Page 1


Fr. Olav M端ller ss.cc.

Saint Olav King of Norway translated by Fr. Brian McNeil CRV

St. Olav Forlag maximilian Oslo 2010


Father Olav Müller was born in Trondheim 1924, where he grew up and went to school before he, during the war, had to flee the country and go to Sweden. There he received his military education in the policetroops. Just before his company was sent to Finnmark to take part in the Winter campaign, he converted to the Catholic faith. After the war he completed his studies in Norway, went to the Netherlands and entered the congregation of the Most Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary (also known under the name of the Picpuscongregation). He was ordained in 1954, and after two more years he returned to work in Norway. Father Olav Müller has worked as a chaplain and parish priest in St. Olav’s in Trondheim for 30 years.

English original: © 1993 Maximilian New revised english edition: © 2010 St. Olav forlag/Maximilian Graphic design by Peter Bjerke ISBN: 978-82-7024-237-5 Cover photo: The Saint Olav altarpiece (~1300) © Nidaros Domkirkes Restaureringsarbeider


Contents Foreword ……………………………………………………… 5 1. Olav’s Childhood……………………………………… 7 2. Olav the Viking………………………………………… 10 3. As a guest of duke Richard II in Normandy…………………………………………… 21 4. Olav Haraldsson and Charlemagne……………… 29 5. Olav Haraldsson returns to a divided Norway…………………………………… 35 6. Olav Haraldsson is accepted as king in Norway……………………………………… 42 7. Olav and the work of Christianisation………… 46 8. Canute the mighty conquers Norway…………… 76 9. The man Olav…………………………………………… 81 10. King Olav in Gardarike……………………………… 91 11. Martyrdom……………………………………………… 96 12. The Canonisation…………………………………… 101 Notes………………………………………………………… 113 Historical map……………………………………………… 117


Foreword It is not easy to describe Olav Haraldsson, the person and the saint. With few exceptions, the written sources dealing with his life are about two hundred years later than his own period. Nor can we always trust them fully. We should not be surprised, therefore, when authors who have attempted to describe Olav the man have arrived at widely differing results. For some he is a brutal psychopath – for others, a bloodless saint like an angel  – for still others, a genius as a military leader and a cap­able king who makes use of Christianity to further his political goals. Here it is a question of which eye is looking at Olav. More than historical knowledge is required, if we are to get to the bottom of Saint Olav’s personality. It is equally important that the biographer is able and willing to be on the same wavelength as King Olav’s period. The best description of Olav’s conversion and life 5


as a Christian will be given by the one who himself has taken the path of blood from pagan wildness to a life that come close to corresponding to «White Christ’s» will. The author of this book has had a relationship to Olav Digre since he was a child. When I pray my evening prayers, I always ask Saint Olav to intercede for Norway and its people. Because of the limitations of length here, I do no more than describe the King’s life, death and canonisation. Much has been written about the significance Saint Olav took on for Norwegian history in the period after his death, up to the present day. Opinions are less divergent here. But it is pointless to describe the radiant influence of the holy king, exalted over the earth, unless one knows the very earthly Olav Digre. Fr. Olav Müller SS.CC.

6


A

1. Olav’s Childhood

boy was born in Ringerike at the end of the tenth century, and was given the name Olav. His mother was called Åsta, his father Harald Grenske, but the boy was never to see his father. Harald was a local king in Vestfold, but what he liked best was to go on Viking journeys to the East. He was also unfaithful to his wife Åsta. While he was staying in Sweden, he made a proposal of marriage to Sigrid Storråde. She refused. But when he kept on insisting, she saw to it that he was burnt to death in his room. When this happened Åsta was pregnant with Olav. Harald was Harald Hårfagre’s great-grandson. Valuable qualities were found in this family, such as resolute will, the ability to govern, to gather together and organise – but there were also less valuable traits, like wildness, cruelty, delight in revenge, greed, and an unserious relationship to women. Olav Haraldsson in7


