Clemens Petri

From Medieval

by Roger Andersson

Clemens Petri (d. 1500), priest brother at the Birgittine abbey of Vadstena, Sweden, 1462–1500; confessor general 1488–1499; preacher and composer of sermons.


The main primary sources for the life of Clemens Petri are the Diarium Vadstenense (DV) and his preserved correspondence.


There exists no information about the origin and education of Clemens Petri. On 23 November 1462 he was consecrated a priest brother in Vadstena Abbey (DV 726). The sources are then silent about him for another twenty years. In about 1483 he travelled to the daughter house of Vadstena Abbey in Nådendal, Finland, together with Arvidus Nicolai who was later to become confessor general there. In Nådendal he worked successfully to improve conditions (FMU 6689, cf. KLOCKARS 1979, 109 f.). In 1487 he travelled together with Johannes Matthei to the general chapter of the Birgittine Order in Gnadenberg (Mons gracie) near Nürnberg, Germany. A supplementary purpose of this mission was to go to Rome to work for the canonization of >Sancta Birgitta’s daughter Katherina and in order to obtain confirmations of all the privileges and indulgences of Vadstena Abbey. At the chapter Clemens spoke solemnly to the congregation about the need for renewal and reformation of the spiritual life in the Order (Oratio in capitulo generali Ordinis S. Salvatoris habita; Uppsala University Library, C 153, fols. 158r–166r, RISBERG 2003, 15 f.). They returned to Vadstena in the autumn of the following year (DV 874, 879). Shortly after his return, on 4 October 1488, Clemens was elected confessor general (DV 881). In this capacity he maintained contact with the regent, Sten Sture the Elder in matters concerning the Order and the canonization of Katherina (cf. letter of 1 February 1492, National Archives, Stockholm; SILFVERSTOLPE 1898, 91 f.). He resigned from his office in August 1499 (DV 947) and died the following year (DV 949). Late in 1499 a certain Clemens is said to have been sent to Vadstena’s daughter house, Munkeliv, near Bergen, Norway, but it has not been ascertained that this was Clemens Petri (DN 2, 1009; cf. SILFVERSTOLPE 1898, 92).


In fulfilling his preaching duties (officium predicacionis) Clemens Petri compiled at least two major collections of sermons, one de tempore (Uppsala University Library, C 321, fols. 14r–322v and 367r–413v) and one de sanctis (C 308, fols. 14r–386r). An earlier assumption that Clemens also wrote and composed a series of sermons in C 350 (cf. MHUU 4, 344) has proved to be incorrect. The sermons of Clemens normally contain quotations from the Revelations of St. Birgitta and edifying stories (exempla). He also wrote copies of the correspondence of the Abbey (STÅHL 2003, 53 and 2004, 92). His handwriting is analysed and described in STÅHL 1998, 42 ff.. GEETE (1900, p. XXV) assumes that Clemens was the author or translator of a short treatise on death in Old Swedish.

Clemens reveals an interest in the theory of preaching (shared by his companion Johannes Matthei) and he has copied extracts from two preachers’ manuals or artes predicandi (C 321, fols. 345v–348r). Though his sermons are recorded in Latin (which was the usual practice), some of them are sprinkled with single words or phrases in Old Swedish (QUAK 1976); in quite a few instances (normally at the beginning of the sermons) there are even whole paragraphs in the vernacular (ANDERSSON 2006). One may presume that this procedure is connected with the oral delivery of the sermon (cf. QUAK 1976, TJÄDER 1995). Now and then Clemens makes references to sermons written by other Vadstena priests, such as Ericus Simonis (C 308, fols. 188r, 215r, 229r, 239r and C 321, fol. 253v), which illustrates how he went about composing his own sermons. He also quotes from various religious texts in the library of the Abbey, such as the vernacular version of the Liber specialis gracie of St. Mechtild (C 321, fol. 354v). A sermon in C 321 for the dedication day of a church (Dedicatio ecclesiae) has been studied by HÄRDELIN 1998 (176 ff.) in comparison with sermons by other authors.


