The reception of Bridget of Sweden's "Revelations" in late medieval and early Renaissance England

Jane I. Hagan Gilroy, Fordham University


This dissertation examines Middle English translations of Bridget of Sweden's Revelations and of excerpts from it, noting their widespread distribution and reception in late medieval and early Renaissance England. It records theological defenses of the Revelations, as well as mentions in wills, inventories, and catalogs, that verify religious and lay readership from various social strata, from the North, South, Midlands, East Anglia, and London area during the late fifteenth and early sixteenth centuries. It analyzes significant passages from the two major manuscripts, BL, MS Cotton Claudius B.1 (C) and BL, MS Cotton Julius F.2 (J), the only extant Middle English translations of the complete works. Although no ownership records are available for these manuscripts, variances in their texts indicate preparation for different audiences, with C apparently intended primarily for religious and J for lay readers. Interestingly, parts of J's text suggest heterodoxical influence. Comparisons between the annotations and adaptations in C and J with those in BL, MS Harley 4800 (H), a long fragment which includes most of Book 4 and a brief section from Book 5, indicate that H, like J, was probably intended for a lay or mixed audience; however, unlike J, H's adaptation is consistently orthodox. The selections in the two Middle English anthologies contained in Princeton University Library's Garrett 145 (G-1 and G-2) focus heavily on images and examples that would be particularly appropriate for women, with those in G-2 especially relevant to married lay women. While the Garrett and Harley 4800 manuscripts offer fairly straightforward translations of the Revelations, frequently retaining even the syntax of the Latin, contrasting patterns of omission and additions occur in the excerpts. These variant adaptations, along with their marginalia, point towards preparation for diverse audiences. The print editions, too, in particular for their adaptation of Rev 6.65, a popular revelation on the contemplative and active lives, indicate views concerning the church hierarchy that contrast with those of the earlier manuscript tradition. Thus, in their treatment of the text the print editions emphasize more strongly their strong support of Bridget's allegiance to the papacy and hierarchal church.

Subject Area

Literature|Middle Ages|Religious history|British and Irish literature

Recommended Citation

Gilroy, Jane I. Hagan, "The reception of Bridget of Sweden's "Revelations" in late medieval and early Renaissance England" (1999). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI9926901.