haul. Then Botvid and his men went over to Botvid’s own island, and he ordered his friends to pull up the nets; the fish filled two boats (no. 5). Bovinus, who did not get any fish, converted to the Christian faith (no. 6). On a journey to Gotland Botvid was slaughtered by a freedman (no. 7). Botvid’s parents decided to search for him (no. 8), and they finally found the body by following a white bird (no. 9).
Composition and style
In the legend the use of cursus is common, as can be illustrated by the first lesson:
Gloriosus Christi martir Bothuidus in regno Suecie ex honestis parentibus (cursus tardus), licet paganis (c. planus), oriundus cum adhuc iuuenis esset (c. planus), ne ociosus comederet panem suum, negociacionis causa ad Angliam feliciter est profectus (c. velox). Martir ergo Christi diuino nutu a quodam sacerdote (c. trispondiacus), mire sanctitatis et sciencie viro, hospicio receptus est, vitamque suam cum omni obediencia et mansuetudine sacerdotis moribus conformauit (c. velox). (ÖNNERFORS 1966, 77).
The following verses (Responsory no. 1) indicate the poetic skill of Birger:
Rosa rubens egreditur de spinarum acumine, gemma terre subtrahitur precellens pulchritudine, Bothuidus cum producitur ex paganorum semine. Aurum splendens efficitur, argentum purum redditur purgatum a rubigine. (ÖNNERFORS 1966, 77)
The 9-line stanza is based on iambic dimeter (rhythmical, 8 pp; NORBERG 1958, 106 f.) and it has the rhyme scheme abababaab. The use of alliteration is especially noticeable. In this context, however, it should be stressed that Birger shows no originality compared to earlier authors of rhymed offices, but he merely proves himself to be in command of the technique demanded by the genre.
For his legend Birger has obviously been inspired by the older versions of the Vita s. Botvidi, transmitted in the Breviarium Toresundense and in the Codex Laurentii Odonis (>Sanctus Botvidus, Sources). Birger’s version, as presented in the lessons of the office, is much shorter than the older versions, probably for liturgical reasons.
The genre of rhymed offices had been flourishing in Europe for a long time when Birger composed his offices, and it is obvious that he was inspired by earlier authors, especially by the French masters of the genre.
Medieval reception and transmission
Birger’s office was intended for the feast of St. Botvid on 28 July, and it is transmitted in the most complete form in the Breviarium Strengnense (printed in Stockholm 1495). The Breviarium Lincopense (printed in Nuremberg 1493) has a mixed text, where the lessons essentially follow the version of the Breviarium Toresundense, though in a very abridged form. The office is also found in the following manuscripts at Uppsala University Library: C 354, C 435 and C 463 (all originating from the fifteenth century).
(2) Officium Sancte Birgitte (Birgitte matris inclite)
The work is a complete rhymed office including texts for the canonical hours and for the mass, with nine lessons comprising the legend of >Sancta Birgitta (ca. 1303-1373). The legend has sometimes been treated as a separate literary work.
The title used by Birger himself was “Hystoria domine Birgitte” or “Hystoria de domina Birgitta” (DS no. 9224 and 9240), where the expression hystoria obviously is used as a synonym for officium (UNDHAGEN 1960, 6). It should be noted that Birgitta was not yet canonized when the office was composed. In the medieval manuscripts the following titles are found, e.g.: Officium Sancte Brigitte (Stockholm, Royal Library, A 67), Officium in festo beate Brigide (“Codex Nordenskiöld,” Helsinki University Library), Historia de sancta Birgitta (Uppsala University Library, C 293), Historia in solemnitatibus Sancte Birgitte de regno Suecie (Stockholm, Royal Library, A 75), etc. The legend, which is often found as a separate text, is called Legenda vel vita beate Birgitte (“Codex Falkenberg,” Lund University Library).
Birgitte matris inclite.
…luctum nostrum in gaudium (Magnificat + Oracio ut supra).
In the poetic parts the iambic dimeter (rhythmical, 8 pp; NORBERG 1958, 106 f.) is predominant. The sequence consists of trochaic dimeter (rhythmical, 8 p; NORBERG 1958, 118). For further details see UNDHAGEN 1960, 104 f.
60 pages. The poetic parts comprise 355 verses.
