Ragvaldus Ingemundi

From medieval

by Göran Bäärnhielm & Stephan Borgehammar

Ragvaldus Ingemundi (Ragvald Ingemundsson). Archdeacon at the Uppsala church 1479-1514. One of the main second-level political figures during the time of the archbishop Jacob Ulvsson. Author of a Latin version of the General Law of Magnus Eriksson. Ragvald Ingemundsson’s life and career is comparatively well documented through some 70 notices, mostly from Swedish sources but also 23 entries in the Vatican and other Italian archives, the former mainly on his political activity as councillor and agent for the archbishop and the regent Sten Sture, the latter on his ecclesiastical career.


Ragvaldus Ingemundi was born probably in the 1440-s and died at Uppsala, March 19, 1515, according to Johannes Bureus. His career is documented from the year 1471. He then was in Rome, where he stayed until 1481, as a procurator of archbishop Jacob Ulvsson, supported by a prebend at the Uppsala cathedral with an income of 28 marks yearly, living at the St Birgitta hospice. He also acted as an agent for the Swedish church and state, promoting the canonization of Katherina, St Birgitta’s daughter, and the establishment of a Swedish university, refuting Danish diplomatic intrigues. He also engaged in a profitable canvassing for ecclesiastical offices for his own part, studied at the Bologna university where he acquired the doctorate in canon law, and was appointed archdeacon at Uppsala in 1479 as the successor of Kort Rogge, who then became bishop of Strängnäs. (CARLSSON 1915, p. 16-19).

In 1481 he returned to Sweden, appearing, on the way, at Lübeck and filing a protest on behalf of the regent Sten Sture who had been excommunicated because of a dispute on queen Dorothea’s morning gift after king Kristofer, which the Swedes refused to let her have; it consisted of considerable tracts of land in central Sweden including iron-producing areas (CARLSSON 1911, p. 250) In 1482 Ragvald took part at a union meeting at Kalmar, after which he delivered a protest from the Swedish archbishop against the Danish archbishop’s claims for the primate of Scandinavia (KELLERMAN 1935, p. 143 s.)

As archdeacon, Ragvald was the legal specialist of the chapter, and he was called upon as the archbishop’s agent in ecclesiastical lawcourts, at the accounts of indulgences but also in purely political connections. 1494-1513 he took part in the state council meetings, which were usually held in Stockholm.

His income as archdeacon may have been around 300 marks [calculation based on DAHLBÄCK 1977], partly from the annex church Bälinge. He was probably a kind of inspector of the first printing press at Uppsala, that of Paul Grijs, which was located from 1510 at his house by the cathedral (COLLIJN 1921:103). He supported the recently (1493) founded Carthusian monastery Mariefred with real estate affairs in Stockholm and Uppsala and a book donation 1496 (COLLIJN 1935, p. 153 s., 169). He may have been affiliated to the Rosicrucian brotherhood: his seal displays a Rosicrucian-type Virgin in a mandorla, a motif which was also illustrated in a Danzig broadsheet glued into the A- manuscript of Ragvald’s Latin law version. (COLLIJN 1935, p. 167). The printing block was eventually acquired by the printer Paul Grijs. (COLLIJN 1919, 1921)

Ragvald took part in several official ceremonies: at the translation of Katerina Ulfsdotter at Vadstena in 1489, at the reception of Russian ambassadors in Stockholm in 1513, at the reception in Stockholm of some bones of St Hemming from Åbo in 1514, when “old doctor Rafwal made sermon” in the city church (Storkyrkan). The same year he seems to have left the archidiaconate and entered holy orders. Possibly he went to the Mariefred monastery, but he is said to have died in Uppsala in 1515, march 19 (CARLSSON 1915, p. 19, BUREUS 1886 p. 210, Sumlen fol. 533v. COLLIJN 1935, p. 162 thinks he died at Mariefred). His successor as archdeacon was Jon Eriksson (Johannes Erici), who later became infamous as the one who read the indictment at the Stockholm Carnage in 1520.

Legisterium Regni Swecie

Law-book of the Kingdom of Sweden


Latin version of the General Law ('Landslag') of King Magnus Eriksson.


