Friday, August 18, 2017

Sancta Birgitta Convent Museum (Vadstena)

Heliga Birgitta

St Birgitta receiving her revelations from an angel.
15th century painting from Northern Germany.

“Birgitta of Sweden (Saint Bridget), Birgitta Birgersdotter, was born in 1303 in Finsta, Uppland. She grew up in a high-born family. Her father was a lawgiver and the family had close links to the church and the royal family. At the age of 13 she married the knight, lawgiver and councillor Ulf Gudmarsson. Their manor was Ulvåsa in Östergötland. The couple had eight children.

After her husband’s death, when Birgitta was in her 40s, she received divine revelations, which grew to more than 600 over time. Birgitta’s task was to repair a decayed church in the name of God. She did not hesitate to reprove priests, the pope or sovereigns. War and plague ravaged Europe – but this did not prevent Birgitta from setting off to Rome in order to gain the pope’s approval of the convent order she was assigned to establish in one of her revelations.

Birgitta died in Rome in 1373. She never got to see her convent. Birgitta’s remnants were transported in procession across Europe to Vadstena in 1374. The convent in Vadstena was inaugurated in 1384.”

Vadstena kloster
The abbey church and the north wing of the medeival convent. (POSTCARD)

“The convent museum is situated in one of the most interesting buildings in Sweden. It was built as a royal palace in the 13th century. This was the first profane brick building in Sweden. In the 14th century, the palace was transformed into a convent according to the instructions given to St Birgitta of Sweden in her revelations. During the last years of the 16th century, the convent was closed and the buildings were used as a veteran’s home, a prison and a mental hospital. The exciting past of the house was discovered during surveys in connection with renovations in the 1950s and 60s.”





The Chapter Room
This room on the ground floor, with fantastic acoustics and (remnants of) 14th century murals, is believed to have been the Chapter Hall of the convent.





The Dormitory
Upstairs, at the entrance to the nuns’ sleeping quarters, w
e were welcomed by this Bridgettine nun (a very lifelike wax doll).


“I am Katarina, Birgitta’s daughter, and the first abbess of the convent. I followed my mother on many long travels, and took her earthly remnants back from Rome to Vadstena. I fought to have her sanctified, and made her vision of this convent come true.”


170728-07 Convent dormitory

Sleeping cells
“A bed, a chest and a shared loop hole – a nun’s private space.”

170728-07 Vadstena14

Bibliotheca Birgittina

“One distinctive feature of the pre-Reformation houses of the Order was that they were double monasteries, with both men and women forming a joint community, though with separate cloisters. They were to live in poor convents and to give all surplus income to the poor. However, they were allowed to have as many books as they pleased.” (Quote from Wikipedia)


170728-07 Vadstena 12

Pilgrims and Crusaders
Pilgrimages and crusades are two sides of the same coin. Vadstena was an important pilgrimage site and Birgitta was a zealous advocate of crusades.”
(Just quoting the brochure! – which also adds “Learn more about these two medeival phenomena”… From for example the old maps on display in that room.)

170728-07 Vadstena 10

The Prayer Chamber
”Birgitta’s presence is palpable here. See the chest in which Birgitta of Sweden’s remnants were transported from Rome to Vadstena in 1374.”


Most of the text in this post is copied or translated from museum brochures, or signs near the objects in the museum.

Please note: Only the first two images are postcards; the rest are all my own photos.


Linking to

Postcards for the Weekend

Postcards for the weekend 49: “Retro or Vintage”

Winking smile

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Walking to the Abbey


From Vadstena Castle (see previous post) we walked along the lakeside to the Abbey Church and the Monastery Museum. Lake view on our left; pretty houses and gardens on our right.








This yellow building is the present-day small (Catholic) monastery of Bridgettine nuns, including a guest house for visitors. Sisters of the Order of Saint Bridget returned here to open a rest home in 1935. In 1963, the Monastery of Pax Mariæ was established; and since 1991 raised to the status of an autonomous abbey.


Vadstena kloster karta

Across the park from the ‘new’ monastery (bottom left on the map), we find the old abbey church, which nowadays (ever since the reformation in the 16th century) belongs to the Lutheran Church of Sweden. In front  - or rather, at the back! – there are some excavated old ruins; and the buildings on each side of the church (one of them now housing a museum) were also part of the medeival double monastery, where around 60 nuns and 25 monks lived back then.



