Friday, 18 August 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


  1. The history of this building is almost unbelievable! I love the beautiful ceilings, and the long brick walkway. The tiny nun's room would be almost like torture to me. Those old wall paintings...I am glad they were not restored, but left just as they were. One other thing of great interest to me is the large painting beside you and the wax figure. It is a really WOW, painting, and I enlarged it to get a better look at the details. I did Google profane buildings, as I have no idea what that means.But could not find it used in that context. BRAVO for your wonderful choice of photos and comprehensive story!!

    1. Ginny, the meaning of "profane" here would simply be "not devoted to holy or religious purposes; unconsecrated; secular". I.e. not "anti" religious - just not religious. (As it was originally built to be a royal palace; not a church or convent.) - Glad you liked the post. Most of the text is really picked straight from the museum's comprehensive English brochure - but combined with my own photos. :)

  2. Wonderful post, I admire this saintly nun and her dedication. The worship area is very serene, pretty and simple.

    1. Thanks Terra. She must certainly have been driven by a very strong conviction.

  3. that hypocaust is preety cool for heating, never heard of it but can see how it would help. love all the architecture and arches and beautiful aritfacts. she was pretty tall for a nun back then

    1. Sandra, I think the hypocaust system was used in ancient Roman architecture, like their baths, in southern Europe and England. I'm not sure if I've ever seen one in a building in Sweden before.

  4. Thank you for taking us along for a fascinating visit of the museum! I like it that they have made some rooms come "alive" with the help of life-sized dolls. Of course I am sure they walk around when there are no visitors there...

    1. Now there is a new 'revelation' to consider, Meike! ;) (Of course I know that you're thinking of the statues in The Enchanted Castle.)

  5. Thank you so much for the information on this post. Very detailed! It's like I went for a visit myself to this place. Happy weekend Monica!

    1. Thanks for visiting, Maria. (You might enjoy the other posts this month from my trip around Lake Vättern as well.)

  6. 'They were to live in poor convents'. Hmmmm.

    1. Yes Graham, a lot of "hmmmm" goes through ones mind, especially in the church itself. But I do think one has to see a differences between the Church, and the lives of the nuns and monks, who had very few (if any) possessions they could call their own. All the splendid artifacts etc in the churches would have been donated by wealthy noblemen (in many cases, wishing to buy themselves a clean conscience, an impressive memorial, and eternal life). Which no doubt was part of what made Luther go "hmmmm" as well... ;) And so here we are now, centuries later, still torn between the longing for simplicity on the one hand, and admiring all the exquisite artwork on the other!!


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