Legisterium Regni Swecie is taken from the explicit of A-manuscript Cod. Linc. J.73. B-manuscript Cod. Ups. B.46 begins Incipit Refugium pauperum super constitutionibus Regni, traductis in latinum ... Messenius edition 1614 is titled Leges svecorum gothorumque


Incipiunt constituciones regni Suecie seu Gotorum nuper in latinum traducte. [I.pr.] Fidei catholice fundamento, quam docet et predicat sacrosancta Romana ecclesia, firmiter inherendo, regia maiestas ac iudices tam ecclesiastici quam seculares, in regno Suecie seu Gotorum ad reddendum ius et iusticiam electi, secundum leges et constituciones infrascriptas decreuerunt causas et questiones in vtroque foro, ecclesiastico videlicet et seculari, decidi; quo fundamento premisso primo de ecclesiis edificandis et rerum ad eas pertinencium earumque immunitate prout sequitur statuerunt.


XV.36. De vtente rebus vel iumentis aliorum absque scitu vel consensu. Quod si quis capit alterius iumentum non conductiue neque accommodatiue, siue sit equus siue equa, et vehit aut equitat vel aliquid operatur cum illo, et talium iumentorum dominus insequitur et talem captiuat cum iumentis, debet tunc talis ad placitum duci, et sit in potestate capientis eum conuincere vt furem vel latronem vt leges volunt.

Finis legisterii regni Swecie secundum antiquam compilacionem in latinum traducti se sweco per eximium virum, decretorum expertissimum interpretem Ragualdum Ingemundi, metropolitane Vpsalensis ecclesie archidyaconum venerandissimum.


A-manuscript: 157 pages, B-manuscript: 275 pages, Messenius edition 1614: 341 pages, Edmar 1962 edition (first 4 books): 68 pages, Bäärnhielm 1980 edition (books 5-15): 126 pages.

  • MESSENIUS 1614 (complete)
  • EDMAR 1962 (books 1-4)
  • BÄÄRNHIELM 1980 (books 5-15)
  • SCHLYTER 1862, pp. LVI-LXI, XCI-XCII Carl Johan Schlyter, the editor of the medieval Swedish lawbooks, had an extremely low appreciation of Ragvald’s translation. He called it a ‘caricature, no honour for our legal literature but a shame for any editor with little enough discrimination to consider it worthy for presentation to the public’ and he meant he would have been able himself to produce a far better translation. In his apparatus he nevertheless made some 250 quotations from the General Law and some 90 from the ecclesiastical chapter of the Uppland law, evidently to demonstrate its miserable quality.
  • PALME 1949, p. 420-427 Sven-Ulric Palme made a description and comment on the A-manuscript.
  • HOLMBÄCK & WESSÉN 1962 The modern Swedish translation includes ca 100 citations from the Latin version, quoted in the notes, profiting on its explanatory tendency.

Date and place

The text is preserved chiefly in two manuscripts, one dated 1503-1506, another one 1595. The former, the A-manuscript (Cod. Lincopensis J.73) is a composite volume of great interest, containing also King Christopher’s law in Swedish, various ecclesiastical and secular statutes, indexes etc. Most texts are accompanied by marginal glosses containing references to the civil and canon law according to the current system of citation in the legal literature. It is not clearly stated that this volume has been produced or owned by Ragvald himself, but the above-mentioned broadsheet, glued into the inside covers, supports this hypothesis. It also remains a hypothesis, that Ragvald is the author of the glosses, but in all cases he was fully qualified, being a doctor of canon law. The B-manuscript (Cod. Upsaliensis B.46) is signed 1595 by one Ericus Michaelis, otherwise unidentified.

The Latin text was published in 1614 by Johannes Messenius. He stated, for unclear reasons, that the translation was made in 1481, and obviously believed that the law version translated was that of king Christopher. He has had access to both manuscripts, made several good conjectures but also many changes into a more Humanist-style Latin. (MESSENIUS 1614, SCHLYTER 1862, p. LXXXIV-LXXXVII, BÄÄRNHIELM 1980, p. 17-18)) His edition was used in teaching in Uppsala in the 1620-s. (ALMQUIST 1927:111)

Summary of contents

Legisterium Regni Swecie, the Latin version of King Magnus Eriksson’s General Law, including the chapter on church law from the provincial lawbook of Uppland.

Composition and style

Ragvald’s Latin version has three characteristics of style:

  • 1) Extensive imitation of the Old Swedish word order sometimes approaching a purely mechanical transfer, although the Latin hypotactic syntax is often followed.

