Laurentius Olavi de Vaksala

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by Olle Ferm

Laurentius Olavi (Lars Olofsson, Laurentius de Vaksala), born ca. 1260, died after 1330, was a member of Uppsala cathedral chapter and of the Dominican convent at Sigtuna, author of works on theology and canon law, perhaps also lexicographer. Lars’s life is known through contemporary charters, published in DS.

Lars came from a wealthy land-owning family in Östersta in the parish of Kungs-Husby, east of Enköping (ANDRÉN 1955, 14 f.; FERM 1987). Nothing is known about his early years. He is first mentioned in a document of 1289 (DS 995), when he is a canon of Uppsala Cathedral and is styled magister (presumably he had a magister artium degree from the University of Paris). He would then have been about thirty years of age. According to an entry in Registrum Ecclesie Upsalensis dated 1344, the fifth canonicate, the cantoria, had devolved upon him after his predecessor, Magnus Bosson, had been elected archbishop (DS 3835). This happened in 1285. He became dean (decanus, in Sweden an office below that of praepositus) at the cathedral no later than 1303 (DS 1395) but not before 1300, when his predecessor was still alive (DS 1321).

The church of Vaksala, just outside Uppsala, was annexed to the deanery. For this reason Lars is sometimes called Laurentius de Vaksala in medieval sources, which has led modern commentators to believe (erroneously) that he hailed from the parish of Vaksala.

Lars created a new prebend at Uppsala Cathedral in 1310. Its property was partly inherited, partly acquired (DS 1683; FERM 1987, 100). In 1330 he donated yet another piece of property to the cathedral in Uppsala, as well as land to the Dominican convent of Sigtuna, where he spent the last years of his life. At this time he styles himself dean and Dominican (DS 2776). He also bequeathed his collection of books to the convent (DS 2672-3).


Two extant works unquestionably have Lars as their author: (1) Suffragium curatorum and (2) Summula (or Summa) de ministris et sacramentis ecclesiasticis. Their composition is probably connected with the reorganization of the cathedral of Uppsala around the year 1300, after it had moved from (Old) Uppsala to Eastern Aros (modern Uppsala) in the 1270s. This vastly improved the conditions for a residing cathedral chapter, a full round of services in the cathedral and an ordered education of clergy at the cathedral school.

(1) Suffragium curatorum

Suffragium is a handbook for confessors; it is said to be “vtilis valde confessiones audientibus” (Uppsala, University Library, C 69, fol. 49 r).


[I]ncipit liber qui intitulatur Suffragium curatorum, quem compilauit Laurencius decanus Upsalensis et postmodum frater Ordinis Predicatorum … Incipit Cum sit ars arcium regimen animarum, prudenter attendant presbiteri …


… Euge, serue bone et fidelis, quia super pauca fuisti fidelis, supra multa te constituam. Intra in gaudium Domini Dei tui. Explicit libellus qui dicitur Suffragium vtilis valde confessiones audientibus …


95 manuscript pages.


None. An edition is being prepared by B. Gustavsson, Uppsala.

Medieval reception and transmission

Only one complete manuscript is known, Uppsala, University Library, C 69, fol. 2 r-49 r. It is a copy donated by Lars himself to the Dominican convent in Sigtuna, but it is not an autograph. KLEBERG 1972, 132, suggests that it was produced by the scriptorium of Uppsala Cathedral.

A fragment is extant in Uppsala, University Library, C 582 (Sweden? Fourteenth century), 27r-28v = C 69, fol. 21v-25r (ANDRÉN 1955, 14, n. 4).

(2) Summula (or Summa) de ministris et sacramentis ecclesiasticis

Summula summarizes the teachings of the Church on the sacraments. In the introduction to Summula, Lars says that he wrote it as an aid for poor rural priests who do not have the means to acquire “copiam canonum vel doctorum”. Both works were thus evidently intended for the same category of men.


C 27: Jncipit Summa decani Vpsalensis de ministris et sacramentis ecclesie. C 64: Incipit Summula decani Vpsalensis de ministris et sacramentis ecclesiasticis.


Licet de sacramentis ecclesiasticis et eorum ministris per sanctorum patrum tradiciones …


… In huius ergo vite naufragio queso, vt merear oracionis tue tabula sustentari. Explicit Summula decani Vpsalensis de ministris et sacramentis ecclesiasticis.


In different manuscripts 170-460 pages.


