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Les élites nordiques de l'Europe occidentale (xiie-xve siècle)

Tuomas M.S. Lehtonen
Élisabeth Mornet


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1Sverre Bagge. Characters and Sources of Power in Norway in the Middle Ages

2This paper addresses the discussion among Norwegian historians about the division of power in the country in the High Middle Ages (c. 1100–1300). The liberal tradition of the nineteenth century regarded the emergence of the kingdom and the expansion of governmental power under the king’s leadership as in the general interest of the population, notably the peasants. By contrast, the Marxist tradition from the first half of the twentieth century regarded it mainly as the result of increasing shortage of land which favoured the great landowners, i. e. the Church and the lay aristocracy, who used the state to protect their interests at the cost of the peasants. The second half of the twentieth century has seen a reaction against the Marxist view and some return to that of the nineteenth century, although opinions are still greatly divided. The present contribution strikes a middle way between these two views. Acknowledging the importance of the extensive research on agrarian conditions conducted by historians influenced by the Marxist school, it accepts this school’s conclusions about the importance of the concentration of land in fewer hands and the increased wealth of the great landowners in the formation of the state. On the other hand, it also points to a certain community of interest between the royal government and the peasants, expressed in the fact that the king needed the peasants as warriors and gave justice and protection in return. Above all, it is pointed out that historians have hitherto neglected the cultural, religious and symbolic aspects of state formation, which are most clearly expressed in the great amount of land given to the Church as the result of belief in heaven, hell and purgatory.

3Olivier Viron. The Scandinavian Elites in Ireland, between Irish and Normans (ninth-twelfth Centuries)

4The Scandinavian elites were never fully integrated in the Irish social framework, as can be observed elsewhere, for example in Normandy. They carefully kept their particularities, cultivating their differences, and maintained the relationships with Northern kings from Scandinavia or from the British Isles. This paper, based on recent research, looks into the geographical origin of the Scandinavian elites and points out that these were a link between Irish and Scandinavian worlds. It also stresses and explains how a strong northern identity was maintened in all the Hiberno-Norse towns, as English documents from the twelfth century testify to.

5Olle Ferm. Societal Transformation and the Emergence of the New Elites within the Swedish Realm, 1220– 1350

6In my survey of Swedish history 1220–1350, the concept of ‘elite’ is reserved for a group that played a key role in the transformation of Sweden into a feudal society along European lines. The elite was a narrow stratum within each of the three estates (knights, clerics and burghers) that had arisen through royal privilege during this period. It is a small but socially differentiated group that is united in having access to different resources (economic, social, cultural and symbolic) to which the population at large had no access or only limited access. Thus the ‘elite’ group becomes pluralistic, and it denotes a socially diversified group. This new elite was recruited from home and abroad and it incorporated and promoted not only representatives of the traditional aristocracy but also people of lower birth.

7Thomas Lindkvist. The Lagmän (Law-Speakers) as Regional Elite in medieval Västergötland

8The transformation of the Scandinavian societies during the High Middle Ages (c. 1100–1300) could be described as Christianization, the emergence of kingdoms and state and has been interpreted as a form of Europeanization, i. e. an adaptation to European models.

9The office of the lagman (law-speaker) was one of the most prominent offices in medieval Sweden. The lagman appears in the Swedish provincial law codes from the late thirteenth and early fourteenth centuries. The earliest example of history-writing in medieval Sweden is the interesting lists appended to the only surviving law code of the first version of Västgötalagen (Äldre Västgötalagen). It is far from a literary masterpiece. We find three rather meagre lists of the kings of Sweden, the bishops of Skara and the lagmän of Västergötland. Most earlier research, notably that of Sture Bolin, has focused on the list of kings. This prominent Swedish historian has shown that was a tendency to favour the kings of the Sverkerian dynasty, and also that there the kings were briefly mentioned in their relations to the province of Västergötland. Concerning the lagmän, which could be understood as the regional elite, their origins are dated back to pagan origins. The history of kings starts with the first Christian one. The histories of Västgötalagen are much more detailed concerning the provincial offices of bishops and law-speakers. The law-speakers are described as the organizers of the legal and social order, those who are thought to have formulated and transmitted the law orally, then drafted the written law and introduced new regulations in accordance with canon law. Sometimes the office was passed on from father to son. In the law code of Västergötland the law-speakers were evidently elected by the regional community. This is in contrast with the regulations of the provincial law codes of eastern Sweden, where royal influence in the election was substantial. With the exception of references to a probably mythical pagan law-speaker and the ideal law-speaker Torgny mentioned by Snorri Sturluson, there are no known law-speakers in Uppland before the late thirteenth century.

