Original Research

Die politieke aktivisme van Birgitta Birgersdotter (1302/3–1373)

Johann Beukes
Verbum et Ecclesia | Vol 41, No 1 | a2134 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/ve.v41i1.2134 | © 2020 Johann Beukes | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 29 July 2020 | Published: 11 December 2020

About the author(s)

Johann Beukes, Department of Philosophy, Faculty of Humanities, University of the Free State, Bloemfontein, South Africa


The political activism of Birgitta Birgersdotter (1302/3–1373). The objective of this article is to illuminate the political thought of the Swedish Medieval thinker and mystic, Birgitta Birgersdotter (1302/3–1373; Birgitta of Sweden, Brigida Suecica), on the basis of an unprecedented acceleration in the specialist research over the past two decades, including significant expositions by Unn Falkeid, Bridget Morris, Maria Oen, Claire Sahlin, Päivi Salmesvuori and Jonathan Adams. When these recent outputs are disseminated and juxtaposed, Birgitta can be profiled as a political activist who, against all conventions and with significant self-exposure from 1349 to 1373, presented a fierce critique of both the Avignon Papacy (1309–1370) and secular forms of government in Sweden, France, England and Italy. Her political engagements, spread throughout her eight-volume Liber celestis revelaconium, bear witness to a first-hand experience of and profound insight in the complex intrigues between the church, nobility and sovereigns in the second half of the 14th century. Her understanding of the established political and theological-philosophical traditions of the Middle Ages made possible a thorough criticism of the abuse of political power, be it by the pope, king or emperor. Birgitta’s relentless attempts to reclaim Rome as the political and religious centre of 14th-century Christendom, her unrestrained critique of papal excesses at Avignon and her urgent calls to the general reform of the church take central stand in this political activism. As the specialist research continues to open up the legacy of this still underrated female thinker from the Middle Ages, Birgitta is placed in our midst as a crucial voice of dissent in the anarchistic contexts of the 14th century.

Intradisciplinary and/or interdisciplinary implications: As a millennium-long discourse, Medieval philosophy functions in a Venn diagrammatical relationship with Medieval history, Church history, patristics and philosophy of religion. Whenever ‘mainstream’ or ‘canonised’ Medieval philosophy is impacted by the specialist research, it may well have implications that these closely related disciplines could take note of. Such is the case in this reappraisal of the life and work of Birgitta of Sweden.


Birgitta Birgersdotter; Birgitta of Sweden (1302/3–1373); Unn Falkeid; Liber celestis revelaconium I–VIII; Bridget Morris; Maria Oen; Claire Sahlin; Päivi Salmesvuori; Denis Searby; Cornelia Wolfskeel


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