Vadstena Abbey

Vadstena Abbey

Vadstena Abbey ("Monasterium sanctarum Mariæ Virgìnis et Brigido in Vatzstena") was the motherhouse of the Bridgettine Order, situated on Lake Vättern, in the Diocese of Linköping, Sweden. The abbey started as one of the farms donated by the king, but the town of Vadstena grew up around it.


The abbey was founded in 1346 by Saint Bridget with the assistance of King Magnus II of Sweden and his queen Blanche of Namur, who made a will donating ten farms, including that of Vadstena in Dal Hundred, Östergötland, to the abbey founded by Bridget.

The daughter of Saint Bridget, Saint Catherine, on arriving there in 1374 with the relics of her mother Bridget, found only a few novices under an Augustinian superior. They chose St. Catherine as their abbess. She died in 1381, and it was not until 1384 that the abbey was blessed by the Bishop of Linköping. The canonization of St. Bridget in 1391 and her translation in 1394 added greatly to the fame and riches of her abbey. In 1400 Eric of Pomerania was invested at Vadstena by his aunt, Queen Margaret, with full royal rights over Denmark, Norway, and of Sweden.

The Bridgetine literature consisted mostly of translations into Swedish of portions of the Bible or of the legends of the saints. Such writings as are extant have been published for the most art by the Svenska fornskriftsällskapet (Old Swedish Texts Society) of Stockholm. Of these authors the best known belonging to Vadstena are perhaps Margareta Clausdotter, (abbess 1473, died 1486), author of a work on the family of St. Bridget (printed in "Scriptores Rerum Svecicarum", III, I, 207-16), and Nicolaus Ragvaldi, monk and general confessor (1476-1514), who composed several works. When he died, end of the abbey was near at hand.

It was plundered by Gustavus Vasa in 1523, and lost most of its lands after the reformation in 1527. The reformation abolished the convents in Sweden by not allowing them to accept new novices, though, in reality, they are examples of novices accepted at Vadstena Abbey during the ban of novices. The nuns and monks were allowed to stay or leave if they wished; the Abbess Birgitta Botulfsdotter left the convent and married in 1539. In 1543 the larger part of the books and valuables were taken. The little community struggled on in spite of persecution. The male section of the convent lasted until 1555, when the king made the monks leave the convent and made them teachers, priests and doctors, but the female section was to last until 1595.

During the reign of John III (1569-1592), the abbey was restored and enriched, and Antonio Possevino, as papal legate, reformed it in 1580. King John was influnced by his Catholic queen, Catherine Jagiellon, who much benefited and often visited the convent. In 1575, Vadstena Abbey, as well as other Catholic convents still active in Sweden, was allowed by the king to receive novices again, which had been forbidden since the reformation; in 1580, they were twenty sisters in the convent, as well as novices, and the Abbess Katarina Bengtsdotter Gylta (r. 1551-93), was on very good terms with the king and queen.

In 1594 it was seized and destroyed by Charles, Duke of Södermanland, afterwards Charles IX of Sweden. The abbess, Katarina Olofsdotter, and most of the nuns, fled to the Bridgetine nunnery at Danzig the year after. When Magnus Vasa, Duke of Östergötland, died in 1595 he was buried in the abbey church. His sarcophagus can still be seen today.

At the beginning of the 20th century, the "Catholic Encyclopedia" noted that only the chapter house and a few cells of the convent of the sisters remained as part of a lunatic asylum. A general hospital occupied the site of the convent of the brothers. The abbey church is still standing; it contains a few memorials of St. Bridget.


* 1346 - King Magnus Eriksson and Queen Blanche of Namur donates the royal estate Vadstena kungsgård to the fondation of a futyre convent.
* 1370 - Pope Urban V give his aproval to the plan of S:t Bridget.
* 1373 - Bridget dies.
* 1374 - The remains of Bridget is taken to Vadstena. Saint Catherine is elected Abbess of Vadstena.
* 1384 - The Vadstena abbey is officially ignited.
* 1391 - Bridget is declared saint.
* 1430 - The curch of Vadstena Abbey is ignited.
* 1527 - The reformation forbid the Abbey to accept any new novices, and allowes the nuns and monks to leave the convent if they wish to.
* 1555 - The male section of the Abbey is dissolved, and the monks leaves Vadstena Abbey.
* 1575 - King John III of Sweden allows the abbey to accept novices again.
* 1595 - The female section of the Abbey is dissolved.
* 1935 - Nuns of the order of saint Bridget open a resting home on the estate.
* 1963 - The Pax Mariæ Abbey of Saint Bridget is opened.


*C [arl] S [ilfverstolp] e ( [revised by] [K.] R. G [eete] ), "Vadstena kloster", in "Nordisk familjebok", vol. 31 (1921), col. 263 ff. []
* Signum svenska kulturhistoria, "Renässansen"

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