Norway’s Saint Olaf Uncovered: Archaeologists Believe They Have Discovered the Shrine of the Lost Viking King.
Archeologists believe that in the ruins of a church in Trondheim, Norway, they discovered a shrine devoted to the Viking king Olaf Haraldsson.
The Norwegian Institute for Cultural Heritage Research (NIKU) Team of archeologists has found the church foundations where King Olaf II is thought to have been buried after he was canonized.
Olaf II Haraldson reigned in the 11th century, from 1015 until 1028 AD, and today is largely credited for spreading the Christian religion throughout Norway.
Olaf was driven into exile by the Danish King Canute and was slain in battle upon his return to Norway, just north of the city of Trondheim, where his forces fell to the enemy Danes and a rebellious group of Norwegian nobles.
Olaf was proclaimed a saint and was buried in St. Clement’s Church in Trondheim, but as his cult grew larger and larger, his body was eventually moved to the Trondheim cathedral.
Sometime after, historians believe that St. Clement’s church was destroyed, its location lost –until now.
Researchers at the Norwegian Institute for Cultural Heritage Research (NIKU) may have discovered the original foundations of St. Clement’s Church, and even believe that they have identified the lost shrine of the martyred King.
They uncovered a stone slab which they claim had been the foundation of the altar where the King’s coffin once rested.
Researchers have also found skeletons at the site, believed to be the remains of the church graveyard, but they were likely buried many years after Saint Olaf.
Medieval historical accounts attribute a number of miracles to the dead king, such as his coffin being dug up to reveal not only his well-preserved appearance but even the continuous growth of both his hair and fingernails after his death.
These marvels and the historical significance of Olaf’s reign, during which he united a fractured kingdom under Christianity, all led to his canonization in 1164, and he was eventually proclaimed the patron saint of Norway.
Today, he is immortalized on the country’s coat of arms, represented by the ax held in the lion’s arms.
Anna Petersén, the excavation’s director, said ‘This is a unique site in Norwegian history in terms of religion, culture, and politics,” Mail Online reported.
‘Much of the Norwegian national identity has been established on the cult of sainthood surrounding St Olaf, and it was here it all began.’
Three giant Viking swords stand buried in a stone in Hafrsfjord, Norway, recalling a mythic struggle for unity
By now, many of us are at least somewhat familiar with the classic story of the Lady of the Lake by Sir Thomas Malory and how she gave Excalibur to King Arthur, or the story told in Merlin’s poem by Robert de Boron about the magic sword in the stone that could only be drawn by the rightful ruler of the land.
They differ in some aspects, but both speak of the same Arthurian legend and a mighty sword that could only be swung by a man worthy to hold it in possession.
This story about a powerful weapon identified with a single hero is as old as time. Whereas in this specific legend it was Excalibur for King Arthur, ancient Greek mythology speaks of many magical swords.
Other legendary blades include Crocea Mors, the sword belonging to Julius Caesar, which was considered to hold supernatural powers, and for Attila the Hun it was the Sword of Mars. Most recently, in George R. R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire, it is the Lightbringer, the sword of Azor Ahai.
“In this dread hour, a warrior shall draw from the fire a burning sword. And that sword shall be Lightbringer, the Red Sword of Heroes, and he who clasps it shall be Azor Ahai come again, and the darkness shall flee before him.”
While all these stories tell of individuals who drew their swords out of fire or a stone to aid mankind in times when it was needed the most, a statue in Norway speaks of a time when groups and individuals put their petty differences aside and even buried them, so they could put an end to bloodshed and stand united under the same flag.
Little is known of the particular event, but what information that exists points to a great battle that took place in 872 on one of the fjords in Norway.
The Battle of Hafrsfjord, as it is known today, was the result of a long-lasting conflict between three different factions and their leaders in Western Norway, among whom was Harald Fair Hair (Harald Hårfagre), son of Halfdan the Black Gudrödarson.