10The question is whether the office was created in certain parts of Sweden during the political transformations of the thirteenth century. The lagmän known from the late thirteenth century, e. g. Birger Persson of Uppland, appear to be representatives of a new social elite.

11Raphaëlle Schott. Scandinavian Ambassadors to the English Court (1405)

12King Erik of Pomerania and Queen Margaret sent a delegation to the Court of England in 1404–5. This delegation, composed of seven representatives from the Scandinavian kingdoms, was supposed to conclude the negotiations started many years earlier with King Henry IV and his Council about the marriage between Erik and princess Philippa. Some of the clauses of the marriage settlement, especially those concerning the succession to the throne, were contrary to the laws and the customs of the Scandinavian countries. Therefore, it is interesting to know how Queen Margaret succeeded in obtaining the agreement of the assembly of the Council of the Realm (Riksråd) to this planned marriage. This paper examines the identity of the ambassadors sent to Henry IV and shows how Margaret cleverly used the different circles of her political entourage to get around the institutional obstructions. The delegation also gives us an insight into the contemporary political society of Scandinavia and more especially the group of the power elites.

13Anu Lahtinen. —“Knight of Flanders” and his Lineage. Family Strategy in Fifteenth-Century Nordic Nobility

14This article deals with the marriage strategies of the nobility in medieval Finland —then part of the Swedish Realm. The author focuses on the case of the Fleming family, the representatives of which arrived from western Europe to Denmark, Sweden and Finland at the turn of the fifteenth century. It appears that they managed to assimilate into the local elite thanks to their good connections with the rulers of the northern kingdoms, and the moment of the Union of Kalmar, uniting all the Nordic kingdoms under the Danish ruler, offered special opportunities for newcomers such as Klaus Fleming, who had gained a position of trust in Denmark. It was also important to strengthen these connections through marriage. Studying how the inherited landed property was distributed between siblings, the author points out how marriage helped newcomers like the knight Klaus Fleming to acquire landed property —the source of wealth and power of the time. The author also discusses the position and role of women in the transfer of property, and they may well have been event more active as intermediaries between their male relatives.

15Brian Patrick McGuire. The Cistercians as a Scandinavian Elite

16The Cistercians in Sweden and Denmark can be seen in terms of their development from the mid-twelfth to the early sixteenth centuries as members of a monastic order which changed in its self-conception. The twelfth-century Cistercians saw themselves as pauperes Christi, the beneficiaries of the generosity of elite society. After about 1250, however, the Cistercians in asserting the privileges and properties that they had gained from the elite came themselves to act as members of the same social class. This transformation did not necessarily mean that the monks distanced themselves from the rest of society. The monks in fact after about 1300 seem to have become more concerned about the care of souls in parishes. The aristocratic Christianity seen in church wall paintings of the twelfth century was replaced by a religion more available to ordinary people.

17Ane L. Bysted. Crusading Ideology and Imitatio Christi in Anders Sunesen, Bernard of Clairvaux and Innocent III

