Sanctus Ansgarius

From Medieval

by Eva Odelman

Saint Ansgar (d. 865), “the Apostle of the North”, was educated in Corbie and soon became a teacher there and in Corbie’s daughter house Corvey. After working as a missionary in Scandinavia he was appointed the first archbishop in the newly founded see of Hamburg and later the joint bishoprics Hamburg–Bremen. A Vita Anskarii (Life of Ansgar) was written by his successor Rimbertus shortly after his death.


Two offices were written for St. Ansgar; one in the German–Danish area (Alme Dei confessor), and one in Sweden (Lodovicus imperator).

(1) Alme Dei confessor


The title Alme Dei confessor was introduced by the editor, HELANDER.


Alme Dei confessor, Anscari Bremensium pontifex ...


... tenebras nostras, dux lucis ad ortum.


In the edition, the text is presented as verse with the following structure: First antiphon: 7p+10pp+13pp+8p+7p+13pp+12pp+8pp; Second antiphon: 7pp+8p+9p+6p+5p+9p; Third antiphon: 9p+7p+7pp+8p+6pp+8p. No regular metrical pattern can be established, and the text may as well be regarded as rhymed prose.


First antiphon 8 lines, second antiphon 6 lines, third antiphon 6 lines.


HELANDER, S. 1989: Ansgarskulten i Norden, Stockholm, 253 (of the versiculi and collectae which follow each antiphon, only the incipits and explicits are given).


HELANDER 1989 (see Edition), 48–50, 159–61.

Summary of contents, composition and style

The office consists of three antiphons: for the Magnificat of the first vesper, the Benedictus of the lauds, and the Magnificat of the second vesper. Of these, the first antiphon seems to have been written in Denmark, whereas the second and third have been taken over from the German office Pastor apostolice (HELANDER 1989, 21, edited in AH 13, 41–43), written no later than the fourteenth century (HELANDER 1989, 50, 159–61). The first antiphon addresses Ansgar as bishop of Bremen (Bremensium pontifex) and “the glorious founder of the faith of the Danes” (Danorum fidei gloriose primifex; the word primifex not being found in any other Latin text), but nothing is said about the Swedes, who are, however, mentioned in the first antiphon of the Pastor apostolice. For the introductory words of the the first antiphon, cf. e.g. the Nicolas office Alme Dei confessor et pontifex Nicolaus (AH 34, 242).

Medieval reception and transmission

Only one manuscript containing this office is known: Stockholm, Royal Library, A 35, Collectarium Danicum, fol. 34r–v, end of the fifteenth century, possibly from the diocese of Viborg in Denmark.

(2) Lodouicus imperator

The Swedish office Lodouicus imperator is attributed to >Nicolaus Hermanni, bishop of Linköping.


  • CARLÉ, B. & FRÖJMARK, A. 1996: “Danemark – Suède – Finlande,” in Hagiographies, vol. 2 (CCHAG), Turnhout, 505–6.
  • EKENBERG, A., HALLENCREUTZ, C.F., HELANDER, S., HÄRDELIN, A. & ODELMAN, E. 1986: Boken om Ansgar, Stockholm, 181–214.
  • • HELANDER, S. 1989: Ansgarskulten i Norden, Stockholm.