July 23 In Swedish History
1373: Birgitta Birgersdotter (later known as Saint Birgitta) dies in Rome. Birgitta was born in 1303 in Uppland, the daughter of the knight Birger Persson, one of the richest landowners of the country.
She married Ulf Gudmarsson in 1316, at age 13, and had eight children with him, all of whom survived infancy, which in those days was rare. In 1341, Birgitta and Ulf went on a pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela in Spain (where the shrine of Saint James the great can be found), shortly after their return, Ulf died. Following her husbandís death in 1344, Birgitta became a member of the Third Order of St. Francis, and devoted herself to a life of prayer and caring for the poor and sick. It was about this time that she developed the idea of establishing the religious community, which was to become the Order of the Most Holy Savior, or the Brigittines.

About 1350, Birgitta braved a plague-stricken Europe to make a pilgrimage to Rome, accompanied by her daughter Katarina, mainly to obtain the authorization of her new order from the Pope but also partly in pursuance of her self-imposed mission to elevate the moral tone of the age. This was during the period of a great schism within the Roman Catholic Church, however, and she had to wait for the return of the papacy to Rome from the French city of Avignon, a move for which she agitated for many years.


It was not until 1370 that Pope Urban V, during his brief attempt to re-establish the papacy in Rome, confirmed the Rule of the 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 her remains were returned to Sweden. She was canonized in 1391 by Pope Boniface IX, which was 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.

We've earlier covered the Birgittine sisters in Darien, Conn. in Nordic Reach and Nordstjernan: The Sisters of Vikingsborg