Certain passages quoted from the Gregorian Decretals are edited in ANDRÉN 1955, 30-41, using the manuscripts Uppsala, University Library, C 27, C 30, C 64 and Stockholm, Royal Library, A 209, in parallel columns with the source texts. Some verses taken from Peniteas cito and Inobedientia (see below) have been rendered according to C 64, also with the source texts in parallel columns, in KILSTRÖM 1956, 32-37 and 40-48 respectively.


Summula draws material chiefly from standard works of canon law: Gratian’s Decretum, the Gregorian Decretals or Liber Extra (1234), the Liber Sextus (1298) and the Summa Hostiensis. It is also partly dependent upon the author’s own Suffragium (ANDRÉN 1955). Chapter 15, on penitence, uses verses from the poems Peniteas cito (PL 207, col. 1153) and Inobediencia (BLOOMFIELD 1979, 2764, mentions three English manuscripts). The sources for some sections remain to be identified, but quotations from specifically Swedish ecclesiastical statutes have been sought and not found.

Medieval reception and transmission

Summula evidently had a considerable circulation in Sweden. Four almost complete manuscripts exist, and none shows clear signs of being dependent upon any of the others:

  • (1) Uppsala, University Library, C 27 (Vadstena, after 1433): lacks the end of ch. 16 De viatico and all of ch. 17 De extrema unctione.
  • (2) Uppsala, University Library, C 30 (Linköping diocese? First half of the fourteenth century): omits about 10 pages of ch. 15 De penitencia; badly damaged by moisture.
  • (3) Uppsala, University Library, C 64 (Uppsala Cathedral? Early fourteenth century): small lacunae.
  • (4) Stockholm, Royal Library, A 209, fol. 11r-130r (unknown provenance, 1430s): lacks chs. 1-4 because seven leaves at the beginning have been torn out (ANDRÉN 1955, 14-16).

Other manuscripts at Uppsala University Library contain sections of Summula:

  • – C1 (Vadstena, second half of the fifteenth century), fol. 218r-225v = ch. 15
  • – C 66 (Sweden, fifteenth century), fol. 125r-156v = ch. 15
  • – C 234 (Sweden, second half of the fourteenth century), fol. 104r-165v = ch. 15–16

A copy of Summula was donated to the library of Åbo Cathedral by Bishop Hemming in 1354 (ANDRÉN 1955, 11).

(3) Vocabuletum decani

A lost work was probably also written by Lars. The testament of Ringvid Nilsson, archdean at Uppsala, dated 1360, mentions “a book called vocabuletum decani” (DS 6357). That can only refer to Lars. The title suggests that it was a lexicographical work, or perhaps a concordance. It, too, was probably intended for the elementary education of the clergy.


  • ANDRÉN, C.-G. 1955: “Laurentius’ av Vaksala Summula och den kanoniska rätten,” Kyrkohistorisk årsskrift 55, 9-41.
  • ANDRÉN, C.-G. 1957: Konfirmationen i Sverige under medeltid och reformationstid. (Bibliotheca Theologiae Practicae 1), Lund.
  • ANDRÉN, C.-G. 1963: De septem sacramentis. (Bibliotheca Theologiae Practicae 15), Lund.
  • BÅÅTH, L.M. 1905: Bidrag till den kanoniska rättens historia i Sverige, Stockholm.
  • BLOOMFIELD, M.W. et al. 1979: Incipits of Latin Works on the Virtues and Vices, 1100–1500 A.D., Cambridge, Mass.
  • DAHLBÄCK, G. 1977: Uppsala domkyrkas godsinnehav med särskild hänsyn till perioden 1344-1527 (Studier till Det medeltida Sverige 2), Stockholm.
  • FERM, O. 1987: “Varifrån var Lars av Vaksala?” Personhistorisk tidskrift 83: 3–4, 99-100.
  • GUMMERUS, J. 1900: Beiträge zur Geschichte des Buß- und Beichtwesens in der schwedischen Kirche des Mittelalters 1, Uppsala.
  • KILSTRÖM, B.I. 1956: “Två förlagor till botkapitlet i Laurentius av Vaksala Summula,” Kyrkohistorisk årsskrift 56.
  • KLEBERG, T. 1972: Medeltida Uppsala-bibliotek 2: Bidrag till deras historia fram till år 1389 (Skrifter rörande Uppsala universitet, C: Organisation och historia, 25), Uppsala.
  • MHUU.
  • SCHÜCK, H. 1896: Bibliografiska och litteraturhistoriska anteckningar, Stockholm.