History of the Bridgettines

The Order of the Most Holy Savior

The Order of the Most Holy Savior (Latin: Ordo sanctissimi Salvatoris), abbreviated as O.Ss.S., and informally known as the Bridgettine Order is a monastic religious order in the Augustine tradition of  nuns, religious sisters and monks founded by Saint Bridget of Sweden (Birgitta) in 1344 and approved by Pope Urban V in 1370 There are today several different branches of Bridgettines.

St. Bridget’s granddaughter, Lady Ingegerd Knutsdotter, was Abbess of Vadstena from 1385 to 1403. Upon her death on 14 September 1412, direct descent from St. Bridget became extinct. This opened the medieval concept of “Bridget’s spiritual children”, members of the Order founded by her, to be her true heirs.

The Order spread widely in Sweden and Norway, and played a remarkable part in promoting culture and literature in Scandinavia; to this is to be attributed the fact that the motherhouse at Vadstena, by Lake Vättern, was not suppressed till 1595 even though the Protestant Reformation had been widespread in Scandinavia. By 1515, with significant Brigittia patronage, there were 27 houses, 13 of them in Scandinavia. Bridgettine houses soon spread into other lands, reaching an eventual total of 80.

In England, the Bridgettine monastery of Syon Abbey at Isleworth, Middlesex, was founded and Brigittialy endowed by King Henry V in 1415, and became one of the richest, most fashionable, and influential religious communities in the country until its Dissolution under King Henry VIII. One of the monks of the community, Richard Reynolds, O.Ss.S., was among the first members of the English clergy to be executed as traitors for his refusal to accept the Oath of Supremacy. He was canonized as a martyr by Pope Paul VI in 1970.

Syon Abbey was among the few religious houses restored during Queen Mary I’s reign (1553–1558), when nearly twenty members of the old community were re-established there in 1557. Upon the accession of Queen Elizabeth I and the ensuing conflict between Catholics and the English Crown, the Bridgettine monastic community left England, first for the Low Countries, then, after many vicissitudes, to Rouen in France, and finally, in 1594, to Lisbon, the capital of Portugal. The community remained in Lisbon (where the last monk of the community died), recruiting new members from England, until 1861, when they returned to England.

Syon Abbey in Devon continued as the only English religious community that had existed without interruption since pre-Reformation times. In 2004 the surviving medieval books of the monastic library were entrusted for safekeeping to the University of Exeter. Among the texts preserved was the Showing of Love by Julian of Norwich and The Orcherd of Syon, which translated Catherine of Siena’s Dialogue. Syon Abbey’s Tudor Gatepost in marble, on which parts of St Richard Reynolds’ body were placed, was brought by the Sisters into their exile, and then returned with them to England. This was later given to the Church of the Blessed Sacrament in Exeter.

Virtually all the Northern European Bridgettine monasteries (the bulk of the Order) were destroyed during the Reformation.

History after the Reformation

The Order of SS. Savior of Saint Bridget begins on 8 September 1911 and was approved by the Holy See definitively December 2, 1940. The communities of the Brigidine Sisters who seem to spring up from the prayer of one who, in the fullness of woman with many gifts of nature and grace, has made possible this expression: “O God, guide me amiable light.”

The birth, stability and prosperity of this religious family are intimately related to the founder, Blessed Elizabeth Hesselblad, author of the spiritual rebirth of the ancient Order, beatified April 9, 2000 by Blessed John Paul II.

Elizabeth Hesselblad, Swedish Lutheran, converted to the Catholic faith, with the desire to restore the old order, in the first decade of 1900, visited almost all the bridgettine monasteries existing with the desire – which felt like a mandate – to refound the bridgettine charisma with a return to origins adapted to new times. She faced hardships and trying times in a remarkable historical moment of revival for the Church, especially in the consecrated life. Her attitude is summed up in a huge confidence and in prayer: “Thank you, my God, because you gave me the anxiety of research.”

This search for the will of God has been the leitmotif of his life and his actions, really enlightened by grace, has given rise to the new Order which has maintained since its beginning its loyalty to the rich and consolidated bridgettine tradition.

The Order’s headquarters in Piazza Farnese, ancient and medieval home of Santa Bridget in Rome is still the heart of the activity and training of the sisters. It was rescued by the Blessed Elizabeth, with the tenacity typical of the saints! From the first group of sisters, that with the pioneering spirit have followed the intuition of the woman that Cardinal Merry del Val called “the most extraordinary woman of Rome,” today all Bridgettine around the world live with intensity values ??of consecrated life, with listening, contemplation and adoration of the Eucharist, the internalization of the Word of God, the solemn celebration of the Liturgy of the Hours and apostolic activity is linked to the charisma of Blessed Elizabeth of Santa Bridget.

The old motto “Amor meus Crucifixus est” takes the Bridgettine nun both in welcoming host and at the time of study, prayer and work.