- • UNDHAGEN, C.-G. 1960: Birger Gregerssons Birgitta-officium (Saml. utg. av Sv. fornskriftsällskapet, ser. 2, Latinska skrifter, vol. 6), Uppsala.
- Acta sanctorum, Octobris tomus IV, Paris and Rome 1866-1868, 485 ff.
- COLLIJN, I. 1946: Birgerus Gregorii, Legenda sancte Birgitte (Saml. utg. av Sv. fornskriftsällskapet, ser. 2, Latinska skrifter, vol. 4), Uppsala.
- NYRIN-HEUMAN, E. 1955: Latinska texter från svensk medeltid och tidig renässans. Med inledning och kommentar (Skrifter utg. av Svenska klassikerförbundet 44), Lund.
- NILSSON, A.-M. 2003: Två hystorie för den heliga Birgitta. Two historie for St. Birgitta of Sweden. Nicolai Hermanni Rosa rorans bonitatem, Birgeri Gregorii Birgitte matris inclite, Stockholm,191 f. (extracts).
- Officia propria sanctorum patronorum regni sueciae, ex vetustis Breuiarijs eiusdem regni deprompta, Antwerpiae 1631.
- Officia propria sanctorum et aliarum festivitatum ordinis salvatoris, vulgo S. Birgittae, Romano Breviario accomodata, recitanda a monialibus Anglicanis civitatis Ulyssiponensis, Ulissipone ex typographia Joannis Galraō 1690.
- SCHRÖDER, J.H. 1833: De poesi sacra Latina medii aevi in Svecia, ed. J.F. Åkerblom, Uppsala.
- MONE, F.J. 1855: Lateinische Hymnen des Mittelalters, vol. 3, Freiburg im Breisgau.
- Proprium poloniae et sueciae sive Officia propria festorum et sanctorum patronorum regni Poloniae et Sueciae ex indulto Summorum Pontificum recitanda, Campoduni 1856.
- Proprium poloniae et sueciae sive Officia propria festorum et sanctorum patronorum regni Poloniae et Sueciae, accomodatum ad Diurnale Romanum majoris editionis, Campoduni 1869.
- KEHREIN, J. 1873: Lateinische Sequenzen des Mittelalters, Mainz.
- Acta sanctorum, Octobris tomus IV, Paris and Rome 1866-1868, 482 ff. (in selections).
- KLEMMING, G.E. 1885: Hymni, sequentiae et piae cantiones in regno Sueciae olim usitatae. Sancti Sueciae. (Swedish title: Latinska sånger fordom använda i svenska kyrkor, kloster och skolor. Sveriges helgon), Stockholm.
- AH, vol.4 (ed. G.M. Dreves, Leipzig 1888, p. 116), vol. 25 (ed. C. Blume, Leipzig 1897, p. 166-69), vol. 42 (ed. C. Blume, Leipzig 1903, p. 179-80), vol. 43 (ed. G.M. Dreves, Leipzig 1903, p. 100), vol. 52 (ed. C. Blume, Leipzig 1909, p. 145).
- DREVES, G.M. 1909: Ein Jahrtausend lateinischer Hymnendichtung. Eine Blütenlese aus den Analecta Hymnica mit literaturhistorischen Erläuterungen von Guido Maria Dreves, Leipzig.
- COLLIJN, I. 1946: Birgerus Gregorii, Historia de Sancta Birgitta (Studi e testi 122. Miscellanea Giovanni Mercati, vol. 2. Letteratura mediovale), Città del Vaticano.
- LUNDÉN, T. 1947: “Birgittaofficier och Birgittadikter,” Credo 28.
- NILSSON, A.-M. 2003: Två hystorie för den heliga Birgitta. Two historie for St. Birgitta of Sweden. Nicolai Hermanni Rosa rorans bonitatem, Birgeri Gregorii Birgitte matris inclite, Stockholm, 67 f. (text with music notation).
- (Swedish) LUNDÉN, T. 1947: “Birgittaofficier och Birgittadikter,” Credo 28.
- (Swedish) HÄRDELIN, A. 1990: Gloria. 160 tidegärdshymner med musik. Svensk tolkning från latinet av Alf Härdelin, Slite (no. 100 = Hymnus I, Hora consurgit aurea).
- (English and Swedish) NILSSON, A.-M. 2003: Två hystorie för den heliga Birgitta. Two historie for St. Birgitta of Sweden. Nicolai Hermanni Rosa rorans bonitatem, Birgeri Gregorii Birgitte matris inclite, Stockholm, 218 f.
