1390 In defence of Brigit

The letter below was written by Adam to the Brigittine monastery and convent at Vadstena in the Swedish lakeland. The nunnery founded by Brigit had been concerned At a series of virulent attacks against her reputation by a churchman whose name has been lost but who was based in Peugia. Adam was anxious to set the nuns mind at rest and reassure them that he was working hard to vindicate her reputation. He wrote a substantial tract taking apart the Perugian’s argument line by line and preparing the groundwork for Brigit’s canonization in the process. The transcript below is taken from British Library MS Harley 612 and is particularly interesting as it is dated, unlike that contained in Bodlein MS Hamilton 7. This latter manuscript I have not seen in person but having checked the wording with James Schmidke's excellent transcript, it seems to be identical in all material respects.

The suggested date is important as there has been a suspicion in the past that Adam may have returned to England after Urban VI's demise and not returned to Rome until some time in 1394. We already know from other documents, not least the petition for Brigit's canonization included in this section, that Adam was in Rome to sign the petition immediately prior to the Canonization which took place on 8 October 1391. We also know he was in Rome for the consistory at which he was restored by Boniface on the 18th December 1389 (see Journey Home? at the end of this section)

However this letter dated in Rome on the 9th February is still more helpful by narrowing the date range in which a return trip to England could have happened. As the contents clearly show Urban VI to have passed on, and Brigit is equally still not canonized, the letter can only have been written on either 9th February 1390 or 9th February 1391:

Epistola Domini Cardinalis as abbatissam et conventum. Adam cardinalis Anglie. Religiose domine abbatisse et conventui monasterii beate virginis et beate Birgitte Watzsteno ordinis sancti salvatoris in regno Sweci dioc. Lincopensiens devotis sine praecarissimus.

Carissime domine et surores. Ad devotionem devotisime domine Birgitte vos exhorot quoniam nuper tempore Urbani olim pape sexti in tribulatione magna positus fueram sine causa et eius furorem sentiens et periculum grande nimis, quod mortem evadere non seperavi sine sanctorum miraculo et sanctarum, inter alias sanctas vovi ad devotam Brigittam antedictam ut ipsa intercederet pro me ad beatam Mariam et filium eius Christum, quod me a suis periculis tirannicis liberaret et ad eius canonisationem poneram diligenciam meam totam. Et hoc continuatis vivebus diu feci, in tantum quod eius adiutorio singulari et meritus eius sanctis spero me fuisse a furoribus predictis tyrannicis liberatum. In diversis etiam aliis tribulationibus fueram circumseptus et eius adiutorium supplicavi et simper inveni remedium singulare in tantum quod in tormentis positus tyrannorum nullatenus penam sensi.

Qua propter iuxta votum meum predictum vos omnes sollicito quantum possum ut ad eius canonizationem laborare dignemini cum effectu cum vestris et suis consanguineis et amicis. Ante omnia tamen vos moveo in visceribus caritatis, ut omni dei ad beatam virginem mariam dignemini porrigere preces vestras, quod ipsa inspiret consilium, auxilium in hac parte. De aliquibus vero emulis suis nitentibus canonizationem suam et obliquia impedire,  non modo moveamini nec perturbacionem aliquam habeatis. Nam vidi quendam libellum in Perusio compositum per articulos contra regulam suam sancta. Et videbatur michi quod libellus fuit valde difficilis ad solvendum, sed apud ipsam ominam Briggitam perrepi continue preces meas intercedens, quod ipsa pro me apud beatam virginem exoraret, ut in declaracione et dubiis factis contra eam iuxta veritatem scripture sacre lucide me informare et ab imminentibus periculis liberaret. Et statim perlegi libellum compositum contra eam, et videbatur michi quod habui solucionem et veritatem omnium dubiorum; et quanto magis legi, tanto fueram clarius super  tota materis informatus; et libellu, contrarium composui iuxta vota per sacrarum testimonis scripturarum et doctores alios approbatos, et incipit ieste liber: Respondebo exprobrantibus michi  verbum. Et illum libellum per articulos declaratos transmisi domino Alphonso eius devoto. Ad Januam isto anno. Unde me reputo securum quod si laboraveritis cum devocione debite ad premissa, intentum habebitis Deo duce. Nunquam enim michi defecerat quando ipsam debite invocavi.

Recommendo me vestris oracionibus penes eam, ut ipsa pro me interpellet apud Deum, quod preservet a periculis vitam meam et digigat ad salutem; quorum amiciciam diu consevet in prosperis omnipotens ipse deus precibus devote Birggitte sacro sanctis.

Scriptus Rome ix die ffebruarii


Approximate translation

Dearest Mistress and sisters

I encourage your devotion of your most consecrated mistress Brigit, since I had been placed under great tribulation, without cause, in the time of Urban VI formerly pope, I had not expected to escape death, without some scared miracle being enacted, because of his fury and a feeling of great peril. I came to, among others, the blessed Brigit aforesaid and she herself interceded for me to blessed Mary and her son Christ and she freed me from my peril and because of this I placed all my care and attention to her canonisation and have continued at it, long since that time. In as much as she was my assistant (deliverer), I believe she deserves singular sanctity for the freedom I had from the aforesaid tyrannical raving.

I had been in various other tribulations and I beseeched my helper (ie Brigit) to cut through them and always I found relief from such singular torment so that by no means was this tyranny a form of punishment. On account of my vow, aforesaid to you all, I am greatly roused to be able to work with you, her sisters and friends in bringing about her being worthy of canonisation. And before you all, I am moved to charity in my heart, as all your entreaties are worthy of stretching up to God and to the Blessed Virgin Mary, because she herself inspires and helps our deliberation in this act (of canonisation). Someone truly following her shining saintliness will turn aside all hindrance from the confusion that you have lately had. For I have seen the written accusation of the Perugian, put together to speak against her rule of sanctity. And I saw that the accusation had been very difficult to refute but Lady Brigit herself consistently entreated with me in the name of the blessed virgin, in as much as her declaration of scriptural truth freed me from the peril and doubtful actions against me. And immediately I read through the accusations put together against her, I saw that I had a solution, and truth to remove all doubt, I collected so much material and ideas until I had total clarity. And I put together a rebuttal based on the testimony of the sacred scriptures and the approval of other doctors of the law, and she (the Lady Brigit) took in hand (guided) my book and the words of my response. And I despatched Lord Alphonso in January this year to consecrate my declaration, speaking out against the accusation. Hence I count myself free of cares as if you had been working with me, calling down the debt I owe to God himself that you have set before me. Never would I have done less for the debt I owe her. Recommend my oration to her spirit just as she interceded with God to preserve my life and dignity from danger, and greet the Holy Brigit from me.

Who clothes us in prosperity and preserves us, even almighty God


Adam Cardinal of England

To the religious lady abbess at the conventual monastery of the Blessed Virgin and Blessed Brigit, at Vadstena, ordained for our sacred saviour in the Kingdom of Sweden, diocese of Linkoping, we pray to her in devotion.