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Lecturer discusses Swedish saints

Ashley Charnley | Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Saints were a democratic feature of Christian religion in medieval times, according to Anders Frojmark, senior lecturer in History at Linnaeus University in Sweden.

Frojmark discussed the role of saints and miracle tales during his lecture “The Voice of the People: Pilgrims’ Miracle Tales at Medieval Swedish Shrines” Monday in Haggar Parlor at Saint Mary’s.

He spoke about the miracle tales of saints from Sweden, of which he said there are approximately 600. He talked about how these tales impacted the pilgrim, or peasant, society of the region during the medieval times.

He narrowed his discussion down to the more significant tales of certain saints from Sweden, and talked about the role these saints played during the 15th century.

“I will say, a saint was a good person, essentially a dead person, who lived in one way or another and who now lives with God.” Frojmark said.

Peasants and other members of society during medieval times could use particular saints for guidance, he said.

“You are free to choose. You decide which saint to turn to,” Frojmark said. “If saint No. 1 doesn’t help, then you are free to go further.”

Turning to stories of saints also helped Swedish peasants connect with God, he said.

“God lives everywhere and so do the saints who live with him,” Frojmark said.

He also said saints are accessible to people seeking help through miracles.

“Miracles count as an important role in the biography of saints. After their death … they are more accessible,”

Frojmark said. “Now I can go visit [a saint]. I can stand some inches from her body and talk to her.”

In order to keep the saints and their stories alive, those who had interacted with them would become storytellers and spread their stories throughout the region, he said. Frojmark equated these storytellers from medieval times who had experienced the miracles with modern television stars.

“Those who have miraculous experiences became the object of a lot of attention,” he said.

The significance of these storytellers was their faith toward the saint they were discussing, Frojmark said.

“Miracle stories were a prized offering that concerned the saint’s honor, not one’s own,” he said.

According to Frojmark, these stories were important because they provided average citizens with role models.

“You never walk alone. [Saints] are there and they are willing to help,” Frojmark said. “So no matter where you are, you can talk to them.”