1391 Making a saint

Adam had been deeply moved by the Swedish mystic Brigit whom he had first met at the court of Urban V in Montefascone. He was impressed by the apparent veracity of her prophesy and he had prayed to her in his darkest hours in the dungeons of Nocera. Moved by his salvation to write in defence of her reputation and religious orthodoxy, he had become something of a guardian of her reputation. Now following his restoration by Boniface IX Adam was to play a central part in making her a saint. The account below is translated from a Swedish account given by the monk known as Lars Romares and tells of the canonization process:

Then went Brother Magnus with letter from Bishop Nils [Nicholas Hermansson] in Linkoping; the whole convent had sent him away with what he needed at the time of St Michael. When the golden indulgence should end at Yuletide, he arrived in Rome. But before the forementioned Brother Magnus came there the Pope Urban was dead and Boniface became pope of his city. When Brother Magnus came before the pope with the letter and other scripts that he had brought with him about the canonisation of the Holy Brigit, he gave the Sanctae Birgittae Revaltiones and the Omens to the pope and the pope treated him well and said he would like to consider this with his cardinals and intellectuals. He then ordered that the cardinals who had already worked on this task should bring it to a conclusion to see if it [canonisation] would be possible or not.

These were the Cardinal of France [Philip of Alencon], the Cardinal of England [Adam Easton] and the Cardinal of Bari and they should together with other intellectuals thoroughly examine the Revalationes and the Omens. The study [of these works] had been going on for 20 years from the time of her death to that of her canonisation [mainly it was Adam that had been working on them and defending them].

Then all the Cardinals and Roman Princes and great men that had known Brigit gathered. Among them was the great Roman lord with the name of Gentille who was the godchild of Brigit. He went down on his knees before the pope kissed his feet and asked most humbly that this task be finally settled.

The pope said he was willing to do so if it could be shown to be righteous. Then the pope ordered Brother Magnus to make a book of the Sanctae Birgittae Revelationes and the Omens for each of the cardinals. He then hired 30 of the best scribes he could find and made a book, bound well and beautiful for each cardinal so that each book had cost him 20 ducats.

Then the discussed the canonisation and those few who objected were disliked, so in the presence of the cardinals the pope bade Brother Magnus to pay for and prepare, according to his provisions, for that which would be needed for the Office [of canonisation]  and the feasts because he [the pope] was going to promulgate a holiday.

Then Brother Magnus had 100 flares made with 8 pounds of wax in each flare, 200 candlesticks of 4 pounds of wax in each candle and then 300 small candles of two pounds of wax each. Added to all this was 1,500 lamps and as many yarn lines and iron in which to hang the lamps, tiles for the flares to stand on and oil drums of 4 barrels of oil each. Also as much fresh green olive leaves as could be carried by ten asses to decorate the Papal palace and the Church of St Peter.

When all this was put in place on the Thursday after St Michael, the pope called his cardinals together and with their will and advice he established , by letters and bull and posted so that all could see, the two days Saturday and Sunday after St Michael in the Year of our Lord 1391, in the papal Palace and the Church of St peters, all sins of those who came and visited should be forgiven and they would be freed from all punishments and guilt because then should Brigit become canonised and Holy.

During that Friday evening the bells began to chime; first the great bells of St Peter and then the other great bells of Rome, every church and chapel inside the city walls and outside. They began at 7 and continued until 10 and then they kept on ringing until two chimed after midnight and continued until the sun came up that Saturday. It continued that night and the next night and for as long as the indulgence and the holiday went on; the people came to the Church of St Peter and to the Papal Palace in great numbers. Ordinary men and women went to the Church of St Peter while the Lords and educated people held their Saturday Service in the Papal Palace. The palace was indeed well decorated with golden pieces, flares, burning candles and a delightful smell. Earl in the morning when the day began on that same Saturday, there were in the palace Lords, laymen, educated people and innumerable others. Then the pope entered that same palace in his most beautiful papal vestments. Over him they bore an expensive canopy and all the cardinals followed him as well as the Archbishops, Bishops, Abbots, Doctors, master students, monks and priests and they too were innumerable. Then the pope was given a wax candle into his hands and he went in. All the cardinals were given a candle each and everyone that was inside there ought to have their own burning candle in their hands. Then they began the discantus. The pope himself sang mass and the Litany and they all went three tours around the palace in procession singing from the book, not by heart and all this went on until noon.

Then everyone went home to eat and shortly thereafter came the pope’s chaplain to the Brother Magnus and told him that the pope would be St Brigit’s and his guest the morning after. He answered the door and received the message with delights and happiness and told the chaplain that all that was necessary for such a meal Brother Magnus had already bought, namely one year old calf for 7 ducats, 24 roosters, 24 hens, 24 pigeons and all kinds of sweets that cost 20 ducats. To this were added two barrels of the best wine.  All this was carried up to the pope into his rooms and when he saw this he was very grateful. He ordered it to be kept and blessed those who had paid for all these things and had bothered to prepare gifts; then everyone returned to their homes.

Thereafter the Saturday during the vespers when the Holiday began in the Church of St peter, in the same way as before in the Papal Palace the whole church was cleansed and decorated with Olive leaves and flares. The sanctuary was strangely but delightfully decorated. Then the Pope himself sang the vespers to St Brigit. All the flares and the candles on the altar were lit  and then the 15,000 lamps were lit with oils that had been kept to hand inside and outside the church. When the vesper ended all the flares and candles were put out but all the lamps were burning that night and all the next Sunday until all the songs were sung in the evening, and then again all through the night. Like before the Lords and the common people came for indulgence. Then early on Sunday at daybreak the pope in all his glorious vestments went together with his cardinals to the sanctuary. There were many great lords gathered there. In front of the pope went one hundred of his servants dressed in the finest cloth.

Then there was a golden cross put in front of him and all of them were given a candle to hold in their hand and they began to sing and celebrate the service. The pope held the mass for St Brigit and when they came to the offertory the Cardinal of France [Philip of Alencon] brought forward a huge bread loaf decorated and golden and placed it on the altar. Then the Pope continued allowing the bread to be kept there. The cardinal of England [Adam Easton] sacrificed a vessel containing the finest of wines, about half a barrel, and then the Cardinal of Bari made his sacrifice followed by everyone else who each sacrificed their burning candles. Then there was a sermon by a monk dressed in white about the life of St Brigit and the great grace that God had put upon her. Then all thanked God.

Then the pope took his cardinals and more of those who were there out to the piazza and sat in the chair where he usually read what was to be told to the common people. In that chair he took out a huge golden book and read from it the list of angels and holy men until he came to the place where St Brigit was to be mentioned and inscribed into the number of Holy people. There in the sight of the common people he took his quill and wrote in this same book among all the other Holy people the name of St Brigit, then he read it out and let people see that he had written her name there so that her name was written into all Christendom and the worlds around it.

Afterwards she was taken to the altar of the monastery where she was buried and enshrined there in the Monastery of San Lorenzo in Panisperna.

Translated by Kjell Nace from the Swedish text of Lars Romares in Volume I, Wadstena Hoster Reglor from Samlingar Utgifna