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Ancient See of Skara

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Located in Sweden; suffragan to Hamburg (990-1104), to Lund (1104-64), and finally to Upsala (1164-1530). This diocese, the most ancient in Sweden, included the Counties of Skaraborg, Elfsborg, and Vermland. It was founded about 990 at Skara, the capital of the country of the Goths (Gauthiod), the whole of which it embraced until about 1100, when the eastern portion of the Diocese of Skara was formed into that of Linköping. At the beginning there was no strict division of the country into dioceses, and the missionary bishops went about preaching wherever they would. Thus it is that, though Odinkar Hvite the Elder was apparently the first bishop stationed at Skara about 990, Sigurd, a court bishop of King Olaf Tryggveson of Norway, is named as the first Bishop of Skara in the list of bishops written down about 1325 as an appendix to the Laws of the Western Goths (Vestgotalagen). It is added that he founded three churches in Vestergotland, and he also seems to have baptized Olaf Skotkonung, first Christian King of Sweden, at Husaby near Skara in 1008. Odinkar's successor was Thurgaut, first diocesan Bishop of Skara (about 1012-30). He was nominally succeeded by Gotskalk, a monk of the Benedictine abbey at Luneburg, who never left his abbey, although he had been consecrated to the See of Skara by Archbishop Liavizo of Hamburg (1030-32). Meanwhile Sigurd, or Sigfrid, an Englishman of Scandinavian origin and a monk of Glastonbury (?), took possession of the See of Skara about 1031, and remained there till after 1043. Although he entered into communication with Bremen and sent his relative and successor Osmund to be educated there, both Sigurd and Osmund seem to have been regarded as intruders by the Archbishop of Hamburg-Bremen. Osmund was consecrated in Poland, and refused to acknowledge the primacy of Hamburg. In this refusal he was supported by King Anund Jacob. Consequently when Adalvard the Elder, subdean of Bremen, who had been consecrated Bishop of Skara by Archbishop Adalbert on the death of Bishop Gotskalk, came to Skara about 1050 to take possession of his see, he was prevented from doing so, and had to wait for Osmund's departure for England in 1057 (?) before he could become Bishop of Skara de facto. Adalvard the Elder died in 1060 and was buried near the first Cathedral of St. Mary, which he had built. Acelin, dean of Bremen, was consecrated bishop in 1061, but never took possession of the see. Adalvard the younger, who had visited and buried his elder namesake in 1060, was invited on his expulsion from the See of Siguna in 1067 to become Bishop of Skara, but was recalled to Bremen by Archbishop Adalbert.

Of the next four bishops of Skara hardly anything is known. Concerning Bishop Oedgrim the following facts are recorded. He was present at the consecration of Lund cathedral in 1145. During his episcopate the abbey at Varnhem was founded (1150) by some Cistercians of Clairvaux who came from Alvastra. Finally in 1151 Bishop Oedgrim consecrated part of the present cathedral, which Bishop Benedict I (1158-90) enlarged and furnished. The latter also built the Churches of St. Nicholas and of St. Peter at Skara as well as many roads and bridges. Bishop Jerpulf (1191-1201) persuaded a popular assembly at Askubeck to assign to the bishop part of the tithe. Benedict II (1217-30) founded several secular canonries in 1220, and thus originated the cathedral chapter. St. Bryniolph Algotsson is the best known bishop. He studied for eighteen years at Paris, became dean of Linköping, and in 1278 Bishop of Skara. He issued statutes in 1231, and composed hymns and other works, amongst them a "Life of St. Helena of Skoffde" (Schedvia), who was murdered in 1140 and was canonized by Pope Honorius III, and whose remains were translated to Upsala in 1164. She was also greatly venerated at Tidsvilde (Zealand) and elsewhere in Denmark. St. Bryniolph died on 6 February, 1317. In 1499 Alexander VI granted leave for the translation of his relics, but St. Bryniolph was never formally canonized. Under him and his successor, Bishop Benedict III Tunnesson (1317-21), that is between 1312 and 1320, the whole of the cathedral was restored. Bishop Sven the Great (1435-48?) painted it in fresco.