Latin: V.33. Non potest maritus terram vendere mulieris nisi in casibus infrascriptis. Si exercitus applicuerit ad regnum aut regnum inuaserit, fidelium seu infidelium populorum, et captiuant virum vel vxorem et deportant, et nunciatur quod vxor vel vir redimi possunt, et si non est terra alia nisi vxoris, potest tunc maritus terram vxoris sue vendere et redimere vxorem. Ita eciam potest mulier sui mariti terram vendere in casu predicto et redimere ipsum, si sit captus.

Old Swedish (Cod. Ups. B.9) Cod. Ups. B.9 Jordabalken 33: Nw ma ey landboen sælia sinne husfru jordh wtan thessan mal trængia som her sighias. §. Kan wtlensker hær hedin eller kristin til landz læggia. oc fanga bonden eller husfruna oc bort fra. koma ater budh oc bidhia bonden eller husfruna ater lsa. Nw ær ey til wtan henna jord. tha ma bonden sælia henna jord oc sina husfrw ater lsæ. Swa ma oc husfrwn sins bonda jord sælia oc sin bonda ater lsa æn han fangin ær.

Translation of Old Swedish: Husband may not sell his wife’s land, except in these cases: If a foreign army comes, christian or heathen, they capture the man or the wife and deport them, and it is said they may be ransomed. It there is no other land but the wife’s land. then may the husband sell her land to ransom his wife. Likewise may the wife sell her husband’s land and ransom him if he is captive.

Latin § 1 Cum autem propter inediam coguntur vendere ad se alimentandum, potest tunc maritus vendere duas partes terre sue et terciam vxoris. Si maritus non habet neque bona mobilia neque immobilia, potest tunc vendere bona immobilia mulieris ad valorem sex marcharum et non amplius.

Old Swedish (Cod. Ups. B.9) § 1 Nw kan them hwnger henda. oc wilia jord sælia sik til fdho æghin tha baden wald jord sælia. twæluti aff bondans jord oc tridhiung aff husfrwna. Nw ægher bonden hwarte jord eller lsra. tha ma han sælia aff sinæ husfrw jord til siex marker om arit oc ey mera.

Translation of Old Swedish: If famine force them to sell land to nourish themselves, then they may sell land, two parts of his, one third of her land. When the husband has neither land nor personal property, then he may sell of his wife’s land, six marks a year, not more.

Latin § 2. Hee vendiciones faciende sunt in placitis, et ibi probandum que necessitas ad id compellit.

Old Swedish (Cod. Ups. B.9) § 2 thzta kp scal laghlica a tinge gras. oc ther kwngras hwat nt them ther til driffuer.

Translation of Old Swedish: These sales shall be done legally in court, and there be announced what necessity compels to that.

  • 2) Various explicative expressions retaining of Swedish words with parallel translations, double words or even more elaborate expressions, often successful paraphrases, sometimes surprising but adequate expressions, e.g. iucundus introitus för ”Eriksgata”.

Latin II.5 … vel si debet coronari vel circumire regnum pro iucundo introitu

Old Swedish (Cod. Ups. B.9) Konungabalken 5 … eller konunger skal kronas eller ridha sinæ erikx gatu.

Translation of Old Swedish: … if the king is to be crowned or make his tour of the country.

Latin V.1 … donec possessio adeo sit antiqua, quod amplius in hominum memoria non est.

Old Swedish (Cod. Ups. B.9) Jordabalken 5 … til thes ominnes hæffd a komber.

Translation of Old Swedish: … until prescription from time immemorial is added.

Latin VI.26 § 1. Nec potest aliquis alteri in preiudicium molendinum erigere, non superius ita quod aqua crescat et agros vel prata destruat, non infra ne superius augeatur aqua, ita quod molendinum propter aquam artatam in suo motu deficiat.

Old Swedish (Cod. Ups. B.9) Byggningabalken 26 § 1. Engin ma mlnæstad androm til scadha byggia. ey owan swa at watn tæppa. swa at watn ganger oppa aker eller ængh. oc ey swa nidhan fore at thz swælle for honom owan bygger.

Translation of Old Swedish: No one may build a mill to anybody’s damage, not above so that water is contained and goes into fields and meadows not below so that it is kept still /or: swells/ for him who builds above.

