Church and nation: The discourse on authority in Ericus Olai’s Chronica regni Gothorum (c. 1471)
By Bjorn Tjällén
PhD Dissertation, Stockholm University (2007)
Abstract: The Chronica regni Gothorum is the first Latin national history of Sweden. Completed after 1471 by a canon of Uppsala, Ericus Olai, it testifies to the articulation at the Swedish arch see of the dominant political issues of the day: the status of the Swedish realm in the union with Denmark-Norway, and the relations between the king, aristocracy and ecclesiastical leadership. This thesis analyses the discourse on authority in the Chronica. It investigates the normative basis of Ericus’s treatment of contemporary political issues as a source for the social-political outlooks of Sweden’s ecclesiastical power elite, a group not previously studied in this respect. In particular, it argues for the importance of two prescriptive assumptions on social order, which lie at the heart of the authority discourse in the Chronica: God divided the world into self-governing peoples and realms, and He instituted the lay and clerical orders as parallel hierarchies of societal authority.
The thesis situates the production of the Chronica within the educational concerns of the Uppsala institution. It scrutinizes the commonplaces – derived from various fields of knowledge – through which Ericus articulated his dualist and nationalist assumptions. The realization of these notions in his historical account is examined in sections of the text where matters of importance for the Uppsala church are evident. Special attention is paid to Ericus’s account of the royal martyr, St Erik, the so-called Engelbrekt rebellion, and the contemporary strife between the Uppsala church and the kings. The thesis ends with a study of the reception of the Chronica in the 1520s, a time when the Reformation and the consolidation of a strong national monarchy in Sweden brought the authority issues addressed by Ericus to conclusion.