BRIDGITTINES, an order of Augustinian canonesses founded by St Bridget of Sweden (q.v.) c.1350, and approved by Urban V. in 1370. It was a "double order," each convent having attached to it a small community of canons to act as chaplains, but under the government of the abbess. The order spread widely in Sweden and Norway, and played a remarkable part in promoting culture and literature in Scandinavia; to this is to be attributed the fact that the head house at Vastein, by Lake Vetter, was not suppressed till 1595. There were houses also in other lands, so that the total number amounted to 80. In England, the famous Bridgittine convent of Syon at Isleworth, Middlesex, was founded and royally endowed by Henry V. in 1415, and became one of the richest and most fashionable and influential nunneries in the country. It was among the few religious houses restored in Mary's reign, when nearly twenty of the old community were re-established at Syon. On Elizabeth's accession they migrated to the Low Countries, and thence, after many vicissitudes, to Rouen, and finally in 1594 to Lisbon. Here they remained, always recruiting their numbers from England, till 1861, when they returned to England. Syon House is now established at Chudleigh in Devon, the only English community that can boast an unbroken conventual existence since pre-Reformation times. Some six other Bridgittine convents exist on the Continent, but the order is now composed only of women.
See Helyot, Histoire des ordres religieux (1715), iv. c. 4; Max Heimbucher, Orden u. Kongregationen (1907), ii. § 83; Herzog-Hauck, Realencyklopädie (ed. 3), art. "Birgitta"; A. Hamilton in Dublin Review, 1888, "The Nuns of Syon."
(E. C. B.)