The most celebrated saint of Sweden was the daughter of the knight
 of the family of
Finsta, governor and
Uppland, and one of the richest landowners of the country, and his wife, a member of the so-called Lawspeaker branch of the
Folkunga family. Through her mother, Ingeborg, Birgitta was related to the Swedish kings of her era.
She was born in June 1303. There is no exact recording for which precise date. In 1316, at the age of 14
 she married Ulf Gudmarsson of the family of
Ulvåsa, Lord of
Närke, to whom she bore eight children, four daughters and four sons. Six survived infancy, which was rare at that time. Her eldest daughter was
Märta Ulfsdotter. Her second daughter is now honored as
St. Catherine of Sweden. Her youngest daughter was
Cecilia Ulvsdotter. Bridget became known for her works of
charity, particularly toward Östergötland's unwed mothers and their children. When she was in her early thirties, she was summoned to be principal lady-in-waiting to the new Queen of Sweden,
Blanche of Namur. In 1341 she and her husband went on
Santiago de Compostela.
In 1344, shortly after their return, Ulf died at the
Alvastra Abbey in
Östergötland. After this loss, Birgitta became a member of the
Third Order of St. Francis and devoted herself wholly to a life of prayer and caring for the poor and the sick.
It was about this time that she developed the idea of establishing the religious community which was to become the
Order of the Most Holy Saviour, or the
Brigittines, whose principal house at
Vadstena was later richly endowed by King
Magnus IV of Sweden and his queen. One distinctive feature of the pre-
Reformation houses of the Order was that they were
double monasteries, with both men and women forming a joint community, though with separate cloisters. They were to live in poor convents and to give all surplus income to the poor. However, they were allowed to have as many books as they pleased.
In 1350, a
Jubilee Year, Bridget braved a plague-stricken Europe to make a pilgrimage to Rome accompanied by her daughter, Catherine, and a small party of
priests and disciples. This was done partly to obtain from the Pope the authorization of the new Order and partly in pursuance of her self-imposed mission to elevate the moral tone of the age. This was during the period of the
Avignon Papacy within the
Roman Catholic Church, however, and she had to wait for the return of the papacy to Rome from the French city of Avignon, a move for which she agitated for many years.
It was not until 1370 that
Pope Urban V, during his brief attempt to re-establish the papacy in Rome, confirmed the
Rule of the Order, but meanwhile Birgitta had made herself universally beloved in Rome by her kindness and good works. Save for occasional pilgrimages, including one to
Jerusalem in 1373, she remained in Rome until her death on 23 July 1373, urging ecclesiastical reform.
In her pilgrimages to Rome, Jerusalem and Bethlehem, she sent "back precise instructions for the construction of the monastery" now known as Blue Church, insisting that an "abbess, signifying the Virgin Mary, should preside over both nuns and monks."
Bridget went to confession every day, and had a constant smiling face.
 Although she never returned to Sweden, her years in Rome were far from happy, being hounded by debts and by opposition to her work against Church abuses. She was originally buried at
San Lorenzo in Panisperna before her remains were returned to Sweden. She was
canonized in the year 1391 by
Pope Boniface IX, which was confirmed by the
Council of Constance in 1415. Because of new discussions about her works, the
Council of Basel confirmed the orthodoxy of the
revelations in 1436.