On the Day of St Sigfrid – the Apostle of Värend

February 15th, 2017 by Karin Strinnholm Lagergren

Today is the feast day of St Sigfrid, the apostle of Värend why I thought it appropriate with a short blogpost on his Office.

Not much is known about the historical figure Sigfrid, being one of several missionaries coming to Christianize Scandinavia 11th century. He eventually ended up in the region of Värend, possibly invited by the Swedish king. Tradition proclaims him as the first bishop of the diocese of Växjö.

Sigfrid is said having been an arch bishop from York but there exist no bishops with a name with even the slightest resemblance of Sigfrid in medieval England. He brought with him his three nephews (who happened to be monks, very practical) as his assistants on this missionary trip: Vinaman, Unaman and Sunaman. These are names not only unknown to medieval Britain but to all other name traditions that at least I am aware of. All in all, not much is known about these figures but the nephews were killed by evil pagans from Värend and Sigfrid died a natural death and was buried in the cathedral of Växjö, according to the tradition. However, by the 13th century the Sigfrid cult had grown so strong that he got an own Office: Celebremis karissimi, carefully researched, transcribed and published by chant scholar Ann-Marie Nilsson. Around 1400 a new Office was compiled: Sanctus Sigfridus whichI not will treat here. As with most medieval repertoires, there is no known composer of Celebremus karissimi and it is based on known melodies from other Offices. For example the antiphons for Magnificat and Benedictus, and great responsories are taken from the Offices for Gregorius, Jacobus and the feast Inventio Stephani. The musical borrowings between Jacobus and Sigfrid are in particular interesting since both are apostles. The borrowing of melodies between saints with the same function is a very common procedure in the world of Gregorian chant. Some chants are also found in the Office for the Norwegian patron saint St Olav.

Celebremus karissimi is known from about 40 sources from today’s Sweden and Finland, and was in particular popular in the diocese of Linköping. Some sources are complete, some only fragmentary. Complete means first and second vespers, matins (3 nocturns), and lauds. Last year in February (2016) I had the pleasure of singing parts of this office in Sigfrid’s own city Växjö. I must say that the music is really amazing, with some pieces for real show off for the singers. Unfortunately no recording exists of this Office.

Read about and sing about St Sigfrid from this edition: Nilsson, Ann-Marie, S:t Sigfrid besjungen: Celebremus karissimi, ett helgonofficium från 1200-talet, Sällskapet Runica et Mediævalia, Stockholm, 2010.

Karin Strinnholm Lagergren
Senior Lecturer at Linnaeus University
Senior lecturer in musicology and singer of medieval music. Research interest monastic chant, in particular Birgittines and Dominicans. In this blog I write, comment and reflect on my research project 'The Musical World of the Birgittine Order'. Expect loads of manuscript images, tricky chant problems and square notation!

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