Sancta Birgitta. Revelaciones, Book II

Article excerpt

Sancta Birgitta. Revelaciones, Book II. Edited by Carl-Gustaf Undhagen and Birger Bergh. (Stockholm: Almqvist & Wiksell International. 2001. Pp. 128. SEK 152 paperback.)

The publication of this volume and of H. Aili's edition of Revelaciones, Book VIII, also in 2001, brings to completion the twelve-volume critical edition of the texts of Saint Birgitta begun some fifty years ago. The impact of this meticulous labor of love by a series of devoted scholars can be seen in the growing interest in this extraordinary seer in recent scholarship. Birgitta and her younger contemporary, Catherine of Siena, are the most remarkable examples of a female leadership role that sprang to life in the mid-twelfth century with the visions and predictions of Hildegard of Bingen and Elisabeth of Schonau and that remained strong through the later Middle Ages. Through their ability to channel divine messages for both individuals and institutions these prophetissae created a new public role for women as agents of reform and"trumpets of the mysteries of God," as Hildegard once put it.

Book II of the Revelaciones is among the shortest of the nine books that contain Birgitta's approximately 700 showings, having only thirty chapters. The messages in it are mostly speeches by Christ to his sponsa, though eight of the chapters contain addresses by Mary, and in one chapter it is John the Baptist who speaks. The content of the messages is typical of the Swedish seer-warnings and teachings about the proper conduct of the various states of life often presented in the form of exempla (Birgitta sometimes calls them similitudo or figura) which are subjected to detailed allegorical exegesis. In this book Birgitta is especially concerned about the proper way of life of the miles, the defender of the Church who is meant to follow the example of St. …