Alvastra, Abbey of
ALVASTRA, ABBEY OF
A former cistercian monastery dedicated to Our Lady, situated near Lake Vättern in the Province of Östergötland, Sweden, in the old Diocese of Linköping. The oldest and most important Cistercian monastery of medieval Sweden, it was founded in 1143 on the advice of Archbishop eskil of lund by King Sverker the Elder (d. 1156), who granted property for its erection on the estate of his late wife Ulfhild. At her request St. bernard had already sent monks from clairvaux. Alvastra was the 40th abbey to be affiliated with Clairvaux. From Alvastra the monasteries of Varnhem, Julita (Saba), and Husby (Gudsberga) were founded. A monk from Alvastra, Stephen (d. 1185), was appointed the first archbishop of Uppsala in 1164. Both the Sverker family and the succeeding Folkung dynasty were favorably disposed toward the monastery, and the royal tomb of the Sverker family was later built in front of the high altar of the abbey church. St. bridget received visions during her stay at Alvastra, and her husband and one of her sons are buried in its chapel. One of her most devoted friends and her confessor was the prior, Peter Olavi (d. 1390), who recorded most of her revelations from her own dictation. The abbey was abandoned in 1527 when Gustavus I Vasa (d. 1560), who was moving toward imposing the Protestant reformation in Sweden, took control of its estates. Only a few volumes remain from the old monastic library, but parts of the buildings and of the church are still preserved. Layers from fires in 1312 and 1415 have been of importance for the dating of the many articles found during excavation projects carried on at the site since the end of the 19th century.
Bibliography: l. h. cottineau, Répertoire topobibliographique des abbayes et prieurés, 2 v. (Mâcon 1935–39) 1:75–76. u. berliÉre, Dictionnaire d'histoire et de géographie ecclésiastiques, ed. a. baudrillart et al. (Paris 1912–) 2:892. e. ortved, Cistercieordenen og dens klostre i Norden, 2 v. in 1 (Copenhagen 1927–33) 2:53–141. k. spahr, Lexikon für Theologie und Kirche, ed. j. hofer and k. rahner (2d, new ed. Freiburg 1957–65) 1:409. i. swartling, Alvastra kloster (Stockholm 1962). h. johansson, Ritus cisterciensis (Lund 1964).