TillbakaSaint Bridget

Reliquary of St Bridget

Silver reliquary containing a splinter of St Bridget’s femur. Surrounding framework of iron.

This reliquary is equilateral and octagonal, with a spherical octagonal dome for a lid. The whole of it is quite plain, with no decoration. The choice of the octagon alludes to the number 8, which stands for the Resurrection. Equilaterality means that the reliquary has no front or back and, consequently, can be adequately viewed from any angle.

The dome-shaped lid was intended by the artist to make the reliquary both sacred and self-contained in character. The casket is enclosed by wrought ironwork featuring the Bridgettine cross, with the five wounds of Christ on each side. The wrought iron also reminds us of the cross worn by the Bridgettine sisters over their coif.

The Bridgettine reliquary was consecrated on St Bridget’s Day, 7th October 1990. To avoid causing offence within the Church of Sweden through what might be perceived as the cult of a saint or relic, it was carefully pointed out at the time that this was first and foremost a Bridgettine monument. The reliquary contains a splinter of St Bridget’s femur, presented to the Cathedral by the Bridgettine sisters in Rome as a gift in connection with Dean Clarence Nilsson’s visit there in 1986.

The reliquary occupies a special position at St Bridget’s parents’ resting place, the slab of which includes the earliest portrait of her. Whether this is a monument or a reliquary is for the beholder to decide. As a casket containing a relic of a saint it is, together with the reliquary of St Erik, which is normally kept in the same chapel, the sole instance of a casket made since the Reformation for relics of saints. St Erik’s casket, though, replaced an earlier one which had been melted down. In the case of St Bridget’s casket, both casket and relic are newcomers to Sweden, though Uppsala Cathedral must in all certainty have owned a Bridgettine relic in medieval times.