Date and place
Birger’s rhymed office in honour of St. Birgitta was probably written 1375-1376 at the manor Arnö. Four letters, in which we can follow the working-process, have been mentioned above. In the first letter from 13 March 1376 (DS no. 9224) Birger writes that he had almost finished the whole office except the part for the mass, which must have been finished at latest on 21 April (DS no. 9240). A revision of the work has probably been made in 1381 (RPprH no. 43; UNDHAGEN 1960, 29).
Summary of contents
The office comprises 22 antiphons, 9 responsories, 9 lessons, 3 hymns, 2 orationes and 1 sequence (Insistentes cantilene) composed by Birger, and furthermore a great number of psalms, versicles etc. based on biblical texts. In the lessons, which are unusually long, the life of St. Birgitta is described. There are less allusions to the Revelationes celestes than in the lessons of Nicolaus Hermanni’s office Rosa rorans bonitatem. Birgitta’s life is presented in all its diversity, comprising the position as virgin (lessons nos. 2-4), wife (nos. 5-6) and widow (nos. 7-9). Her experiences as virgin, wife and widow make Birgitta a universal saint for the whole church, and she is compared to a great number of biblical persons (see BORGEHAMMAR 1993, 305, n. 24). The national pride of Birgitta is also suggested in expressions like “Tu populi leticia”, “Tu consolatrix patrie” (Antiphon no. 3) and “decor regni Suecie” (Hymn no. 1).
Composition and style
Birger is at his most original in the first and in the ninth lesson, where no evident models can be traced. In order to illustrate Birger’s fondness for cursus, the last sentence of lesson no. 1 can be quoted:
De ipsius igitur vita (cursus planus), virtutum odoribus plena (c. planus), secundum prescriptum ordinem, necnon de fidedignis miraculis, que Sponsus celestis ad sponse sue sancitatis euidenciam operari dignatus est, simplici stilo (c. planus) – et utinam legentibus non ingrato! (c. velox) – aliqua scribere curauimus ad honorem et gloriam Saluatoris (c. velox). (UNDHAGEN 1960, 187-88; cf. 95)
The antiphons and hymns consist of stanzas in rhyming iambic dimeter (rhythmical, 8 pp; NORBERG 1958, 106 f.). As an example, Hymn no. 2, rhyming abab, is quoted here:
Celi perornat gaudia causam prestat leticie Birgitta, rosa fulgida, pax et decus Osgocie. (UNDHAGEN 1960, 183)
The number of lines in the stanzas varies between 4 and 14, and the rhyme scheme is also varying.
In the late fourteenth century three different prose versions of St. Birgitta’s life were flourishing: (1) The Vita of her two confessors, Petrus Olavi of Alvastra (>Petrus Olavi , prior) and Petrus Olavi of Skänninge (>Petrus Olavi , magister), which is related in the Acts of the canonization process; (2) The Vita found in the so-called “Liber de miraculis beate Brigide de Suecia” (now preserved in Archivum generale Ordinis Minorum, Rome; (3) The Vita found in C 15 at Uppsala University Library. On textual grounds it has been made clear (UNDHAGEN 1960, 81-90) that Birger used the version of C 15 as main source for the legend. Besides, it is based on at least one other version.
See above (1) Officium Sancti Botvidi (Triumphantis milicie).
Medieval reception and transmission
The office has survived in four different forms: (1) Complete office; (2) Legend only; (3) Office for the breviary; (4) Office for the mass (UNDHAGEN 1960, 35). There is no medieval manuscript, originating from Sweden, which contains the complete text. The manuscripts A 67 and A 75 at the Royal Library, Stockholm, for instance, originate from Germany (Erfurt and Bavaria respectively). The complete text is also transmitted in manuscripts from England and Italy (see UNDHAGEN 1960, 36 f.). Various parts of the office are found in several Swedish manuscripts dating from the late fourteenth century to ca. 1500.