herited these qualities. His mother Åsta later married Sigurd Syr. Olav’s stepfather was a peaceful man who liked best the work of a farmer: every day he went out to the fields and meadows to see that the work was being carried out well. He was a calm and steady man, prudent, familiar with the laws. Olav grew up on Sigurd Syr’s big farm. This is how the Icelandic poet and historian Snorre (1179–1241), describes the boy: «He quickly became a fine boy. He was handsome in appearance, about medium height … He was very sturdy, had great strength, light brown hair, a broad face, light skin and a ruddy countenance. He had unusually keen eyes – they were beautiful, and so keen that one could be afraid to look him in the eye when he was angry. Olav was a fine sportsman and could do many things. He was good at shooting with the bow, and took aim well. He was a better spearcaster than most, he was dexterous and had a sure eye for all kinds of work with his hands … He was called Olav Digre.» (This Norse word can mean fat 8


or coarse-limbed; I incline to favour the latter interpretation, since he himself liked this nickname.) ÂŤHe spoke fearlessly and alertly. He was quickly an adult in all things, both in strength and in intelligence, and all his relations and acquaintances loved him. He sought honour in his sports and always wanted to be the first.Âť He did not have a very good relationship to his stepfather, Sigurd Syr. Perhaps Olav rather looked down on this farmer who was so much concerned with the earth. Sigurd, on his side, no doubt thought Olav too reckless in his speech and too brash in many things. But he kept calm about all this. Olav had a better relationship to his mother Ă…sta. They made plans for the future together. Olav wanted to be a Viking.

9


2. Olav the Viking When Olav was twelve years old, he boarded a ship of war for the first time. The soldiers gave Olav the name of king. But it was an experienced Viking named Rane who led the expedition for a long time.1 The Viking period lasted from c. 790 to c. 1050. What were the reasons for the Viking expeditions? Most people incline today to the view that they were due to a lack of cultivable land. It was mostly from west Norway that they set out on their perilous journeys, and geography indicates that the lack of earth would have been greatest here. Initially, courageous Norwegians went on trade journeys to foreign lands  – this activity later changed to pirate journeys. It was mostly big farmers and local chiefs, most of them from West Norway, who led these expeditions. They liked to live in great style at home in Norway, with luxurious banquets and sacrificial meals where 10


Notes 1 Snorre Sturlason, Olav den helliges saga, ch. 1–4. 2 More detailed information about the Vikings: VIKINGENE, J.W. Cappelens Forlag, Oslo 1975. LANDET MED DE MØRKE SKIPENE, by Frederik Paasche, Oslo 1977, pp. 27–93. NORGES HISTORIE, vol. 2 by Erik Gunnes, J. W. Cappelens Forlag, Oslo 1976, pp. 46–62. 3 More about the Normans: Kulturhistorisk leksikon for Nordisk Middelalder, vol. 12, pp. 338–342. More about the reform movement in Normandy and the Church’s influence on Olav Haraldsson: Noregs Kyrkjesoga, by Oluf Kolsrud, Oslo 1958, pp. 136–137. 4 About religious ideas in pagan times in Norway: VERDENSTREET, by Vera Henriksen, Oslo 1984. NORRØN MYTOLOGI, by Anne Holtsmark, Oslo 1970. NORGES HISTORIE, vol. 2 by Erik Gunnes, J. W. Cappelens Forlag, Oslo 1976, pp. 157–173 and 178–181. 5 The encounter between pagan religion and Christianity: NORSKE HELGENER, by Sigrid Undset, Oslo 1937, pp. 21–84. NORGE MØTER KRISTENDOMMEN, by Fridtjof Birkeli, Oslo 1979. NORGES HISTORIE, vol. 2 by Erik Gunnes, J. W. Cappelens Forlag, Oslo 1976, pp. 223–229.