18During the twelfth century, a distinctive crusade ideology was formed in sermons and papal bulls, characterised by a body of standard scriptural quotations and theological themes. The formation of this ideology owes much to Bernard of Clairvaux whose sermons and letters in support of the Second Crusade set the tone for much of the later propaganda, not least the crusading bulls for the Fourth and Fifth Crusades by Pope Innocent III. The person who was responsible for the organisation and preaching of the Fifth Crusade in Denmark and Sweden was Archbishop Anders Sunesen. His sermons have not been preserved, but a comparison with central parts of his major theological poem, the Hexaemeron, shows that he was a proponent of a theme that was absolutely essential to the theology of the crusades: the idea of the imitation of Christ. Moreover, there are some striking resemblances between the Hexaemeron and the De laude novae militiae of St Bernard. Analysis of the Hexaemeron in the light of contemporary crusading ideology does not enable us to reconstruct Anders Sunesen’s sermons, but it renders it highly probable that he preached the crusade along the lines that were indicated by Innocent III. It also points to an understudied Bernardine, Cistercian undercurrent among the Paris-trained theologians in the latter part of the twelfth century.

19Sylvain Gouguenheim. An Italian in the Baltic Countries: William of Modena’s Legation in Norway and Sweden (June 1247–Summer 1248)

20William, Bishop of Modena, cardinal of Sabina and papal legate to Prussia, Livland, Estonia and to many of the Baltic countries, travelled through all these regions for approximately twenty-five years. The fact that these lands adopted or even became deeply rooted in Latin Christendom is due to this prelate’s tireless action and astonishing qualities, no doubt one of the century’s best negociators.

21Apart from H. Fieberg’s brief work of 1926, the only other work that exists on William of Modena is G. Donner’s very accurate biography from 1929. Yet, William of Modena is worthy of a large-scale study, conducted on a par with issues singled out by European medievalists over the past 20 years. This article will present only two facets of his actions. One is his legations in Prussia, where he evangelized, acted as an arbiter, settled conflicts, and founded dioceses. The other facet is his missions to Scandinavia, where he carried out Church reform, in particular by publicizing the canons of the Council of Latran IV. Besides, he was continuously encouraged to participate in political matters of the utmost importance, at the time of King Håkon IV.

22Thus this man, who was vice-chancellor to Honorius III, had an astonishing career as reformer, missionary and legate. His activities as a diplomat and arbiter in the Baltic region and in the conflicts that shook it were consistent with the papal intentions to exert more influence over the settlement of internal Christian matters. What took place in Prussia and in Scandinavia is thus not different from what happened in the rest of Europe.

23Jussi Hanska. Clerical Ordinations at the Camera apostolica. Jacob Ulvsson and the ‘Class of 1466’

24Canon of Uppsala, Jakob Ulvsson (later archbishop of Uppsala and primate of the Swedish Church) was ordained to the priesthood in the Camera apostolica in 1466. He took his orders during three consecutive ordines generales organised by the Camera. Together with Jakob Ulvsson 114 other men were ordained.

25Using this group of people as a sample, this paper discusses who were the people that were ordained in the Roman curia. Were they fortune seekers, crooks, and swindlers (as suggested by Denys Hay in his classic The Church in Italy in the Fifteenth Century (Cambridge, 1977), or were they perhaps European elites of the time? Carrying out such a study is somewhat problematic. First and foremost, it is extremely difficult to find additional information about the persons in the sample. Some information is provided in the Libri formatarum of the Camera apostolica. Additional information must be sought from other Vatican sources. For obvious reasons, only printed sources (with the exception of the Libri formatarum) were used.

26This means that fewer than half of the persons were identified more specifically. Taking into account this and the fact that the sample was rather small in the beginning any conclusions are necessarily tentative. After all the caveats, however, it seems likely that the persons ordained within the Roman curia were indeed in most cases exceptionally well-educated and from the upper strata of society. They came from all over Europe (including Scandinavia), and were familiars of the pope and cardinals, prelates, civil servants of the Roman curia, noblemen, etc.

27Tuomas M. S. Lehtonen. Conquest and Construction of Sacred History in Finland

28According to Swedish and Finnish ecclesiastical traditions Swedish King Saint Erik Jedvardsson and Bishop of Uppsala Saint Henry baptised the Finns, the tribe inhabiting the south-western part of present-day Finland, around 1155 or 1157. The earliest sources of these events are the Latin legends of St Eric and St Henry which were not composed before the latter part of the thirteenth century. This article aims to study both the legends and the Finnish vernacular tradition about St Henry, not as historical sources about the events they relate but as sources of the ideological work at the time they were created.

