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Academia Copernicana
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Pious donations in medieval Stockholm in the context of the Baltic region

Investigator

Title of the project Pious donations in medieval Stockholm in the context of the Baltic region
Primary and secondary scientific disciplines History, ethnology
Description of the project The project aims to analyze pious donations of Stockholm burghers from the first one recorded in primary sources at the beginning of the 14th century to the period of Reformation (the 1520s), which brought a significant change to the religious life of the inhabitants of the Baltic region. Pious donations are understood broadly as permanent foundations designated to supply religious services for eternity, as well as less magnificent gifts to the ecclesiastical institutions and charitable initiatives. All those actions served the same purpose, that is, collecting intercessory prayers for the living and, especially, for the departed. Such “aid for the soul” was meant to ensure the salvation of one’s soul and shorten the period it was supposed to spend in the Purgatory.

Although this topic might seem to be limited to religious history, it is connected with a wide variety of research issues. Those research questions include, among others, social relations within the town, prestige and political power manifested through donations, traces of the mentality of Stockholm burghers, legal matters concerning last wills and inheritance, and last but not least, interactions between various groups of town dwellers (e.g. Swedes and Germans, local guilds, the town council).

Characteristics and the main objectives of the research project:

·                     Employment of a complex and diverse methodological approach consisting of ethnological studies (the concept of exchanging gifts), religious and cultural studies (medieval memoria), research on ‘foundations’ in different regions and historical epochs, as well as urban history (medieval history of the town of Stockholm).

·                     Comparative perspective will be used in order to embed the religious life of Stockholm burghers in the wide context of the Hanseatic towns in the Baltic region. Findings from cities and towns which have been studied from that angle will be compared with the results of the research project.

·                     The implementation of the research project should improve our understanding of historical phenomena such as medieval memoria and pious donations by providing data from the capital of the Kingdom of Sweden. As the ‘centre – peripheries’ model may prove to be unsuitable, examples from Stockholm (e.g. a unique type of foundation, pious practices that were rare elsewhere, local patron saints) may induce us to reconsider some previous general statements on that matter.

The project is conducted in cooperation with: Centre for Medieval Studies at Stockholm University, Sweden

Principal supervisor: dr hab. Piotr Oliński, prof. UMK
Subsidiary supervisor: dr Rafał Kleśta-Nawrocki
Foreign scientific advisor: prof. dr Kurt Villads Jensen