Johannes Borquardi

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by Roger Andersson

Johannes Borquardi (d. 1447), priest brother at the Birgittine abbey of Vadstena, Sweden, 1428–1447, confessor general 1443–1444, a preacher and composer of sermons. The best modern study of the life of Johannes Borquardi is KLOCKARS 1979 (36 ff.); see also ANDERSSON 2001, 207–10.


On 18 April 1428 Johannes entered Vadstena Abbey as one of the fratres sacerdoti. Nothing is known about his previous life, except that the ''Diarium Vadstenense'' claims that he originated from Stockholm (DV 384). Towards the end of the 1430s he became involved with the internal affairs of the Abbey and its material possessions. In 1439 he appeared as one of two procurators (procuratores) in a legal matter concerning some land (SMR 1009). On the occasion of the coronation of Christopher as king of Norway in Lödöse in 1442, he claimed that the Abbey was entitled to some property and fishing rights (DV 525; cf. a document issued on 9 June 1442, Stockholm, National Archives). In the same year (1442) he obtained confirmation of some privileges (DV 518) directly from the king, who was then visiting Vadstena (cf. HÖJER 1905, 315–16). In October 1443 he was elected confessor general (DV 541; cf. National Archives, A 20, fol. 196r), but the confirmation was postponed until 22 December. On 23 January 1444 he spoke in front of the abbess and all the sisters and exhorted them to observe the Rule zealously and live in accordance with their monastic vows (cf. Uppsala, University Library, C 50, fols. 97r–99r and below under editions). Similar exhortations were also directed to the daughter house in Nådendal, Finland (FMU 6648; cf. KLOCKARS 1979, 36 and HÖJER 1905, 282, n. 1).

Already after about six months as confessor general, on 19 May 1444, he resigned from office. As a result of a formal request from the convent he was permitted to maintain the higher position in the choir (sedes prelati), but when this arrangement displeased another friar he returned to his normal position (locus sui senii; DV 545). The bishop of Linköping expressed his displeasure with the fact that the convent had approved of Johannes’s resignation without consulting him, and urged him to remain in office until he had made a formal investigation (Stockholm, National Archives, A 21, fol. 82v; cf. HÖJER 1905, 313).

Whatever the outcome of the investigation, Johannes was not reinstated. Instead he was sent to Rome in September 1444 in order to obtain confirmation of the orthodoxy of the Revelations of St. Birgitta from the papal Curia, as well as certificates concerning particular articles in them (DV 547). However, Johannes never reached Rome but was attacked and plundered in Poland and then had to return home (Stockholm, National Archives, A 21, fol. 88r; cf. HÖJER 1905, 218).

In the year 1446 he travelled twice to Stockholm at the request of King Christopher in order to settle (1) the rights of the Abbey to some property and (2) Nådendal’s fishing rights in Kymmene river in Finland (DV 560, 563). After his last visit to Stockholm he went to Finland in order to confirm the fishing rights of the Finnish house. Johannes stayed in Finland during the winter of 1446–1447 (DV 563). In March 1447 he died from fever on his way from Nådendal to Kymmene (DV 563, 569).


Right from the beginning Johannes Borquardi demonstrates great dedication to his mission as a preacher. In 1428–1431 he appears to have taken down about a hundred sermons as they were delivered by his colleagues (preserved in Uppsala, University Library, C 392, fols. 180r–279v; cf. HALLBERG 1995, 1997). These reportationes constitute a simultaneous translation from the preacher’s spoken Swedish into written Latin (see further Sermones Birgittini). Johannes has also compiled and written out two major collections of sermones de tempore et de sanctis (C 330, C 331), one collection de tempore (C 392, fols. 3r–150r) and, probably, a smaller set of sermons (C 392, fols. 151r–179v; cf. MHUU 4, 606). His hand-writing which frequently occurs in the copy-books of the Abbey is described in STÅHL 2003 (51 f.).

A sermon by Johannes for the feast of Sanctus Olavus is treated briefly in LIDÉN 1999, 402. His formulaic perorationes are studied in HEDLUND 2000b. His importance is evident from the fact that his sermons are often referred to and utilized by later Vadstena preachers, not least Clemens Petri and the anonymous compiler of C 312 (ANDERSSON 2001, 209). The way he uses sermon manuscripts from Prague when composing his own sermons is studied in HEDLUND 2000a; cf. also ANDERSSON 2001 (102–8, 112 f., 133 ff.). His many manuscript references to his sources provide a good illustration of the compilatory technique Johannes used; see HEDLUND 2011. Johannes normally uses the thematic sermon type, often with long prothemata. He quotes the Revelations of St. Birgitta and expands his expositions by means of exempla. His style is personal and well-phrased, as may be seen in the following extract from the beginning of a sermon for the 21st Sunday after Trinity:

Heri hora septima reliquit eum febris.” Iohannis 4o (John 4,52). Karissimi, sepe contingit, quod medicus, qui sanitatis tempore modicum curatur et despicitur, tempore infirmitatis alicuius diligenter requiritur et libenter suscipitur, quod lucide probatur in presenti ewangelio. Quia saluator noster, qui medicus est animarum et corporum, a regibus et regulis ac aliis mundi potestatibus despectum habebatur et ab eis omnino nichil curabatur salutis tempore consistente. Sed tempore necessitatis infirmorum plerumque cum instancia requirebatur et cum magna reuerencia inuitabatur, sicut scriptum est in proposito presentis ewangelii. Quia regulus, qui prius de Domino modicum curauerat, infirmante filio suo personaliter eum adiuit et ad sanandum filium suum affectuose inuitauit. Inuitauit namque eum sicut medicum, qui filium suum sanare posset. Vere, karissimi, Dominus noster medicus est sapientissimus, quia de studio paradysi, vbi vera est sapiencia, in hunc mundum venit et genus humanum languidum medicauit et medicina proprii sanguinis reparauit et a mortis eterne periculo liberauit. Legitur enim de quodam medico, qui primus inuentor medicine artis fuit, nomine Esculapius, quod medicina et arte sua mortuos videbatur reuocare ad vitam, et ideo homines eum deum esse credebant. Sed dii inuidentes eum ei fulminauerunt et occiderunt eum. Per Esculapium istum medicum medicus noster Iesus Christus intelligi potest, quia a morte culpe et pene eripuit et eripit peccatores. Sed dii, id est demones, de quibus propheta loquitur dicens: “Omnes dii gencium demonia” (Ps. 95,5), videntes, quod Lazarum suscitauerat et iam a quibusdam vt deus honorabatur, iudeorum inuidiam contra eum excitabant et sic fulmine passionis et crucis ipsum occiderant. Et sic eius mors nostra facta est medicina, quia sanguis medici, scilicet Christi, nobis fuit magna medicina. (C 330, fols. 133r–v).

(“Yesterday, at the seventh hour, the fever left him.” (John 4,52) Beloved, it often happens that a doctor is despised and hardly cared for in the time of health. When someone is sick, however, he is diligently asked for and gladly received, which clearly appears in the present Gospel. Wherefore our Saviour, who is the doctor of both body and soul, is despised by kings, princes and other worldly potentates and is not at all cared for in the time of soundness. But in the time of distress of many sick people, he is asked for with constancy and is invited with great veneration, as is written in the theme of this Gospel. Since the ruler, who previously cared only a little for the Lord, personally approached him when his son became ill and invited him affectuously to heal his son. He invited him as a doctor, who could cure his son. Beloved, our Lord is the most wise doctor, since from the spirit of paradise, where there is true wisdom, he came into the world to cure and with the medicine of his own blood restore the languid and spiritless mankind, and to liberate man from the perils of eternal death. We read about a certain physician by the name of Esculapius (Asclepius), who first invented the art of medicine, that he was seen to call dead back to life through his medicine and art, and therefore people believed him to be a god. But envious gods stroke him with lightning and killed him. To this physician Esculapius our healer Jesus Christ can be likened, since he rescued the sinners from the guilt and pain of death. But the gods, that is the demons, of which the prophet speaks: “All the gods of the Gentiles are devils” (Ps. 95,5), seeing that he raised Lazarus and that he now was honoured as a king by some people, aroused the envy of the Jews towards him. And so the Jews killed him by the stroke of the lightning of his passion and cross. And so his death became our medicine, since the blood of the doctor, that is Christ, served us as a strong remedy.)


A sermon (C 331, fols. 273v–277r) for the feast of St. Henricus is edited in MALINIEMI 1942, 152–67. The Old Swedish text of his exhortation to the sisters (see above) is printed in GEETE 1910–1916, 209–12.


  • 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.
  • GEETE, R. (ed.) 1910–1916: Småstycken på fornsvenska 2 (SFSS), Stockholm.
  • FMU = Finlands medeltidsurkunder 1–8 (ed. R. Hausen), Helsingfors 1910–1935.
  • HALLBERG, H. 1995: ”Reportaciones Vadstenenses – über das Predigen im Kloster Vadstena um 1430”, 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, 101–14.
  • HALLBERG, H. 1997: Acho Iohannis scribens, praedicans, auditus (Vadstenabrödernas predikan. Meddelanden 4), Uppsala.
  • HEDLUND, M. 2000a: “Prager Handschriften in Vadstena – wurden sie gelesen?” Septuaginta Paulo spunar oblata (70 + 2), Praha, 258–70.
  • HEDLUND, M. 2000b: “Quod nobis concedat eller: Hur man slutar en predikan,” in Språkets speglingar. Festskrift till Birger Bergh, ed. A. Jönsson & A. Piltz, Lund, 137–45.
  • HEDLUND, M. 2011: "A Vadstena Preacher using Cut and Paste", Medieval Sermons Studies 55, 45-54.
  • HÖJER, T. 1905: Studier i Vadstena klosters och birgittinordens historia intill midten af 1400-talet, Uppsala.
  • KLOCKARS, B. 1979: I nådens dal. Klosterfolk och andra c. 1440–1590, Stockholm.
  • LIDÉN, A. 1999: Olav den helige i medeltida bildkonst. Legendmotiv och attribut (Kungliga Vitterhets Historie och Antikvitets Akademien), Stockholm.
  • MALINIEMI, A. 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 XXVI:1–8), ed. M. Andersson-Schmitt, H. Hallberg & M. Hedlund, Uppsala 1988–95.
  • SMR = Svenska medeltidsregester 1434–1441 (ed. S. Tunberg), Stockholm 1937.
  • STÅHL. P. 2003: “Vadstena klosters stora kopiebok. En presentation av handskriften A 20 i Riksarkivet,” Kyrka, helgon och vanliga döda (Årsbok för Riksarkivet och Landsarkiven 2003), Stockholm, 35–64.