  • 3) Several instances of misunderstanding and faulty interpretation of Old Swedish words. Even some of the explanations have become misleading.

Latin IX.30. Vnus potest incidere in penam dicti edzöre, et vnicus potest execucionem facere. Non tamen potest aliquis execucionem facere pro pena tollenda, nisi prius fuerit cognitum, vtrum penam talem quis incurrebat.

Old Swedish (Cod. Ups. B.9) Edsöresbalken 9 Nw ma en man hem søkn gøræ oc edzøre bryta. æn før matte ey en man hemsøken gøre æn edzøret gaffs.

Translation of Old Swedish: Now one man may commit ”hemsokn” (armed house invasion) and break the King’s Peace. Earlier one man only could not commit “hemsokn” before the King’s Peace Law was made.[This is in fact a notice of legal history, thoroughly misinterpreted].

Latin VI.24 Edificium et deterioracionem (!)

Old Swedish (Cod. Ups. B.9): Byggningabalken 24 Bygning ok auärke

Translation of Old Swedish: Cultivation and farm work misinterpreted as ”building and damage”

The many misinterpretations demonstrate the well-known fact, that there is a deep gulf between the Swedish language of the middle 14th century when the Swedish text was compiled, and that of the time around 1500, when the translator tried to find the Latin equivalents of obsolete terms and expressions.

As for composition: the Latin version displays a number of similarities with the lawbook of King Kristofer and with the so-called Intermediate Law, a circumstance typical for legal texts in practical use, where you must always expect a continuum of versions in development rather than clearly distinguishable fixed versions.


The precise Swedish source manuscript for the translation has not been identified, but according to the Swedish editor Schlyter it belongs to a certain group of manuscripts, similar to Cod. Holm. B.7 (Schlyter nr. 19) and Cod. Ups. B.9. (Schlyter nr. 31, SCHLYTER 1862, p. LVIII).

Purpose and audience

Purpose and intended audience for the translation are never explicitly stated and must remain a matter for conjecture.

S. U. Palme, speaking of the glosses in the first place, maintained, that Ragvald “grappled with the problem of interpreting current Swedish constitutional law according to the demands of canon law” (PALME 1949:242), i.e. a political purpose similar to that of the glosses by Knud Mikkelsen, bishop of Viborg in Denmark, to the Latin version of the Lex Iutiae (Jyllandsloven), which were actually printed in 1504 and would probably have been known to Ragvald. Knud Mikkelsen wanted to make it known to what extent the municipal laws of Denmark corresponded to the civil and canon law (quibus sunt imperialibus et canonicis constitutionibus conformes) so that in those cases they did not, they would eventually go out of use (DGL IV, p. 3). A more general proposal (EDMAR 1962) is that it was intended for the diffusion of knowledge on Swedish matters within the Roman Curia, as a propaganda instrument for the Swedish case in the competition with Denmark.

A third proposal is that it was intended for the newly started University at Uppsala, where Ragvald had played an active role (CARLSSON 1955, p. 232, n. 9, who thinks primarily of teachers and students from abroad, but contra MALMSTRÖM 1976, p. 98, n. 46). In all cases a Latin version would have been useful or necessary for any teaching in the domestic law, which seems however somewhat alien to a medieval university, but was realised in the following age.


The J 73 glosses haven’t been published, but were transcribed in the 1970-s by Hans Holmgren as part of a dissertation work in history. The references are mainly to the civil and canon lawbooks, among the commentaries the most quoted is the Summa Aurea by Hostiensis (Henricus de Segusio).

Medieval reception – transmission

No evidence from the Middle Age proper. Comments on the post-medieval textual history, now under Date and Place, might well go here instead. It could be added that the three versions, manuscripts A and B and the Messenius edition, constitute in a way “Textstufen” with an increasing proportion of elements from the lawbook of King Kristofer.


