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Zion in the North : History, Hagiography and Heilsgeschichte in the First Chronicle of Sweden

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Author list: Tjällén, Biörn
Publication year: 2017

Abstract

Ericus Olai (d.1486) is best known as the author of the Chronica regni Gothorum, the first history of the Swedish realm. But he was also a liturgical poet and a theologian; Ericus wrote the versified office for the feast of the Swedish patron saints and he taught at Uppsala University, at the cathedral where he was a lifelong member of the chapter.

The compilation of the Chronica was a unique achievement among the Swedish late medieval clergy. Yet, to some extent, it can be understood as a product of more ordinary clerical concerns with liturgy, theology and education. Ericus introduced his Swedish story with reference to its place within the overarching progress of salvation, and to the importance in this divine plan of a twofold government of kings and bishops ruling from Uppsala. But there is another important point where Ericus’s historiographical and liturgical interests overlapped, which this paper explores: namely his use of the hagiographical traditions of the Uppsala cathedral in the writing of his history of the realm.

Among the materials at hand for compiling a Swedish history were the native saints’ Lives. These texts were particularly useful in Ericus’s attempt to turn his vision of history into a solid, source-based account. The lives of the saints contained important information about the early history of the realm and its rulers, but they were also imbued with the notion of sacred history that informs the Chronica’s prologue. This paper asks how Ericus used the hagiographical traditions of Uppsala to compile his history of the realm, and examine the thematic correspondences that exist between his own liturgical poetry and the Chronica. The analysis will focus on his account of two contemporary saints, St King Erik and St Bishop Henrik, a paradigmatic example of the twofold rule of monarchs and bishops in Uppsala.


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