St. Olofs monastery in Skänninge

Skänninge, Mjölby
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Dominican Order

In 1237, a Dominican convent was built on the eastern outskirts of the city. It was the country's second after Visby. The order was founded by the Spanish priest Dominicus and it was approved in 1216 by the Pope. The monks were called Svartbröder because they wore a black cloak with a hood when they were out preaching. The Dominicans, like the Franciscans, were also called "beggar monks" as they lived on the alms they received from the people. It was therefore important for them to come to central locations where there was a lot of people such as at markets and meetings. Skänninge most likely fulfilled these requirements at the beginning of the 13th century. The monks also established themselves only in such places where there was some important person within the church or the state who donated land to them.

The structure of the convent The monastery consisted of three rows of houses and a church which together formed a square enclosure around the aisles andthe courtyard of the monastery. In the three houses there was a dining room, kitchen, dormitories, writing rooms and library, among other things. The monastery churches were often large and were called hall churches. They were usually built in brick, which was the main building material of the Dominicans. During the archaeological excavations of St. Olof's monastery in Skänninge in 2004 and 2005, it was found that the church was approximately 18 meters wide and 45 meters long. It had three naves and had a vaulted interior roof.

The monastery in Skänninge was named after the Norwegian saint king St. Olof. The name may be related to one of the year's largest markets held in Skänninge at the Olofsmässan at the end of July. The Dominicans otherwise had two patron saints, Peter the Martyr and Mary Magdalene. The monastery was ravaged by several rounds of fire in 1288, 1291, 1447 and 1466. In the 1540s, the monastery was closed in connection with the Reformation.

Famous people and events at the Skänning convention .It is not known how many brothers lived at the monastery, but some people are known to have stayed there. Petrus de Dacia stayed here for seven years in the 1270s and was a lecturer at the monastery school. He was one of those who took the initiative to found Skänninge's second monastery St. Martin or St. Ingrid as it was later called. Petrus de Dacia wrote in a letter to Kristina av Stommeln that he had "six spiritual daughters" in Skänninge. Ingrid Elovsdotter, the founder of the nunnery, was one of them. In the convent there was a monastery school where the sons of the higher salvation received their education. Among other things, two of Saint Birgitta's sons went here. Nikolaus Hermanni also studied here at the same time as Birgitta's sons and was the same age as the eldest son Karl. Nikolaus had to accompany the brothers home to Ulvåsa and Birgitta discovered his skills and later had to teach the younger siblings. Eventually he became Birgitta's friendand also confessor. In addition, he was a poet and hymn writer and has written several of the Birgittine hymns that are still sung in Birgittine monasteries around the world today. Nikolaus Hermanni eventually became bishop in Linköping. After his death in 1391, he was regarded as a saint and people made pilgrimages to his grave in Linköping Cathedral.

The previously known Sigtuna Annals can in all probability be renamed Skänningen Annals as it is known that this is where they were written down. It was a kind of diary where the monks recorded the most important events in Skänninge with the outside world. Another important document was written here in 1248 when the statutes for the Skänninge meeting were signed.

Today there are no remains above ground of St. Olof's convent.

Price information

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The book "Citizens, brothers and farmers - archaeological perspectives on Skänninge's older history" is available for sale at the Tourist Office in Skänninge.


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St. Olof's monastery was excavated during the years 2002-2011 in connection with the expansion of the railway on the stretch between Mjölby and Motala. When the survey is finished, there are no sights above ground. Some finds and pictures can be found at the Skänninge Town Hall museum. In the book "Citizens, Brothers and Farmers" there is the entire documentation of the excavation.