Catholic Encyclopedia (1913)/Abbey of Vadstena

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Catholic Encyclopedia (1913), Volume 15
Abbey of Vadstena

by Arthur Whitcombe Taylor


Motherhouse of the Brigittine Order, situated on Lake Wetter, in the Diocese of Linköping, Sweden. Though the abbey was founded in 1346 by St. Bridget with the assistance of Magnus II and Blanche of Namur, St. Catherine, on arriving there in 1374, with the relics of her mother St. 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 till 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 Brigittine 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 Old Swedish Texts Society (Svenska Fornskrift-Sällskap) of Stockholm. Of these authors the best known belonging to Vadstena are perhaps Margaret Clausdotter, abbess (1473-1496), author of a work on the family of St. Bridget (printed in "Scriptores Rerum Svecicarum", III, I, 207-16), and Nicholas 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 about 1527. In 1540 the larger part of the books and valuables were taken. The little community struggled on in spite of persecution. John III (1569-1592) restored and enriched the abbey, and Possevin, as papal legate, reformed it in 1580. In 1594 it was seized and destroyed by Charles, Duke of Sudermanland, afterwards Charles IX. The abbess, Catherine Olofsdotter, and most of the nuns, fled to the Brigittine nunnery at Danzig. Now only the chapter house and a few cells of the convent of the sisters remain, and form part of a lunatic asylum. A general hospital occupies the site of the convent of the brothers. The abbey church is still standing; it contains a few memorials of St. Bridget. (See BRIGITTINES; CATHERINE OF SWEDEN, SAINT.)

A.W. TAYLOR