Bishop Bryniolph III Gerlaktsson (1478-1505) regulated the frontier between his diocese and that of Lund. His successor, Bishop Vincent Hennings, was beheaded by Christian II at the Massacre of Stockholm on 8 November, 1520, although he protested aloud on his way to the scaffold against the injustice of his condemnation. Then came Magnus Haraldsson (1523), whose election was not confirmed by the pope in spite of King Gustavus I Vasa's request. Johannes Franciscus de Potentia, a Franciscan, was nominated Bishop of Skara the same year by papal provision, but the king refused to receive him. Bishop Magnus Haraldsson, though at first submissive towards Gustavus I, led his diocesans to Larf to take part in the rising of 1529. He was accordingly deposed by the king, who appointed in 1530 a Protestant, Svend Jacobsson, in his place. Besides Skara cathedral and the abbey church at Varnhem, there are interesting romanesque churches at Asklanda and elsewhere. At Husaby there was a spring dedicated to St. Brigid of Kildare. This Irish dedication may be accounted for by the fact that Olaf Skotkonung was, as mentioned above, baptized there in 1008 by Sigurd, court bishop of King Olaf Tryggveson, who had many connections with Ireland. St. Olaf was specially venerated at Dalby and Elgaa in Vermland.

At Skara the cathedral chapter consisted latterly of a dean, an archdeacon, a subdean, and twenty-one canons. There were also in the town a Franciscan priory dating from about 1242 and a Dominican priory from about 1260. At Lodose there were also Franciscans from 1283 and Dominicans from 1286. Finally there were the Cistercian monastery at Varnhem and the Cistercian nunnery at Gudhem; the latter was founded about 1160.


Scriptores rerum svecicarum, II (Upsala, 1876), 112-20, 135-85; BORTZELL and WISELGREN, Vestgotalagen gengivet i Lystryk (Stockholm, 1889); JORGENSEN, Den nordiske Kirkes Grundlaeggelse (2 vols., Copenhagen, 1874-8); Historisk Tidskrift, XI (Stockholm, 1891), 73-88; Kyrkohistorisk Aarsskrift, XI (Upsala, 1910), 214-20; REUTERDAHL, Svenska Kyrkans Historia (5 vols., Lund, 1838-66); IDEM, Statuta synodalia veteris ecclesiae sviogothicae (Lund, 1841); Skrifter utgifna af den kyrkohistoriska foreningen, III; GUMMERUS, Synodalstatuter (Stockholm, 1902), 8-20, 25-29, 46-83; LINDSKOG, Om Skara Stift (Skara, 1812-16); LINDBERG, Vestergotland (Tidaholm, 1908); WENNERBLAD, Skara Stifts Kyrkor, (2 vols., Norrkoping, 1902); HILDEBRAND, Skara Domkyrka (Stockholm, 1891); HALL, Cistercienserorden i Sverige (Gefle, 1899), school programme. For St. Helena of Skoffde see CHEVALIER, Bio-Bibl., I (Paris, 1905), col. 2045; FRONDIN and FORSSENIUS, Specimen historicum de Schedvia urbe (Upsala, 1734-36), disputation; Museum, pt. II (Copenhagen, 1895), 1-34. For St. Bryniolph see Acta SS., Feb., I (Antwerp, 1658), 925-26.

About this page

APA citation. Taylor, A. (1914). Ancient See of Skara. In The Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: The Encyclopedia Press.

MLA citation. Taylor, Arthur. "Ancient See of Skara." The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 16 (Index). New York: The Encyclopedia Press, 1914. <>.

Transcription. This article was transcribed for New Advent by Michael T. Barrett. Dedicated to the people of the Diocese of Skara.

Ecclesiastical approbation. Nihil Obstat. March 1, 1914. Remy Lafort, S.T.D., Censor. Imprimatur. +John Cardinal Farley, Archbishop of New York.

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