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Maria Oen

About me



2015 Ph.D., Art History, University of Oslo. Dissertation: The Visions of St. Birgitta: A Study of the Making and Reception of Images in the Later Middle Ages

2010 Diplôme Européen d'Études Médiévales, Fédération Internationale des Institutes d'Études Médiévales (FIDEM), Rome

2009 M. Phil., Art History, University of Oslo. Dissertation: Devotion and Interpretation: A Study of the Miraculous Image of SS. Annunziata in Florence and the Pictorial Understanding in the Early Modern Period

2009 Studies in Latin and Italian, University of Oslo/The Norwegian Institute in Rome

2006 B.A., Art History and Philosophy, University of Oslo



2019- Deputy Director, Senior lecturer in art history, The Swedish Institute of Classical Studies in Rome

2017-2019 Marie Curie Fellow at the Centre for Medieval Studies, Stockholm University and at the Dept. of Linguistics and Scandinavian Studies, University of Oslo (funded by the FRIPRO Mobility Grant Programme - Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions’ COFUND (ERC) and The Norwegian Research Council)

2016-2017 Visiting Researcher (postdoctoral) at The Warburg Institute, School of Advanced Study, University of London (funded by Sven och Dagmar Saléns Stiftelse for Research within the Humanities in Europe)

2015-2016 Senior Lecturer (art history) at Stockholm University (Dept. of Culture and Aesthetics)





Research Interests

  • Medieval and early modern visual culture
  • Author portraits of women (14th-15th c.)
  • Pilgrimage and the Holy Land in the Middle Ages
  • Medieval manuscripts and illuminations
  • Visions and visual experience
  • Art and knowledge
  • Early modern cult images in Italy
  • Medieval iconography
  • Theory and method in the study of premodern visual culture
  • Art and anthropology
  • Art and the cult of saints



The Locus of Truth: Birgitta of Sweden and the Journey to Jerusalem (Funded by The Norwegian Research Council/Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions’ COFUND at the Centre for Medieval Studies, Stockholm University and Dept. of Linguistics and Scandinavian Studies, University of Oslo, 2017-2020)

Birgitta of Sweden & Catherine of Siena: Authorship and Sanctity in the 14th Century and Beyond (Financed by Riksbankens Jubileumsfond at Dept. of Culture and Aesthetics, Stockholm University, 2017)



Books and Edited Volumes

 Sanctity and Female Authorship: Birgitta of Sweden and Catherine of Siena, eds. Maria H. Oen and Unn Falkeid (New York: Routledge, 2020) (ISBN: 9780367368555)

 A Companion to Birgitta of Sweden and Her Legacy in the Later Middle Agesed. Maria H. Oen (Leiden: Brill, 2019) (ISBN 9789004338685)


Articles and Chapters in Books

"The Locus of Truth: St Birgitta of Sweden’s Pilgrimage to Jerusalem,” in Tracing the Jerusalem Code. Volume 1. The Holy City. Christian Cultures in Medieval Scandinavia (ca. 1100-1536), eds. K. B. Aavitsland & Line M. Bonde, 245-68 (Berlin: De Grutyer, 2021), ISBN 9783110634853)

“‘Apparuit ei Christus in eodem loco…’: Physical Presence and Divine Truth in St. Birgitta of Sweden’s Revelations from the Holy Land,” in Faith and Knowledge in Late Medieval and Early Modern Scandinavia, eds. K. Kjesrud and M. Males, 73-95 (Turnhout: Brepols, 2020) (ISBN 9782503579009)

"Ambivalent Images of Authorship", in Sanctity and Female Authorship: Birgitta of Sweden and Catherine of Siena, eds. Maria H. Oen and Unn Falkeid, 113-137 (New York: Routledge, 2020) (ISBN: 9780367368555)

"Introduction: Birgitta Birgersdotter and the Liber celestis revelacionum," in A Companion to Birgitta of Sweden and Her Legacy in the Later Middle Ages, ed. Maria H. Oen, 1-24 (Leiden: Brill, 2019) (ISBN 97890043386857)

"The Iconography of Liber celestis revelacionum," in A Companion to Birgitta of Sweden and Her Legacy in the Later Middle Ages, ed. Maria H. Oen, 186-222 (Leiden: Brill, 2019) (ISBN 9789004338685)

“Iconography and Visions: St. Birgitta’s Revelation of the Nativity of Christ,” in The Locus of Meaning in Medieval Art: Iconography, Iconology and Interpreting the Visual Imagery of the Middle Ages, ed. L. Liepe, 212-237. Studies in Iconography: Themes and Variations. (Berlin: De Gruyter, 2018,  (ISBN 9781580443432)

"Franciskus och visionens ikonografi", in Mellan himmel och helvete. Bilder och berättelser från senmedeltidens Italien, eds. O. Ferm and P. Förnegård. Stockholm: Atlantis, 2015, pp. 123-151 (ISBN 9789173537209)

Sight, Body and Imagery in the Visionary Experiences of Birgitta,” in The Birgittine Experience. Papers from the Birgitta Conference in Stockholm 2011, eds. C. Gejrot, M. Åkestam, and R. Andersson. Stockholm: Kungl. Vitterhets Historie och Antikvitets Akademien, 2013, 190-208 (ISBN 9789174024173)