We’ll be going into the museum next; and then the church.

SkyWatch Friday

Friday My Town Shoot Out

(“my town” only for one afternoon in July; but I wouldn’t mind going back!)

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Vadstena Castle


Vadstena Castle (Vadstena slott) in the county of Östergötland is a former Royal Castle, originally built by King Gustav I (Gustav Vasa) in 1545 as a fortress to protect Stockholm from enemies approaching from the south.

The reconstruction from fortress into a habitable castle began in the 1550s, when King Gustav’s son prince Magnus became Duke of Östergötland. Magnus died in 1595 and is buried in the church of Vadstena Abbey.

In 1552, King Gustav I married his third wife in Vadstena - Katarina Stenbock from Torpa in Västergötland. (I blogged about a visit to Torpa Castle back in 2012.) The marriage took place in the chapel of the Vadstena Abbey and was followed the next day by the coronation of Katarina as Queen.

By 1620, when Vadstena castle was completed, all the kings of the House of Vasa had contributed to its construction. Since then, the castle has been very well preserved, and is one of Sweden's best examples of Renaissance architecture. The original ramparts of the fortress were torn down in the 19th century, though, and the present ramparts were finished as late as in 1999.

Since 1899, the castle has housed the Provincial Archives, and nowadays also a Castle Museum. The castle is also the seat of the International Vadstena Academy, Sweden's smallest opera house. In summer, there are concerts given in the courtyard of both classical and pop music.

We did not go on a guided tour, and did not go inside the castle – only around it, and into the courtyard.



170728-07 Vadstena - slott - magasin

Harbour warehouses in old style opposite the castle.

170728-07 Vadstena - slott2




170728-07 Vadstena - slott



The little people give you an idea of how big the castle is!


Even though we didn’t join the tour, I managed to sneak a shot of this guide in period costume.

Vadstena karta

The castle (Vadstena slott) is the orange square island in the bottom left corner of the map.

Next: From there, we followed the walkway along the lake, up to the Abbey (kloster) area in the upper right corner.

Our World Tuesday

Monday, August 14, 2017

A Ramble Around Vadstena

Vadstena received its city privileges in 1400, and for historical reasons is still counted as a city (despite its modest population of only around 7300 people).

Vadstena is primarily famous for two important pieces of Swedish history:


1/ It was in Vadstena, in 1350, that Saint Bridget of Sweden founded the first monastery of her Bridgettine Order. The huge abbey church, known as Vadstena Abbey, the Abbey of Our Lady and of St. Bridget, or The Blue Church, is still standing, and is visited by both Lutheran and Roman Catholic pilgrims (and tourists). Within the church, some relics of St. Bridget are still kept; as well as medieval sculptures of Saint Bridget, and Saint Anne and the Blessed Virgin Mary, and other medieval art. There is now also a monastery museum close by, showing a variety of scenes and items from the convent/monastery back in medeival days. 


2/ Vadstena Castle is one of Sweden’s best-preserved castles from the era of king Gustav Vasa in the 16th century (during whose reign Sweden became Protestant).

We’ll get back to both the castle and the abbey in later posts (because I have sooo many photos). But let’s start with a ramble in the town centre.

The first thing we wanted to find in Vadstena was lunch. And we did – here. (We ate inside, but this outdoors terrace with its flowers was very pretty.)


After lunch, we felt ready to get on with the touristing again.

We walked up and down some random streets in the town centre, in hope of getting some kind of orientation of the place…


This may look like a church, but it’s the 15th-century town hall (the oldest in Sweden).


The sign above the door says Apotek = Chemist’s / Pharmacy. Whether it has always been one, I don’t know. But it seems to be an active one now.


These small wooden cottages seemed to belong to a museum.



The museum wasn’t open, but I liked the door and sign!

170728-07 Vadstena 1 

170728-07 Vadstena 2

After having randomly rambled up and down various cobbled streets lined with pretty houses,  we still didn’t really know in which direction we ought to be going, so decided to go back to the car and try to find parking somewhere a bit closer to the castle, before we continued our explorations. (At least with a huge castle, you know where you are – so to speak…)

Another way to get around town might have been this little train – but we didn’t try that. It’s name is Hjulius, which is funny in Swedish, because of one of those untranslateable puns. (The name Julius spelled with Hj makes it refer to hjul=wheel.)


Train of thought to be continued… Winking smile

Through My Lens

Through My Lens 107

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