Från påskdop till vardagsdop: Om en obemärkt revolution

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingBook chapter


The codification of canon law in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries occurred at the same time as important changes in pastoral practice. This article deals with changes in the practice of baptism that are tied to changes in canonical regulations.

Canon law makes a fundamental distinction between solemn baptism and emergency baptism. While emergency baptisms could take place anywhere and at any time, be performed by almost anyone and with a minimum of ritual, solemn baptisms could only be performed at Easter and Pentecost, in the cathedral or in churches designated as baptismal churches by the bishop, and were primarily to be performed by the bishop. Early the question arose: should new-born babies be saved for Easter baptism, or should they be given emergency baptism?

The article shows that early medieval liturgical books – sacramentaries – contained no other baptismal ritual than the one integrated in the vigils of Easter and Pentecost. Starting (probably) in the eleventh century, a ritual gradually emerged that was independent of Easter and Pentecost and thus allowed the solemn baptism of infants to be performed at any time of the year. Concomitantly, but perhaps beginning only in the thirteenth century, the rite of baptism was removed from the Easter vigil in parish missals.

However, the custom of celebrating solemn baptisms at Easter and Pentecost was still upheld in the thirteenth century, because it was an ancient canonical custom. Bishops issued statutes that required children born within a week before Easter or Pentecost to be presented for baptism at these festivals, if it could be done without danger to them. Similarly, houses of canons required their subordinate parishes to bring children to the collegiate church to be baptised on Easter Eve. This practice has left traces even in Dalby, Skåne, where the church that formerly belonged to the Austin canons has a baptismal chapel and a large font, whereas the neighbouring parish churches, though medieval, lack medieval fonts.

Archaeology has shown that parish churches in Denmark (and presumably also in the rest of Scandinavia) before the year 1300 usually had a baptismal font placed on a podium near the middle of the nave. This arrangement suits solemn baptisms at the great festivals of Easter and Pentecost. The subsequent removal of fonts to a less prominent position closer to the entrance of the church, in the western part of the nave, indicates that a revolution has taken place. The ancient custom of solemn baptism has given way to everyday baptism.


Research areas and keywords

Subject classification (UKÄ) – MANDATORY

  • History
  • Religious Studies


  • baptismal liturgy, middle ages, Easter, baptismal fonts, Canon Law, Dalby monastery
Translated title of the contributionFrom Easter Baptism to Everyday Baptism: On an Unobserved Revolution
Original languageSwedish
Title of host publicationKyrklig rätt och kyrklig orätt - kyrkorättsliga perspektiv
Subtitle of host publicationFestskrift till professor Bertil Nilsson
EditorsMartin Berntson, Anna Minara Ciardi
Place of PublicationSkellefteå
PublisherArtos & Norma
Number of pages16
ISBN (Print)978-91-7580-792-8
Publication statusPublished - 2016
Publication categoryResearch

Publication series

NameBibliotheca theologiae practicae
PublisherArtos & Norma
ISSN (Print)0519-9859

Related research output

ANNA MINARA CIARDI (ed.) & Martin Berntson (ed.), 2016 Apr, Skellefteå: Artos & Norma. 487 p. (Bibliotheca Theologiae Practicae; vol. 97)

Research output: Book/ReportAnthology (editor)

Viktor Aldrin, 2016, Kyrklig rätt och kyrklig orätt – kyrkorättsliga perspektiv: Festskrift till professor Bertil Nilsson. Ciardi, A. M. & Berntson, M. (eds.). Skellefteå: Artos & Norma, p. 169-180 (Bibliotheca Theologiae Practicae; no. 97).

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingBook chapter

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