  • ALMQUIST 1927 Almquist, J. E., Vår äldsta kommentar till landslagen : juris professor B. Crusius' föreläsningar vid Uppsala universitet hösten 1630. Uppsala, 1927. (Uppsala universitets årsskrift ; 1927: Juridik; 2).
  • BUREUS 1886 Sumlen : där uthi ähro åtskillighe collectaneer, som uthi een och annan måtta tiäna till antiquiteternes excolerande / af Johannes Thomae Bureus ; utg. af G. E. Klemming. Stockholm, 1886 (Nyare bidrag till kännedom om de svenska landsmålen ock svenskt folklif. Bihang ; 1:2).
  • BÄÄRNHIELM 2000 Göran Bäärnhielm, Magnus Erikssons landslag : latinsk översättning (ca år 1500) av Ragvald Ingemundsson : lib. v-xv. Stockholm 1980.
  • CARLSSON 1911 Gottfrid Carlsson, ”Drottning Dorotheas svenska morgongåva”. Historisk tidskrift (1911):238-268.
  • CARLSSON 1915 Gottfrid Carlsson, Hemming Gadh. Uppsala 1915.
  • CARLSSON 1955 Gottfrid Carlsson, ”Paris-Uppsala. Ett stycke tidig svensk universitetshistoria”. In: Kyrkohistorisk årsskrift 55(1955):229-238.
  • COLLIJN 1919 Isak Collijn, ”Madonnan i solen med Sixtus IV:s aflatsbön. Ett hittills okänt Danzig-tryck från 1506”. In: Nordisk tidskrift för bok- och biblioteksväsen 6(1919):62-67.
  • COLLIJN 1921 Isak Collijn, ”Paul Grijs, Uppsalas förste boktryckare 1510-1519”. In: Uppsala universitetsbiblioteks minnesskrift 1621-1921, Uppsala, 1921, pp. 97-138. Also as: ”Blad ur vår äldsta svenska boktryckerihistoria. 13.” In: Nordisk boktryckarekonst, 1, 2, 3 & 5, 1943.
  • COLLIJN 1933 Isak Collijn, ”En grupp svenska bokband med plattstämplar avbildande nordiska helgon”. In: Nordisk tidskrift för bok- och biblioteksväsen 20(1933):171-185.
  • COLLIJN 1935 Isak Collijn, ”Kartusianerklostret Mariefred vid Gripsholm och dess bibliotek”. In: Nordisk tidskrift för bok- och biblioteksväsen 22(1935):147-178.
  • DAHLHBÄCK 1977 Göran Dahlbäck, Uppsala domkyrkas godsinnehav med särskild hänsyn till perioden 1344-1527. Stockholm, 1977
  • DGL IV Danmarks gamle landskapslove. IV. Jyske lov, text 5-6. København, 1945.
  • EDMAR 1962 Ragvaldus Ingemundi, Magnus Erikssons landslag, versio latina, Lib. I-IV. Textutgåva med stil- och ordstudier av Staffan Edmar. Unpublished licentiate’s dissertation, Stockholm university, 1962.
  • HILDEBRAND 1882 Emil Hildebrand, ”Den svenska kolonin i Rom under medeltiden”, Historisk tidskrift 2(1882):211-260
  • HOLMBÄCK & WESSÉN 1962 MAGNUS ERIKSSONS LANDSLAG / i nusvensk tolkning av Åke Holmbäck och Elias Wessén. Stockholm, 1962.
  • KELLERMAN 1935 Gösta Kellerman, Jakob Ulvsson och den svenska kyrkan. I. Uppsala 1935, pp. 143s, 295ss.
  • MALMSTRÖM 1976 Åke Malmström, Juridiska fakulteten i Uppsala : studier till fakultetens historia. 1, Den medeltida fakulteten och dess historiska bakgrund. Uppsala, 1976. (Skrifter rörande Uppsala universitet. C, Organisation och historia, 34).
  • MESSENIUS 1614 Leges svecorum gothorumque / per doctorem Racvaldum Ingemundi, ecclesiae archidiaconum Vbsalensis, anno 1481 latinitate primum donatae; nunc autem zelo patriae illustrandae Iohannis Messenii ... luci publicae cum legum indice locupletissimo consecrantur. - Stockholmiae, 1614
  • PALME 1949 Sven Ulric Palme, Riksföreståndarvalet 1512. Uppsala 1949.
  • SCHLYTER 1834 Upplandslagen, ed. C. J. Schlyter. Lund 1834. (Samling af Sweriges Gamla Lagar ; 3).
  • SCHLYTER 1862 Konung Magnus Erikssons landslag, ed. C. J. Schlyter. Lund 1862. (Samling af Sweriges Gamla Lagar ; 10).