Jacobus Laurencii

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by Roger Andersson

Jacobus Laurencii (d. 1460), priest brother at the Birgittine abbey of Vadstena, Sweden, 1446–1460, preacher and composer of sermons.


Surprisingly little is known about Jacobus Laurencii from the Diarium Vadstenense or other contemporary sources. Before he enters Vadstena Abbey on 2 January 1446 he is said to have been priest and curate (presbiter et curatus) in the town of Vadstena (DV 561). He may have served as altar priest at one of the number of prebendae that were founded in the Abbey church at this time (cf. NORBORG 1958, 86–95). One Jacobus Laurencii is mentioned as altar priest in Vadstena in 1436 (SMR 442). Very little is known about the life and work of Jacobus at Vadstena, but after his death on 17 February 1460 the Diarium Vadstenense describes him as a good preacher and conscientious observer of his Rule (predicator bonus et sollicitus sue regule observator, DV 709).


Jacobus Laurencii has left behind a substantial number of texts, in particular many sermons. No less than six voluminous collections written by his hand are preserved. The most independent are four sets of sermones varii (Uppsala, University Library, C 306, C 313, C 337 and C 396) and one of sermones de tempore (C 314). C 319 contains elaborated versions of sermons by the Franciscan friar Nicolaus de Aquaevilla (HEDLUND forthc.) and of the so-called Parati sermones (a wide-spread model collection), not to mention a number of sermons copied from other Vadstena manscripts. Thus, quite a few of Jacobus’s sermons are copied from the work of Acho Johannis. Jacobus also copied sermons by other Vadstena preachers originally taken down at the time of their oral delivery (HALLBERG 1995, 108). In addition to this a number of sermons by his hand occur in C 3 (fols. 67r–159v passim). The sources of some of his sermons are further studied in ANDERSSON 2001 (105 f. and 108 ff.). Apart from sermons Jacobus composed or copied a lengthy treatise on the Decalogue (C 319, fols. 355r–390v; cf. MHUU 4, 141), some catechetical tractates in C 3 (fols. 67r–159v passim) and prescriptions for the divine service (C 428, fols. 127v–129v). He is also said to have written out a copy of the Revelations of Sancta Birgitta (DV 709). Words and phrases in the vernacular appearing here and there in his manuscripts are studied in TJÄDER 1995. Five of his sermons are edited in MALINIEMI 1942 (see below), and variants from one of them are recorded in a critical edition of a sermon on St. Birgitta (VITALIS 1991). The sermons of Jacobus include quotations from the Revelations of St. Birgitta and exempla. Apart from the normal thematic sermon type, Jacobus also quite often expounds the whole Gospel pericope on Sundays.

The way in which Jacobus uses the Bible and the Revelations of St. Birgitta in combination with exempla and other sermons in the library to put together a popular piece may be studied in the following fierce attack on drunkards, taken from a sermon for the eighth Sunday after Trinity:

Audite ergo, vos miseri bibuli, vorago insaciabilis, qui colatis deum ventris, sedentes in mensa per totum diem bibentes vsque ad vesperam et a vespera vsque ad mediam noctem vel amplius. Diabolus propinet vobis in inferno de veneno suo mortifero et de flumino inferni ardentissimo. Vnde de talibus bibulis dicitur Ysa v: “Ve qui potentes estis ad bibendum, et mane consurgitis ad sectandam ebrietatem, et potatis vsque ad vesperam.” (Is. 5,22; 5,11) Qui, vt dicitur apoc xiii[i] “bibent de vino ire Dei et cruciabuntur igne et sulphure.” (Apoc. 14,10) Vnde de quodam bibulo dicitur, quod clamabit in inferno, dicens: “Ve, inquit, michi, ve in eternum, quia bibi et rebibi! Ideo torrente voluptatis diabolice dignus sum inebriari.” (Rev. VI:70) Loquitur Christus de talibus vi libro celesti capitulo vii dicens: “Ipsorum quippe maledicta gula sic michi odiosa est, ac si in die parasceues carnes comederent. Ipsi sunt quasi vas ex vtraque parte apertum, cui si totum mare infunderetur, numquam impleretur. Sic nec ipsi saciari poterant.” (Rev. VI:7) Legitur de quodam, qui portabatur a quattuor demonibus ante principem demonum. Quere in illo sermone “Euge serue bone”. (C 313, fol. 312v)