The intention was that the office should be used on the day of Birgitta’s death, 23 July. This tradition was maintained in the Dioceses of Uppsala, Strängnäs, Västerås and Lund. In the Diocese of Linköping, to which Vadstena Abbey belonged, Birger’s office was originally performed on 7 October, the day of Birgitta’s canonization, since the office of Nicolaus Hermanni, Rosa rorans bonitatem, was used on 23 July. Due to the stiff competition from Nicolaus Hermanni’s popular office, it seems like Birger’s office gradually ceased to be practiced in the Diocese of Linköping (HELANDER 1957, 183). Even if Birger’s office as a whole probably was not used to a larger extent at Vadstena Abbey, several manuscripts – where the legend and also the poetic parts are copied – bear witness to the use of the text at the abbey.
Parts of the text were printed in the early editions of Missale Upsalense (Stockholm 1484), Missale Strengnense (Stockholm 1487), Breviarium Strengnense (Stockholm 1495), Breviarium Upsalense (Stockholm 1496), Breviarium Arosiense (Basel 1513) and Breviarium Lundense (Paris 1517) (see further UNDHAGEN 1960, XII).
At the entrance of Birger into the office as the king’s chancellor around 1364, a change of style concerning the formulation of the royal charters and documents is noticeable. The sudden appearance of quotations from the Bible and the Church Fathers, especially in the preambles of the charters, has been associated with the learning of the new chancellor (see LIEDGREN 1980, 70). Equally significant is the abundant use of cursus, which also may reveal that Birger was the dictator of the documents; as has been indicated above in the two offices, he was very fond of using cursus. One document originating from a later period, when Birger was archbishop of Uppsala, has been chosen here in order to give a glimpse of his epistolary style. The letter is issued on 31 August 1370, (DS no. 8181), when Birger established a new canonry at Uppsala Cathedral:
Vniuersis, quos presens tangit negocium vel tangere poterit quomodolibet in futurum, Birgerus permissione diuina archiepiscopus Vpsalensis eternam in Domino salutem. Domus saltus Lybani per Salomonis sapienciam edificata, que diuersis columpnarum ordinibus sustentabatur, quorum vnus ordo habebat columpnas quindecim circa se inuicem positas et e regione se respicientes [cf. III Reg. 7,1-5], sancta est mater ecclesia, ad quam Saluator suus Christus Ihesus formosus in stola sua gradiens in multitudine fortitudinis sue [Is. 62,11-63,1] saliens in montibus transiliens colles [Cant. 2,8] et excelsa montium in summitate Lybani ascendens [cf. IV Reg. 19,23], quasi sponsus de thalamo suo [Ps. 18,6] ad amplexus sponse sue procedens et velut fons aque salientis in vitam eternam [Ioh. 4,14] assumendo humanitatem venire et descendere dignabatur /…/. (To all the people whom this letter reaches or can reach in the future in whatever manner, Birger, with divine permission archbishop of Uppsala, gives his eternal greeting in the Lord. The house of the forest of Lebanon, built through Solomon’s wisdom, was held up by several rows of pillars, and each row had fifteen pillars placed side by side in a straight line; this signifies the holy Mother Church, upon whom her saviour Jesus Christ deemed it right to come and descend by assuming human form, glorious in his apparel, travelling in the greatness of his strength, leaping upon the mountains, skipping upon the hills, and coming up to the height of the mountains, to the sides of Lebanon, like a bridegroom coming out of his chamber to embrace his bride, and like a well of water springing up into everlasting life.)
As indicated above the preamble reflects several passages from the Bible (see further LIEDGREN 1980, 71).
Finally, it should be noted that Birger probably was the dictator of the two earliest supplications for the canonization of Birgitta, which were sent from Sweden to the pope. Both supplications were issued on 9 October 1376 (DS no. 9339 and 9340).
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- MILVEDEN, I. 1969: “Rimofficium,” in KLNM 14.
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- NORBERG, D. 1958: Introduction à l’étude de la versification latine médiévale (Studia Latina Stockholmiensia 5), Stockholm.
- ODENIUS, O. 1957: “Botvid,” in KLNM 2.
- PERNLER, S.-E. 1999: Sveriges kyrkohistoria 2. Hög- och senmedeltid, Stockholm.
- RPprH: Svenska Riksarchivets pappershandlingar 1351-1400, Stockholm 1887.
- ÖNNERFORS, A. 1960: (review of) UNDHAGEN, C.G.: Birger Gregerssons Birgitta-officium (see Editions above), Kyrkohistorisk årsskrift 1960, Uppsala.
- ÖNNERFORS, A. 1969: “Das Botvidsoffizium des Toresundbreviers,” Eranos 67.