Birgitta Birgersdotter (1303 – 23 July 1373; also Birgitta of Vadstena, Saint Birgitta, Saint Bridget (or Brigid) of Sweden, or in Swedish den heliga Birgitta [literally the Holy Birgitta]) was a mystic and saint (the only Swede ever to be canonised by a catholic pope), and founder of the Bridgettine Order after the death of her husband of twenty years. She was also the mother of a saint—Saint Catherine of Vadstena.
She is one of the six patron saints of Europe, together with Saint Benedict of Nursia, Saints Cyril and Methodius, Saint Catherine of Siena and Saint Teresia Benedicta of the Cross (Edith Stein).
The most celebrated saint of Sweden was the daughter of Birger Persson of the family of Finsta, governor and lawspeaker of Uppland, and one of the richest landowners of the country, and his wife, a member of the so-called Lawspeaker branch of the Folkunga family. Through her mother, young Birgitta was a relation of the Swedish kings of her lifetime.
In 1316, when she was 13 she married Ulf Gudmarsson of the family of Ulvåsa, lord of Närke, to whom she bore eight children, four daughters and four sons. All of them survived infancy, which was very rare at that time. One of whom was afterwards honored as St. Catherine of Sweden. Birgitta’s saintly and charitable life soon made her known far and wide; she gained, too, great religious influence over her husband, with whom (1341–1343) she went on pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela.
In 1344, shortly after their return, Ulf died in the Cistercian monastery of Alvastra Abbey in Östergötland, and Birgitta then devoted herself wholly to religion.
It was about this time that she founded the Order of the Holy Saviour, or the Brigittines, of which the principal house at Vadstena was richly endowed by King Magnus Eriksson of Sweden and his queen.
About 1350 she went to Rome, partly to obtain from the pope the authorization of the new order and partly in pursuance of her self-imposed mission to elevate the moral tone of the age. It was not until 1370 that Pope Urban V confirmed the rule of her order, but meanwhile Birgitta had made herself universally beloved in Rome by her kindness and good works. Save for occasional pilgrimages, including one to Jerusalem in 1373, she remained in Rome until her death on 23 July 1373. She was originally buried at San Lorenzo in Panisperna before being moved to Sweden. She was canonized in the year 1391 by Pope Boniface IX, and confirmed by the Council of Constance in 1415. Because of new discussions about her works, the Council of Basel confirmed the orthodoxy of the revelations in 1436.
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