29The legends and other texts (office, hymns) concerning St Eric and St Henry make up a liturgical history as well as a political programme, in which an ideological project is clearly present. In the words of British sociologist Michael Mann, their task is to give a new interpretation of reality and to define everyone’s place within it. This interpretation used the models handed to the northern peripheries of the western Christianity from its ideological and learned centres by introducing to the vernacular oral Nordic cultures a new medium for the transmission of beliefs and knowledge that the the written word offered. As early and extremely interesting evidence of the written and oral cultures we have the parallel vernacular Finnish tradition of St Henry, which is not a counter-history contesting the written Latin tradition but a variant tradition which completes the written one and contains some essential differences.

30Both Latin legends construct the history of conversion and the beginnings of the Christian Church in Finland as part of universal sacred history and, as such, as part of a providential plan. The King and the Bishop have two tasks. The first and most important one is to give Finnish gentiles the possibility of salvation. The second task follows from the first one: when the gentiles are submitted to the protection of the King and the Church peace and justice should prevail. The conflict which led to the martyrdom of St Henry was a result of the bishop’s efforts to carry out ecclesiastical justice, the goal of which is the salvation of the evildoer’s soul. The murderer of Bishop Henry was thus rebelling against the divine order.

31The Finnish version shares the divine motivation of King Eric’s and Bishop Henry’s expedition. The conflict, however, does not arise from the murderer’s obstinate rebellion against ecclesiastical justice but from the bishop’s visit to the peasant Lalli’s house. Different variants of the tradition relate the crucial events slightly differently but many scholars have seen the visit as a presentation of levying taxes and Lalli’s reaction as a rebellion against them. Nevertheless, the vernacular tradition does not have any pity for the bishop’s murderer —his action is clearly presented as an action against the divine order again.

32The Latin legends, hymns and sermons pertained to the written culture of western Christianity. The models used belonged to the elite’s imported cultural goods. Their audience was limited to the educated local elite who were able to understand, to read and to write Latin. When these imported goods were adapted to the local environment and transferred to the vernacular oral tradition, the Ballad of the Death of Bishop Henry served as an instrument within the same ideological project. The vernacular recreation also adopted a different generic mode, i. e. the legend was transposed to theatrical mystery plays which proposed a different motive for the bishop’s murder and served to deal with the latent conflict between the clergy and the peasants.

33Sini Kangas. The Murder of Saint Henry, Crusader Bishop of Finland

34The cult of St Henry, crusader bishop of Finland, a Christian hero and a warrior of God, is a good example of the northern extension of the western European set of chivalric values. The tradition of Henry reflects the qualities typical not only to contemporary European hagiography, but to the chanson de geste as well. The context is firmly Catholic, emphasizing the inviolability of the ecclesiastical order. The murderer of Bishop Henry, Lalli, is an interesting character, who gradually undergoes a transformation from a member of the military elite to a pagan peasant. In the Finnish folklore tradition, both Henry and Lalli represent popular heroes.

35Élisabeth Mornet. The Last Will and Testament of the Canon. Benechinus Henrici de Åhus, Cantor of Lund, and the Culture of Scandinavian Clerics in the fourteenth Century

36Although few medieval wills from Scandinavia have been preserved, compared to the thousands of wills in other regions of the West, their analysis is rich in insights. The object of this study is a will that in many ways can be considered as representative of the testamentary practice of Scandinavian ecclesiastical elites, that of Benechinus Henrici de Åhus, cantor of the cathedral church of Lund (9 March 1358). This will, of the canonical type pro remedio anime, reads like a scholarly discourse, heavily coded, even ritualized. However, beyond the very strongly formulaic style, the will nonetheless reveals a rational system and a network of customary solidarities between highranking ecclesiastics. It is a marker of the piety of the cantor, a piety both measured and traditional, in which the place of religious works and prayer for the dead remained central, in spite of several signs foreshadowing the “piety of account.”