One sermon for the feast of St. Henricus (C 308, fols. 279r–284r) has been printed in MALINIEMI (ed.) 1942, 279 ff.. The Gnadenberg sermon is to be published by Maria Berggren.


  • ANDERSSON, R. 2006: “Översättaren som predikant. Clemens Petri och svenska språket,” in Dicit Scriptura. Studier i C-samlingen tillägnade Monica Hedlund (Runica et Mediævalia), ed. S. Risberg, Stockholm.
  • ANDERSSON, R. & BORGEHAMMAR, S. 1997: “The Preaching of the Birgittine Friars at Vadstena Abbey (ca 1380–1515),” Revue Mabillon, n.s. 8 (t. 69), 209–36.
  • DV = Vadstenadiariet. Latinsk text med översättning och kommentar (Kungl. Samfundet för utgivande av handskrifter rörande Skandinaviens historia. Handlingar del 19), ed. C. Gejrot, Stockholm 1996.
  • DN = Diplomatarium Norvegicum I–, Kristiania 1847–.
  • FMU = Finlands medeltidsurkunder I–VIII (ed. R. Hausen), Helsingfors 1910–1935.
  • GEETE, R. (ed.) 1900: Svenska kyrkobruk under medeltiden (SFSS 33), Stockholm.
  • HÄRDELIN, A. 1998: Kult, kultur och kontemplation. Studier i medeltida svenskt kyrkoliv (Opuscula selecta 2), Skellefteå.
  • KLOCKARS, B. 1979: I nådens dal. Klosterfolk och andra c. 1440–1590, Stockholm.
  • MALINIEMI, A. (ed.) 1942: De S. Henrico, episcopo et martyre. Die mittelalterliche Literatur über den Apostel Finnlands II (Finska kyrkohistoriska samfundets handlingar 45:2), Helsinki.
  • MHUU = Mittelalterliche Handschriften der Universitätsbibliothek Uppsala. Katalog über die C-Sammlung 1–8 (Acta Bibliothecae R. Universitatis Upsaliensis 26:1–8), ed. M. Andersson-Schmitt, H. Hallberg & M. Hedlund, Uppsala 1988–1995.
  • ODENIUS, O. 1959: “En notis om björknäver som skrivmaterial i Vadstena kloster under senmedeltiden,” Kyrkohistorisk Årsskrift 59, 163–71.
  • QUAK, A. 1976: “Fornsvenska glossor och satser i Uppsala universitetsbiblioteks hs C 321,” Amsterdamer Beiträge zur älteren Germanistik 10, 149–206.
  • RISBERG, S. (ed.) 2003: Liber usuum fratrum monsterii Vadstenensis. The Customary of the Vadstena Brothers. A Critical Edition with an introduction (Acta Universitatis Stockholmiensis. Studia Latina Stockholmiensia 50), Stockholm.
  • STÅHL, P. 1998: Johannes Hildebrandi. Liber epistularis (Cod. Upsal. C6). I. Lettre nos 1 à 109 (fol. 1r à 16r). Édition critique avec des analyses et une introduction (Acta Universitatis Stockholmiensis. Studia latina Stockholmiensia 41), Stockholm.
  • STÅHL. P. 2003: “Vadstena klosters stora kopiebok. En presentation av handskriften A 20 i Riksarkivet,” Kyrka, helgon och vanliga döda (Årsbok för Riksarkivet och Landsarkiven 2003), Stockholm, 35–64.
  • STÅHL. P. 2004: “Medeltida kopieböcker i Riksarkivet,” Arkiv, samhälle och forskning 2004: 1–2, 77–97.
  • TJÄDER, B. 1995: “Fornsvenska vokabler i latinska predikningar från Sveriges medeltid,” A Catalogue and its Users. A Symposium on the Uppsala C Collection of Medieval Manuscripts (Acta Bibliothecae R. Universitatis Upsaliensis 34), ed. M. Hedlund, Uppsala, 115–24.