The Origins of a Miraculous Image: Notes on the Annunciation Fresco in SS. Annunziata in Florence,” Konsthistorisk Tidskrift / Journal of Art History 80, no. 1 (2011): 1-22 (ISSN 0023 3609)



A selection from Stockholm University publication database

  • Ambivalent Images of Authorship

    2017. Maria H. Oen.


    The paper deals with the question of Birgitta’s and Catherine’s status as authors and examines the visual representations of the two women, notably in the context of the books containing their texts. In the images of the two women found in the illuminated manuscripts, which began circulating just after their deaths in 1373 and 1380 respectively, and in the early printed copies dating to around 1500, Birgitta is generally represented with a pen in her hand, whereas Catherine is never depicted in the act of writing. This visual material emerges as a paradox when compared to the way the two women are presented in the texts. In the Revelations, Birgitta claims to be a medium and not an author, and she generally refers to herself in third person, or simply as “a person.” Catherine, by contrast, is constantly present in the first person in her letters which frequently open with “I, Catherine, write to you.” By focusing on the tension between the images of the two women and the way they are presented in their respective texts, this chapter will explore the role of the visual in shaping the notions of Birgitta and Catherine as female authors in a time when female authority was still highly controversial. The conflicting representations of their authorial role will also be connected to contemporary debates about their sanctity, where questions concerning human and divine authorship as well as ecclesiastical mediation and approval of the texts of these lay visionaries were of paramount importance. 

    Read more about Ambivalent Images of Authorship
  • Rome and the Sanctity of Saint Birgitta

    2017. Maria H. Oen.


    A year before the Jubilee of 1350, the Swedish noblewoman Birgitta Birgersdotter left her home country for Rome never to return. After having become a widow in her mid-forties, Birgitta had converted to a religious life. The past three years before setting off on her Roman pilgrimage, she had been a lay affiliate of the Cistercian monastery of Alvastra, where she had gained the support of the prior Petrus Olavi. In this paper I shall argue that the city of Rome plays a significant role, both for Birgitta and for Prior Peter, who among others would later campaign for her sanctity, in transforming her from a mulier religiosainto a mulier sancta. It was during the period of more than two decades that Birgitta’s lived in Rome that the Liber coelestis Revelacionum, which would soon represent her primary claim to sanctity,took shape. By analysing the Revelacionesand the proceedings from Birgitta’s canonization process, initiated in Italy immediately after her death in Rome in 1373, I shall demonstrate that the sacred topography of the city, its concrete buildings, relics and artworks, not only provides the contents, protagonists and the mise-en-scène of a number of Birgitta’s visions, but her physical presence at the specific Roman shrines is also employed by her supporters as an effective argument in favour of her sanctity.

    Read more about Rome and the Sanctity of Saint Birgitta
  • The Iconography of Birgitta of Sweden

    2019. Maria H. Oen.


    As the reputed author of Liber celestis revelacionum, an eight-volume literary corpus with a highly political content, Birgitta Birgersdotter stands out among the many laywomen who were venerated as saints in the later Middle Ages. In the canonization process, initiated immediately after her death in Rome in 1373, Birgitta’s assumed role as a divinely appointed prophet formed her primary claim to sainthood, and the textual work served as the principal evidence. The oldest extant images of Birgitta all derive from the first years of the canonization process when panel paintings and illuminations decorating the manuscripts containing the Liber celestiswere produced in Naples. Highly original iconographical formulas were developed for the two media respectively, most likely under the direct supervision of Birgitta’s confessors who had assisted her in the production and dissemination of her revelations. 

    This paper will explore the form and purpose of the iconography developed for the promotion of Birgitta’s sanctity. Special attention will be given to the visual strategies by which the images seeks to negotiate her role as an outspoken public figure, an author, and an active political agent in a time when women were prohibited from instructing men in public, in both speech and text. The paper will also examine how the meaning of the original iconography of Birgitta developed as it spread from one medium to another, and in various social, religious, and linguistic contexts in Europe after the visionary had been elevated to sainthood only 18 years after her death.

    Read more about The Iconography of Birgitta of Sweden
  • A Companion to Birgitta of Sweden and Her Legacy in the Later Middle Ages

    2019. Maria H. Oen.

    Book (ed)

    St Birgitta of Sweden (d. 1373) is one of the most celebrated female visionaries and authors of the Middle Ages and a central figure in the history of late-medieval religion. An aristocratic widow, Birgitta left her native country in 1349 and settled in Rome, where she established herself as an outspoken critic of the Avignon Papacy and an advocate of spiritual and ecclesiastical reform. Birgitta founded a new monastic order, and her major work, The Heavenly Book of Revelations, circulated widely in a variety of monastic, reformist, and intellectual milieus following her death. This volume offers an introduction to the saint and the reception of her work written by experts from various disciplines. In addition to acquainting the reader with the state of the scholarship, the study also presents fresh interpretations and new perspectives on Birgitta and the sources for her life and writings.

    Read more about A Companion to Birgitta of Sweden and Her Legacy in the Later Middle Ages

Show all publications by Maria Oen at Stockholm University