Extraordinary Women of the Medieval and Renaissance World: A Biographical Dictionary

By Carole Levin; Debra Barrett-Graves et al. | Go to book overview

BRIDGET OF SWEDEN
(1303-1373)

Sweden
Visionary, Prophet, and Pilgrim

It is true that the ideas and writings of visionaries and prophets frequently endure well beyond the facts of these individuals' own lives. Often the visionary's voice tends to be all that remains. Therefore, it is also unique that many of the facts of Bridget's life are known. What survives today is a detailed record of the life of a visionary and the ideas that guided her.

Bridget was born in the Upland, Finsta, a province of Sweden, in 1303. Her parents were Birger Persson, governor of Upland, and his second wife, Ingeborg, both of whom were connected with the royal line in Sweden. After her mother's death in 1310, Bridget was raised by her aunt, and at the age of seven, she experienced her first vision; she saw herself crowned by the Virgin Mary, her commission to a prophetic life.

Bridget, however, did not live a solitary life behind the cloistered walls of a nunnery as did many mystics of her time. Despite Bridget's desire to live a chaste life, her parents convinced her to marry, and she consented. In 1316, at the age of thirteen, she married Ulf Gudmarson, a nobleman who was trained in the law. Little information survives about Bridget's own education, but because of her lineage, she was a member of the royal household and helped with the education of King Magnus of Sweden and his bride Queen Blanche. Throughout her life, she also assumed roles in addition to those of visionary and prophet: She was an educator, wife, mother, and ultimately widow. She devoted her life to combining these separate roles into one acceptable idea of womanhood. Being a visionary did not deny her any of these other identities. At Bridget's request, she and her husband took a two-year vow of chastity. After two years she rethought her role in the marriage, and they subsequently had eight children.

Gudmarson was devoted to his wife's beliefs and joined her on an

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