“The Saga of Harald Fairhair” (Heimskringla) is a Scandinavian saga that was written two centuries after the event. According to the story, the Hordaland-Rogaland and Agder-Thelemark factions were advancing with their troops towards Hafrsfjord, they were met there by the strong force of Harald Fair Hair, who was on a mission to unite the Norwegians who up until then lived in small tribes and villages.
The Norwegian tribes led a warring life, constantly fighting with one another. According to the legend, Harold, who was in love with Gyda, the daughter of King Erik of Hordaland, had to convince her of his love and devotion by uniting the tribes and thus putting an end to all the fighting between them once and for all.
He was the son of a king who wanted to marry the daughter of a rival one, and she was the daughter of a king who despised the man who wanted her hand. So marriage was not an option if peace between the two was not reached.
Harold, prior to the battle, had taken rulership over several small kingdoms in Vestfold and continued with his conquest believing that negotiating peace from a position of strength would bring more fruition to his noble cause, and a better chance to negotiate the terms with the father of his loved one.
But as he was growing in strength and force, the other kings allied against him and planned a secretive attack. News spread from the south that Erik of Hordaland, King Sulke of Rogaland, Earl Sote, the King of Agder and brothers Hroald and Had the Hard from Thelemark had joined forces and were headed towards the mainland with a large fleet.
This was a clear indication that an imminent attack was on the way and there was no space for a peaceful resolution. As a result, Harald assembled his troops and intercepted them at Hafrsfjord, where a great battle was set in motion, in which many, including King Eirik, lost their lives.
In the midst of all the dead bodies spread around the battlefield, Harald was the last man standing and his troops fortunate to see the light of day.
Many fled to the nearby Icelandic islands, and everyone left on the land came to live united under the rulership of King Harald Fair Hair, the first King of Norway.
His mission was completed. Harald got to marry Erik’s daughter, but at a devastating cost. This story is more of a romanticized legend than of actual historical evidence, and complete peace and unity took probably hundreds of years to be achieved. However, this battle is considered the greatest contributor to the unification of Norway into one country.
Three giant Viking swords are now forever embedded in solid stone on a Nordic hill in Hafrsfjord, and stand tall against the sun as a reminder of an ancient battle that eventually unified the kingdoms of Norway and its people into one nation.
The swords were forced through the solid rock so that they can never be removed and such a battle never to occur again. They stand for peace, unity, and freedom, and the place where they are impaled is near the city of Stavanger in the Rogaland region.
The memorial itself is named “Sverd I fjell” (swords in rock) and was constructed in 1983 by sculptor Fritz Røed upon the request of King Olav V. It consists of three bronze swords, each higher than 30 feet. The highest represents the sword of King Harald Fair Hair, while the other two symbolize the opposing factions
It stands proudly as a tourist attraction, and a historical reminder for Norwegians never to draw a weapon again against fellow countrymen.
New archaeological findings show that Vikings “imported” from the Celts
Archeologists expected beer or other brewing materials to be found, but they found something more valuable.
It was supposed to be a simple, routine expansion work at Byneset Cemetery, adjacent to the medieval Steine Church in Trondheim, Norway.
As in several other European countries, Norwegian law requires archeological studies to precede such works — and in this case it paid off in spades.
Archaeologists have discovered a trove of Viking artifacts, including one which is of a foreign origin: they come from Ireland, researchers say.
Jo Sindre Pålsson Eidshaug and Øyunn Wathne Sæther, both research assistants at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology’s (NTNU) University Museum, say that what really drew their attention was a small brooch — a Celtic, gold-plated silver fitting from a book.
“This is a decorative fitting,” Eidshaug said of his discovery. “It almost looks like it’s gilded. It’s a kind of decorative fitting, I would guess.”
It might have been part of a bigger, religious ensemble, or a stand-alone book fitting. Right now, any such claims are little more than speculation. But what’s interesting is how it got there.
It’s no secret that Vikings roamed Europe’s seas, plundered the coast of England for centuries. Crossing over to Ireland, while not easy, was certainly possible for the skilled seamen. But even so, finding Celtic items in Viking sites is not common, with only a few similar sites previously discovered.
