Skip to content
Catholic Online Logo

Archbishop of Lund, Skåne, Sweden ; b. about 1100; d. at Clairvaux, 6 (7?) Sept., 1181; one of the most capable and prominent princes of the Church in Scandinavia. A man of profound piety, he was always zealous for the welfare of the church, and was a courageous and unselfish defender of the rights of the hierarchy in its struggle against the civil power and clerical usurpers. His father Christian was descended from an illustrious dynastic family of Jutland and was related to several royal families. When twelve years of age the young Eskil was received into the renowned cathedral school at Hildesheim. Here, during a dangerous illness, he was honoured by a vision of the Mother of God, who, chiding him with his frivolous conduct, saved him from imminent perdition and restored his health, demanding five measures of different varieties of corn as a thank-offering. This vision was interpreted to mean that Eskil would attain high ecclesiastical dignity and establish five confraternities. In 1131, his uncle, Asser (Asger), the first Archbishop of Lund, nominated him provost of the cathedral. In 1134 he was consecrated Bishop of Roskilde, and after Asser's death (1137) succeeded him as archbishop. He successfully defended the metropolitan rights of his see in spite of the protestations of the archbishops of Bremen. He received the pallium from Innocent II through the papal legate, Cardinal Theodignus, who, with many Scandinavian bishops, was present at the provincial Synod of Lund (1139). Eskil completed the new cathedral (Romanesque), which he consecrated in 1145. On this occasion he increased the membership and the endowments of the cathedral chapter, and improved the condition of the cathedral school.

On various occasions Eskil was involved in the internal political disputes of rival kings, even to the extent of being temporarily held captive in his own cathedral, for which he was, however, later indemnified by various land-grants. During the Crusades, Eskil, animated by the example of St. Bernard, also preached a crusade against the pagan Wends, which, unfortunately, proved unsuccessful. He, nevertheless, continued his campaign with youthful ardour, even in his old age, till, after the conquest of Rügen, the Wends accepted Christianity. In 1152 Cardinal Nicholas Breakspear, as papal legate, was sent to Scandinavia to settle ecclesiastical affairs. Norway was constituted a separate ecclesiastical province with its metropolitan see at Trondhjem (Nidaros). Eskil remained Archbishop of Lund. He was also nominated Primate of Sweden and papal legate for the North. By a proper selection of persons for the higher ecclesiastical offices he effected an immense improvement in the standard of religious life. In 1161 he drew up a code of canon law for Skåne, which, ten years later, was introduced into Seeland. The monastic orders are especially indebted to Eskil. As Bishop of Roskilde he called the Benedictines to Næstved; and the monastery of the Regular Augustinians at Eskilsö near Roskilde most probably traces its origin to him. Later he established the Premonstratensian monastery in Tommerup, Skåne; the Knights of St. John also settled in Lund during his time. There was also, in Seeland, an establishment of Carthusian monks, but only for a short time. The Cistercian monks were especial favourites of Eskil, who founded their first monastery in 1144 at Herivadum near Helsingborg, which was soon followed by one at Esrom in Nordseeland (1154). From both of these various branches were established. Eskil corresponded with St. Bernard, whom he admired and revered. With a view to being admitted to the Cistercian Order he visited St. Bernard at Clairvaux in 1152. Bernard refused him admission, pointing out that his services as bishop would be more beneficial to the Church at large.

Hearing of Bernard's death (1153), Eskil made a pilgrimage to the saint's grave and thence to Rome, where all his archiepiscopal privileges were ratified by Pope Adrian IV (Breakspear). Returning he was imprisoned at Thionville (at the instigation of the Archbishop of Bremen ?). In a dignified letter to the kings and the bishops of Denmark Eskil expressed his willingness rather to suffer innocently in defence of the Church's prerogatives than to be ransomed. Having obtained his liberty in 1158, Eskil returned home, where he found King Waldemar sole sovereign. When the latter took the part of Victor, the antipope, Eskil, faithful to Alexander III, took refuge in foreign parts. Excepting a pilgrimage to Jerusalem, he lived in France (Clairvaux), in close proximity to the pope. In 1164 he consecrated Stephen of Alvastra, a Cistercian monk, first Archbishop of Upsala. After Waldemar's reconciliation with Alexander III, Eskil returned home (1168). Subsequent to the solemn translation of the relics of the canonized (1169) martyr-duke, Knud Lavard (d. 1131), Waldemar's father, Eskil crowned the king's seven-year-old son at Ringsted, 1170. After another sojourn at Clairvaux (1174-76), the venerable archbishop received permission from the pope to resign and to nominate a successor. In the spring of 1177, in the presence of the king, numerous prelates, and a great concourse of people assembled in the cathedral of Lund, Eskil, having read the papal decree, declared that he resigned on his own initiative, laid the official insignia on the altar, and, all consenting, designated Bishop Absalon of Roskilde as his successor. He then retired to Clairvaux, spending his last days as a simple monk. The Cistercians honour him as venerable. The question whether Eskil was married and had a daughter is a subject of controversy. Although the celibacy of the clergy did not generally obtain during his time, we may, nevertheless, infer from his strictly religious principles that Eskil did not ignore the provisions of canon law by marrying after his admission to Sacred orders.


More Encyclopedia

The Catholic Encyclopedia is the most comprehensive resource on Catholic teaching, history, and information ever gathered in all of human history. This easy-to-search online version was originally printed in fifteen hardcopy volumes.

Catholic Encyclopedia

Designed to present its readers with the full body of Catholic teaching, the Encyclopedia contains not only precise statements of what the Church has defined, but also an impartial record of different views of acknowledged authority on all disputed questions, national, political or factional. In the determination of the truth the most recent and acknowledged scientific methods are employed, and the results of the latest research in theology, philosophy, history, apologetics, archaeology, and other sciences are given careful consideration.

No one who is interested in human history, past and present, can ignore the Catholic Church, either as an institution which has been the central figure in the civilized world for nearly two thousand years, decisively affecting its destinies, religious, literary, scientific, social and political, or as an existing power whose influence and activity extend to every part of the globe. In the past century the Church has grown both extensively and intensively among English-speaking peoples. Their living interests demand that they should have the means of informing themselves about this vast institution, which, whether they are Catholics or not, affects their fortunes and their destiny.

Copyright © Catholic Encyclopedia. Robert Appleton Company New York, NY. Volume 1: 1907; Volume 2: 1907; Volume 3: 1908; Volume 4: 1908; Volume 5: 1909; Volume 6: 1909; Volume 7: 1910; Volume 8: 1910; Volume 9: 1910; Volume 10: 1911; Volume 11: - 1911; Volume 12: - 1911; Volume 13: - 1912; Volume 14: 1912; Volume 15: 1912

Catholic Online Catholic Encyclopedia Digital version Compiled and Copyright © Catholic Online

Newsletters

Newsletter Sign Up icon

Stay up to date with the latest news, information, and special offers

Daily Readings

Reading 1, Revelation 18:1-2, 21-23; 19:1-3, 9
1 After this, I saw another angel come down from ... Read More

Psalm, Psalms 100:2, 3, 4, 5
2 serve Yahweh with gladness, come into his presence ... Read More

Gospel, Luke 21:20-28
20 'When you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then ... Read More

Saint of the Day

Saint of the Day for November 27th, 2014 Image

St. James Intercisus
November 27: James was a favorite of King Yezdigerd I of Persia and a ... Read More

Inform, Inspire & Ignite Logo

Find Catholic Online on Facebook and get updates right in your live feed.

Become a fan of Catholic Online on Facebook


Follow Catholic Online on Twitter and get News and Product updates.

Follow us on Twitter