37The will is also an indicator of intellectual culture: though revelatory of only an incomplete and undoubtedly distorted portrait of this culture, the very numerous bequests of books permit a partial reconstruction of the library of the cantor of Lund as well as a sketch of his intellectual background. He had studied in Paris (canon law) and probably in another center where civil law was taught (Bologna or Orléans?). He had acquired a university culture, international in scope and geared to the purposes of a professional in law and pastoral ministry. Through bequests of books, he spread knowledge within narrow circles that were clerical and exclusively urban.

38The will of Benechinus Henrici attests to the diffusion of socio-cultural models from one end of western Christendom to the other.

39Corinne Péneau. Swedish Elites and Western Models in the SwedishGreat Verse-Chronicle

40Medieval literature is not a mere reflection of an outside reality, but is a social phenomenon, a part of reality and it is used to express the problems a given society has to face, as Howard Bloch shows in French Literature and Law. Literary forms and subjects are not fixed and their signification can change according to the needs of the whole society or of a specific group.

41The Swedish Great Verse-Chronicle, which was written at different moments throughout the fourteenth and the fifteenth centuries, is an accurate source to study the image Swedish aristocrats gave of themselves at the end of the Middle Ages. Most of the representations came directly from continental models and were used as justifications for their political and social domination. Our aim is to understand how the author of the Erikskrönika used commonplaces to legitimize the new power of the elites and how those representations were adapted to new political circumstances in later chronicles.

42Erikskrönika can be described as a breaking point in Swedish historiography: as the first commentators showed, a whole century of Swedish history is written as a Romance of chivalry. Specific political claims reveal themselves through the description of society as a courteous fiction, through the portraits of Swedish knights such as Perceval or Gauvain and through the glorification of common celebrations or individual deeds. Erikskrönika is not a Knights’mirror, but a symbolic way of justifying their prerogatives, their social superiority and the role they wanted to play in the law.

43In the fifteenth century, new verse-chronicles were written following the same pattern, but the meaning of the courteous images had changed. It is therefore necessary to analyze the way former chronicles and their courteous commonplaces were used as models. In the Karlskrönika, the use of those old models legitimates the recent power of King Karl Knutsson. This chronicle has often been described as coarse and less well written than the Erikskrönika, but the reason is that only one knight has a real part in the chronicle–King Karl himself. On the contrary, in the Sturekrönika, courteous situations are used to demonstrate the perfect equality between the knights, to erase the image of the king and to attest that henceforth the Round Table turns without a king.

44Elina Räsänen. Agency of Two Ladies: wellborne qvinna Lucia Olofsdotter and Veneration of Saint Anne in the Turku Diocese

45This paper examines a pious and noblewoman, Lucia Olofsdotter (Skelge), and her actions interwoven with the cult and imagery of St Anne in the Turku diocese in the second half of the fifteenth century. It examines how written records, albeit indirectly connected to the altarpieces or other images, can be useful in finding ‘frames’ or potential histories for little-known works of art, of which no documents survive. The artifacts discussed include a wooden polychrome sculpture depicting the Saint Anne Trinity (c. 1480) from Turku Cathedral and an altar frontlet embroidered in the Birgittine convent Vallis gratiae in Naantali. The former is viewed in the light of Lucia’s contacts with Sten Sture, the latter connected to the themes of the new masses Lucia initiated in the convent. As this paper shows, however, such kind of investigation rarely leads to the identification of the creator of a given sacred object or image. The article goes on to explore what the imagery of St Anne might have meant to Lucia. Though her devotional motivations are not documented, plausible suggestions can be made by comparing what we know about Lucia with the specific traits of the multifaceted cult of St Anne. Existing documents such as Lucia’s wills indicate that Lucia and her husband Henrik remained childless, and that Lucia was a remarkable benefactress and a true devotee of St Birgitta. We also know that St Anne promoted fertility and marital life, she was an example of charity and, in northern Europe, was ‘twinned’ with St Birgitta. The path taken by Lucia Olofsdotter indicates a pattern of interaction between the cult of the saint, its sacred imagery and the agency of the responsive person.

© Éditions de la Sorbonne, 2007

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