113


6 OLAV DEN HELLIGES SAGA, by Snorre Sturlason, chs. 47 and 122. 7 More about Charlemagne: DEN KATOLSKE KIRKE GJENNOM ÅRHUNDRENE, by W. L. Helwig, Bergen, pp. 57–61 (published in Norwegian by the Franciskussentrum in Bergen). 8 More on the decline in the Church after Charlemagne, and about the Cluniac reform: DEN KATOLSKE KIRKE GJENNOM ÅRHUNDRENE, pp. 61–72 9 More about the nature and the decline of the clan society: FRA ÆTTESAMFUNN TIL STATSSAMFUNN by Arne Odd Johnsen, Oslo 1948. NORGES HISTORIE, vol. 2 by Erik Gunnes, pp. 13–15,173–178,253. 10 NORSKE HELGENER, by Sigrid Undset, p. 42. 11 NORGE MØTER KRISTENDOMMEN, by Fridtjof Birkeli, pp. 60–62 12 A lecture held by Grethe Authen Blom, printed in: OLAV KONGE OG HELGEN, MYTE OG SYMBOL, St. Olav Forlag 1981, pp. 63–83. 13 OLAV DEN HELLIGES SAGA, ch. 58 14 Ibid., ch. 121 15 GULATINGSLOVI, by Det Norske Samlaget, Oslo 1969, pp. 282–284. 16 OLAV DEN HELLIGES SAGA, ch. 181. 17 Ibid.

114


18 Ibid. ch. 118. 19 HEDENSKAP OG KRISTENDOM, by Fredrik Paasche, Oslo 1948, pp. 310–315. 20 PASSIO OLAVI, Translated by Eiliv Skard, Oslo 1970 21 OLAV DEN HELLIGES SAGA, ch. 164. 22 Ibid., ch. 187. 23 Ibid., ch. 202. 24 DIE HEILIGEN HEUTE EHREN, by Wolfgang Beinert, Verlag Herder, Freiburg im Breisgau 1983, pp. 64–65. 25 DIE HEILIGE KÖNIGE BEI DEN ANGELSACHSEN UND DEN SKANDINAVISCHEN VÖLKERN, by Erich Hoffman, Karl Wachholtz, Verlag Neumünster, pp. 23–46.

To all who are interested in reading more about Saint Olav, I can recommend the books whose titles are written in capital letters above. Those who wish to read about Saint Olav’s influence on Norwegian history and about the pilgrimages to Nidaros and Stiklestad can read the following books: A. OLAVS DYRKING I NIDAROS OG NORD-EUROPA, by Adreas Seierstad Nidaros, 1930. B. HELLIG OLAV, by Vera Henriksen, Oslo 1985, pp. 211–306.

115


C. OLAV KONGE OG HELGEN, MYTE OG SYMBOL, St. Olav Forlag 1981 pp. 85–103, 155–173. D. PILEGRIMSVEIENE, by Olav Hummelvold, Røros 1980. E. I PILEGRIMENES FOTSPOR TIL NIDAROS, by Eivind Luthen, J. W. Cappelens Forlag, Oslo 1992. F. OLAV DEN HELLIGE by Lars Roar Langslet, Gyldendal Norsk Forlag, Oslo 1995.

116


Historical map Norway during the Viking period, c. 790–c. 1050: (approximate population figure: 120.000)

GA HÅ

LO

Tjøtta

LA

ND

Bjarkøy

Verdal

TRØNDELAG (Trondheimen)

Stad

Stiklestad Nidaros (Øreting) len

a randsd

Gudb

Hundorp OPPLANDENE Gula Stange Valdres VESTØSTLANDET LANDET Ringerike Moster Oslo VIKEN Avaldsnes Vestfold Kvitsøy AGDER Båhuslen (Ranrike) Nesjar Selja

Sunnmøre

117

Sul


Saint Olav - King of Norway  

P. Olavs biografi på engelsk

Read more
Read more
Similar to
Popular now
Just for you