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Historisk tidskrift 131:2 • 2011

Innehåll (Contents) 2011:2

De heliga hertigarna Erik och Valdemar

Christian Lovén & Herman Bengtsson

Fulltext (pdf)


The holy dukes Erik and Valdemar

The Swedish dukes Erik and Valdemar died in captivity in 1318 as prisoners of their brother king Birger Magnusson. According to the contemporary Erik’s Chronicle, they were buried in the Stockholm town church. However, in 1322 the archbishop and chapter of Uppsala cathedral declared that they had received Duke Erik’s body in deposition and that anyone who had the right to it could claim it. In the 1320’s, the widow of one of the dukes donated rich vestments for their grave in Uppsala cathedral. In the early 1700s a grave with two skeletons was discovered near the main altar, and the coffins were decorated with golden crowns.

According to a chronicle written in Uppsala around 1470, the dukes were held to be saints. The reason for moving their remains was probably that the Royal council wanted to introduce this cult in order to strengthen the position of Duke Erik’s son Magnus, who had acceded to the throne in 1319 at the age of three. Throughout Europe the age of princely saints was coming to an end, and no further attempts to establish this saints’ cult are known. Most likely its need disappeared when the political situation proved to be stable.

Erik’s Chronicle is a panegyric of Duke Erik. Its dating has been debated, with propositions ranging from 1320 to 1335. If it was written at the later date it is surprising that neither the re‑burial in Uppsala cathedral nor the death of king Birger in 1321 appear to have been known to the author. The late dating is based on the Eirk’s Chronicle’s mention of “the young knight Bo, God have mercy on his soul”, who took part in a battle in 1318 but obviously died before the chronicle was written. The knight has been identified as Bo Nilsson (Natt och Dag), who died between 1322 and 1328. But this claim is improbable: Bo Nilsson held prominent positions, was married and was at least 30 years old in 1318. Erik’s Chronicle was probably written in 1320–1321.


Sweden, Middle ages, Erikskrönikan, Erik’s Chronicle, saints; funeral rites and ceremonies, historiography, Erik Magnusson, Valdemar Magnusson, Uppsala domkyrka