Hans Brasks sigil

Hans Brask Bishop of Linköping 1464 – 1538

Hans Brask was bishop of Linköping in Östergötland from 1513 – 1527. He is primarily known for his household book with calendar, menus and regulations for his servants.

The Servants in the household of Brask. Drawing by L Löfman. Source: Östergötland Museum
The Servants in the household of Brask. Drawing by L Löfman. Source: Östergötland Museum

Hans Brask was born in Linköping as son of the local mayor in 1464. In his youth he was set to school in Skara and in 1486 he was enrolled at the University in Rostock, which was one of the first steppingstones for a late medieval Scandinavian destined for a clerical career. In 1487-88 he earned first his baccalaureus and later his Magister degree in Greifswald. This allowed him to return to Linköping c. 1490, where he served as Chancellor. In the 1490s he is enrolled as a canon in Linköping and works to have an edition of Breviarium Lincopense printed in Nuremberg in 1493. Printer was Georg Stuchs and the edition was furnished with a number of woodcuts

In 1497 he is secretary to Bishop Henrik Tidemanssons during the conflict between the Swedish Archbishop, Jakob Ulfsson and the Swedish regent, Sten Sture the Elder. In 1497, he led the coalition, which accepted the rule of the Danish king Hans. In 1499 Hans Brask is sent to Rome to initiate a process against the mayor of Linköping. During his stay in Rome he acquires a degree as licentiate in canon law, which is later – in 1504 – crowned with a doctoral degree. During the same period he is appointed archdeacon and in 1504 he is appointed member of that national Swedish council. In 1513 he is called as bishop in Linköping.

Brasklappen – a famous note of reservation

In 1517 the national council decides to follow the council of the regent, Sten Sture the Younger and dismiss and incarcerate the Archbishop, Gustav Trolle. Hans Brask is forced under duress to hang his seal beneath the document, but he openly disagrees. According to Canon law, only the pope can depose of an Archbishop. In 1519, the Danish king, Christian II invaded Sweden to regain control with the country and in 1520 Sten Sture dies and Christian is crowned in Stockholm by the Archbishop, who has now been set free. Three days later, the revenge of the Archbishop is enacted in collusion with the newly anointed king and the so-called bloodbath of Stockholm takes place. All in all 82 people are beheaded while numerous others are taken prisoners and transferred to Denmark. Hans Brask avoided this fate because he – so goes the story – had placed a small paper beneath his seal appended to the document in 1517. On this he is said to have written the words: I had – enforced – to do this. Afterwards this became known as a brasklap. This Christmas king Christian II celebrated in Linköping.

1521 and Gustav Vasa

The treasure from Linköping 1524 © G Hildebrandt
The treasure from Linköping 1524 © G Hildebrandt

However, in 1521 the Swedish noble, Gustav Vasa rebels and is elected regent, supported by Hans Brask. Next year, he banned the writings of Martin Luther in his diocese, but as the king is positive towards the new teachings, their relationship deteriorates. One of the controversies has to do with the anti-Lutheran propaganda, which Hans Brask distributes with the help on one of his own printing press, which he establish in 1523. In 1527 the conflict heats up, and during a meeting of the national council in Västerås, the bishop is imprisoned and ribbed of his castles and strongholds. Shortly after, he is allowed to travel to Gotland on visitation, but flees from there to Danzig. The rest of his life is spent in Poland and he dies in the Cistercian monastery in Landa (Lad) in Poland, where he is buried.

Sometime – probably around 1524 – during these troubled times, faithful Catholics togehter with the bishop hid a treasure of gilded silver vessels from the Cathedral in Linköping. Famously known as the Linköping treasure, it consists of one chalice, one paten, a monstrans, a statue and two reliquaries with relics from St. Bridget of Sweden and St. Eskil. It was found in a field originally belonging to the bishop. The treasure was the first of its kind characterised as national heritage. It is exhibited in the National Museum in Stockholm.

Skatten bestod av sex pjäser: en nattvardskalk, en patén, en monstrans, en statyett av S:ta Katarina av Alexandria, samt två relikvarier för armben av S:a Birgitta och S:t Eskil. Sammanlagt vägde silverpjäserna 6 kilo.

Household Book

Brask is not known for his astute political balancing, but rather his continuous endeavour to uphold the Catholic bastions. But he is also known for the administrative archive, which he left behind in Linköping and which makes it possible flesh out his political as well as the administration of the daily life in his diocese. Especially important are the calendar and the regulative, Hans Brask wrote concerning the function and jobs of the different servants and employees at Linköping bishop seat. From the chancellor down to the boy at the door, we get a sense of the different jobs, which had to be carried out in order to get the household function properly. For instance we are told the “boy at the door” is supposed to delivering to the chamberlain clean and whole lanterns, a clean basin, and clean shoes and slippers each Saturday together with as much firewood as is needed for the whole of Sunday. Also, he is responsible for fetching clean water, soap and a clean towel for the lord’s personal use. There should also be a towel available in the antechamber. Finally his job is to clean shoes, slippers, and basins as well as to be on beck and call to carry the lamp whenever this is needed. Another boy, the youngest, is supposed to handle the boots, the spurs and the riding clothes of the bishop in order for them to be dry and clean.

One of the reasons why this household book is so important is that archaeological excavations in Linköping have helped to uncover the bishop’s castle and living quarters.

He also left a registrar with his family tree, which takes note of large parts of the late medieval Swedish nobility.


Hans Brask Biskop mellan påvemakt och kungamakt. coverHans Brask. Biskop mellan påvemakt och Kungamakt.
Ed. by Christina Blomquist, ann-Charlotte Feldt, Per-Erik Lindgren and Gunnar Nordanskog.
Stiftshistoriska Säalskapet i Linköpings Stift 2013




Biskop Hans Brasks måltider. CoverBiskop Brasks måltider. Svensk mat mellan medeltid och renässans.
Ed. By Madeleine Bonow, Magnus Gröntoft, Sofia Gustafsson and Markus Lindberg.
Atlantis 2016




Hans Brask: en senmedeltida biskop och hans tankevärld - CoverHans Brask: en senmedeltida biskop och hans tankevärld
By Per Stobaeus
Artos & Norma Bokförlag 2008











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