Listen therefore, ye miserable drunkards! Insatiable abyss! You who worship the god of the stomach, you who sit and drink at table all day until the Vespers, and then from the Vespers until the middle of the night or even longer! May the devil offer you to drink from his deadly poison and from the flaming river in hell! About such drunkards it is said in Isaiah, chapter 5: “Woe to you that are mighty to drink and rise up early in the morning to follow drunkenness and drink till the evening.” (Is. 5,22; 5,11) They, as is said in the Apocalypse: “shall drink of the wine of the wrath of God, and shall be tormented with fire and brimstone.” (Apoc. 14,10) Therefore it is said about a certain drunkard that he shall cry out in Hell: “Woe to me”, he says, “woe in eternity, since I drank and drank again! For this I have deserved to be inebriated by the torrent of diabolical delight.” Christ speaks about such people in Liber caelestis, chapter 7: “Their cursed gluttony is so detestable to me as if they ate meat on Good Friday. They are like a vessel open in both ends, and which is never filled even if the whole sea is poured therein.” We read about a person who was carried by four demons before the prince of demons. Look in the sermon “Well done, good servant!”)


Five sermons in Latin intended for the feast of St. Henricus are edited in MALINIEMI 1942. These are C 3, fols. 101v–102v (ed. pp. 168–172), C 306, fols. 26r–30v (pp. 227–237), C 313, fols. 434v–437r (pp. 248–261), C 337, fols. 432r–437r (pp. 238–247) and C 396, fols. 103v–104r (pp. 262–263).


  • ANDERSSON, R. 2001: De birgittinska ordensprästerna som traditionsförmedlare och folkfostrare. En studie i svensk medeltidspredikan på den 8:e söndagen efter Trefaldighet (Runica et Mediævalia), Stockholm.
  • DV = Vadstenadiariet. Latinsk text med översättning och kommentar (Kungl. Samfundet för utgivande av handskrifter rörande Skandinaviens historia. Handlingar del 19), ed. C. Gejrot, Stockholm 1996.
  • HEDLUND, M. 2007: “The Use of Model Sermons at Vadstena. A Case study,” in Constructing the Medieval Sermon, ed. R. Andersson, Turnhout.
  • MALINIEMI, A. (ed.) 1942: De S. Henrico, episcopo et martyre. Die mittelalterliche Literatur über den Apostel Finnlands II (Finska kyrkohistoriska samfundets handlingar 45:2), Helsinki.
  • MHUU = Mittelalterliche Handschriften der Universitätsbibliothek Uppsala. Katalog über die C-Sammlung 1–8 (Acta Bibliothecae R. Universitatis Upsaliensis 26:1–8), ed. M. Andersson-Schmitt, H. Hallberg & M. Hedlund, Uppsala 1988–1995.
  • NORBORG, L-A. 1958: Storföretaget Vadstena kloster, Lund.
  • SMR = Svenska medeltidsregester 1434–1441, ed. S. Tunberg, Stockholm 1937.
  • TJÄDER, B. 1995: “Fornsvenska vokabler i latinska predikningar från Sveriges medeltid,” in A Catalogue and its Users. A Symposium on the Uppsala C Collection of Medieval Manuscripts (Acta Bibliothecae R. Universitatis Upsaliensis 34), ed. M. Hedlund, Uppsala, 115–24.
  • VITALIS, H. 1991: In canonizacione beate Birgitte. A Vadstena Sermon Edited with an Introduction (Studia seminarii latini Upsaliensis 4), Uppsala.