St. Bridget of Sweden

St. Bridget of Sweden (ca. 1303–1373).
Nuremberg: Anton Koberger, 1500. (06881)

St. Bridget was born in Uppland, Sweden, where her father was governor. She married a local nobleman at age thirteen and had eight children. Widowed shortly after she returned from a pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela in 1341, she began to experience “celestial revelations” of episodes in Christ’s life, the Last Judgment, her own mystical “marriage” to Christ, and divine instruction to found a new religious order. Supported by the Swedish Crown, she attracted many women to a life of monastic poverty at Vadstena that allowed only one luxury: books for pious study. St. Bridget traveled to Rome in 1349, calling for church reforms and campaigning successfully for official confirmation of the Brigittine Order from Pope Urban V. She died in 1373 and was canonized in 1391, the only female saint so honored during the fourteenth century.

Written in Swedish by St. Bridget and later translated into Latin, the immensely popular Revelationes first appeared in print at Lübeck in 1492. The second edition of 1500, exhibited here, was printed at the request of Emperor Maximilian I. The publisher Anton Koberger employed his godson Albrecht Dürer and several other Nuremberg artisans to illustrate the work with fifty-eight woodcuts. These illustrations were colored by hand in Bridwell Library’s copy.

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Women of the Middle Ages
St. Bridget of Sweden