|The most celebrated saint of the Northern kingdoms, born about
1303; died 23 July, 1373.
She was the daughter of Birger Persson, governor and provincial
judge (Lagman) of Uppland, and of Ingeborg Bengtsdotter. Her
father was one of the wealthiest landholders of the country, and,
like her mother, distinguished by deep piety. St. Ingrid, whose
death had occurred about twenty years before Bridget's birth, was
a near relative of the family. Birger's daughter received a careful
religious training, and from her seventh year showed signs of
extraordinary religious impressions and illuminations. To her
education, and particularly to the influence of an aunt who took
the place of Bridget's mother after the latter's death (c. 1315), she
owed that unswerving strength of will which later distinguished her.
In 1316, at the age of thirteen, she was united in marriage to Ulf
Gudmarsson, who was then eighteen. She acquired great
influence over her noble and pious husband, and the happy
marriage was blessed with eight children, among them St.
Catherine of Sweden. The saintly life and the great charity of
Bridget soon made her name known far and wide. She was
acquainted with several learned and pious theologians, among
them Nicolaus Hermanni, later Bishop of Linköping, Matthias,
canon of Linköping, her confessor, Peter, Prior of Alvastrâ, and
Peter Magister, her confessor after Matthias. She was later at the
court of King Magnus Eriksson, over whom she gradually acquired
great influence. Early in the forties (1341-43) in company with her
husband she made a pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostella. On
the return journey her husband was stricken with an attack of
illness, but recovered sufficiently to finish the journey. Shortly
afterwards, however, he died (1344) in the Cistercian monastery
of Alvastrâ in East Gothland.
Bridget now devoted herself entirely to practices of religion and
asceticism, and to religious undertakings. The visions which she
believed herself to have had from her early childhood now
became more frequent and definite. She believed that Christ
Himself appeared to her, and she wrote down the revelations she
then received, which were in great repute during the Middle Ages.
They were translated into Latin by Matthias Magister and Prior
St. Bridget now founded a new religious congregation, the
Brigittines, or Order of St. Saviour, whose chief monastery, at
Vadstena, was richly endowed by King Magnus and his queen
(1346). To obtain confirmation for her institute, and at the same
time to seek a larger sphere of activity for her mission, which was
the moral uplifting of the period, she journeyed to Rome in 1349,
and remained there until her death, except while absent on
pilgrimages, among them one to the Holy Land in 1373. In August,
1370, Pope Urban V confirmed the Rule of her congregation.
Bridget made earnest representations to Pope Urban, urging the
removal of the Holy See from Avignon back to Rome. She
accomplished the greatest good in Rome, however, by her pious
and charitable life, and her earnest admonitions to others to
adopt a better life, following out the excellent precedents she had
set in her native land. The year following her death her remains
were conveyed to the monastery at Vadstena. She was
canonized, 7 October, 1391, by Boniface IX.