In archaeology, this is technically called an import. It doesn’t necessarily mean that it was bought or traded for, and again — taking into consideration the well-known habits of the Vikings.
“Someone very politely called this an Irish import, but that’s just a nice way of saying that someone was in Ireland and picked up an interesting item,” said museum director Reidar Andersen, who was also at the site.
This isn’t to say that the item was definitely stolen. Whether or not the Vikings’ voyages to Ireland were peaceful or not is anyone’s guess right now.
“Yes, that’s right. We know that the Vikings went out on raids. They went to Ireland and brought things back. But how peacefully it all transpired, I won’t venture to say,” he said.
The site itself holds great promise for the future. Archaeologists also came across a belt buckle, a key, and a knife blade, so they have high hopes for upcoming digs.
The church itself dates from the 1140s and used to be connected to a large, old farm estate from the time of the Vikings, which will also be studied next year.
Viking sword discovery: Hunter finds a 1,100-year-old weapon on Norwegian mountain
Researchers were able to determine that the sword dates back to 850-950 AD, and was likely owned by a Viking swordsman.
Reindeer hunters in Norway were surprised to find an amazingly well-preserved Viking sword while they were hunting in a high altitude area.
Secrets of The Ice, a Norwegian glacial archaeology organization, reports that a 1,200-year-old Viking sword was discovered by reindeer hunters in Norway.
Reindeer hunter Einar Åmbakk and 2 friends were hunting in the high mountains of Oppland County, Norway, when they stumbled across this ancient sword. The sword was wedged between two rocks on a plain filled with the small rocks that pepper the Norwegian countryside, known as scree.
Though the blade was rusted, and any organic material that was attached to it like leather straps or bone and wood adornments had rotted away years ago, it was remarkably well preserved. The extreme cold and low pressure may have prevented further rusting or degradation from occurring.
He then posted a picture of this sword on social media, which spurred researchers to further investigate the sword, as well as the site of the find. Researchers were able to determine that the sword dates back to 850-950 AD, and was likely owned by a Viking swordsman.
Researchers also returned to the scree-covered mountains with the reindeer hunters, a local metal detectorist and a local archaeologist. This team investigated the site, but were unable to find any further artifacts.
However, they were able to determine that the blade had not been covered by any permafrost or had been buried under the rocks. Rather, they realized that the sword must have been simply left on the surface of the mountain thousands of years ago.
Why the Viking was traveling in this desolate countryside, and how the sword, an incredibly valuable tool, and commodity at the time, came to be left there, we will never know, but researchers theorize that it may have been left there after a Viking got lost during a particularly horrible blizzard.
Though we’ll never know exactly what happened, this sword provides us with a glimpse into the past, capturing a moment when a sword was abandoned on a barren hill over a thousand years ago.
Archeologists believe Norway find is rare Viking ship burial
Archeologists believe they have found a rare Viking ship burial site in a region of Norway known for its Viking-era treasures, Norwegian officials said Monday.
Using ground-penetrating radar (GPR), experts found a ship-shaped anomaly near other Viking burial mounds in the Borre Park in Vestfold county, southeast of Oslo.”
The GPR data clearly show the shape of a ship, and we can see weak traces of a circular depression around the vessel.
This could point to the existence of a mound that was later removed,” Terje Gansum, leader of the department for cultural heritage management in Vestfold county, said in a statement.
He said researchers would carry out further investigations to try and assess the size of the preserved find.
There are only seven ship burials dating from the Viking Age (800-1050) in Europe, including three located in Vestfold county.
Another Viking ship burial was believed to have been found in Jellestad in southeastern Norway last year.
During the Viking era, when Norse seafarers raided and traded from their Northern European homelands across wide areas of Europe, high-ranking officials were sometimes buried in a ship on land, along with decorative goods and even oxen or horse remains, then covered with a mound of dirt.”
The discovery of a new Viking ship in Vestfold is a historic event that will attract international attention,” Norwegian Climate and Environment Minister Ola Elvestuen said.