Sunday, August 28, 2016

Nidaros Cathedral. Facades of Saint Olaf's.

 Nidaros Cathedral is disquieting, an odd disappointment,
Until you find a good guide inside to explain the history that the brochures dance around.

Nidaros:  Old name for Trondheim

Something is wrong here, if someone expects to experience real Gothic. This fancy front at Saint Olaf's Cathedral at Trondheim is just plain flat. Its statuary in the neatly lined niches look botoxed. Where is the soaring inspiration, artistry lifting the soul to contemplate heaven, majesty and not just mass, etc. See http://www.princeton.edu/~achaney/tmve/wiki100k/docs/Gothic_architecture.html/ 

So many of us want to see more of roots like that. Compare real Gothic masterpieces, like reconstructions of Cathedrals at Rouen, Notre Dame, Rheims, not just modern renovations. Do a search for Rouen facade for example.  Absorb the energy. Can you then believe in this flat-footed non-imitation? If there is inconsistency of structure, to what era does a building belong? Where modern sculptors were commissioned, and the work not even intended as copies of Gothic, for example, should that not be front and center in educating visitors.
  • Norway's own Gustav Vigeland 1869-1943, for example, contributed greatly, see http://www.vigeland.museum.no/en/collection/nidaros/  Which of the statues noted here are his?  Any?  Vigeland was a genius -- Oslo houses a park of his works. But his works tending to dominate a Cathedral and then the Cathedral touting itself as old Gothic or Romanesque is a disconnect. Tout it as a fine Cathedral with medieval elements, and all would be well.

 Facade, Nidaros Cathedral, Trondheim, Norway, Not medieval. Work began on this in 1818.

Inconsistency of structure. Investigate the issue here.  Is this really the largest, even second largest, medieval cathedral in Scandinavia? Perhaps.
  • The figure in red at the little open door (does that gray do-nothing main door even open?) will steer you to buy your ticket, as required, at the booth at stage right. At least that financial outlay motivates the tourist finally, and under protest, to join in a guided tour. Get money's worth after a bad beginning.
  •  Mix and match by following this guided group and another, until you find one that is giving more than ABC in historical architecture. 
  • Then find that original impressions were right: This building,, through disasters and changes, has become an imagined different construction, with a facade that never was.
Inconsistency of structure.

1.  The "Gothic" facade is not authentic anything. It was created out of no facade at all in 1818.

Nidaros Cathedral is the final resting place of any remaining remains of Saint Olaf, killed in battle in 1030 at Stiklestad, in an unsuccessful attempt to regain his throne from Danish King Knut. Olaf's body ultimately was brought here, and he was canonized in 1031, based on alleged miracles near his body, but certainly not for leading a life of word and example. His efforts to Christianize Norway were brutal and politically motivated. See Journal of the History Students at San Francisco State University 2008 vol XVII, article by Rachael Kerrigan, Olaf Haraldsson’s Conversion of Norway and The Presence of Norman Power in Northern Europe at  http://userwww.sfsu.edu/epf/journal_archive/volume_XVII,_2008/kerrigan_r.pdf/ Vet it.  And give credit for research on topics that mainstream researchers may shunt aside.

A commemorative church was built beginning 1070, where the current transept is. Look behind the facade flat point to see a short steeple behind. There. Pilgrims were already flocking.

Yet, the exact whereabouts of the body after 1329 or so then was lost beneath the stones with years of disasters and destruction and neglect and bad rebuilding.  Even the silver casket housing the remains had been melted down and was found in England. Think centuries of fires, collapses, Black Death disruptions to construction, and inauthentic substitutions passing for the real. Where there remains no evidence of the original Romanesque or Gothic elements in facades, at least acknowledge that.

With the roster of disasters, there was no facade left at all by 1818.  See The Stones of Nidaros, 1997, at pp. 68 ff. doctoral thesis by Per Storemyr, Dept. of Architectural History, Norwegian Univ. Science and Technology, Trondheim. Download that site for photos and text. Find that the entire main entry facade is fake in the sense of not being what it is touted to be -- not medieval; and not even original. The 19th century architects copied English Cathedrals. The Norse did rule parts of the British Isles, but what would medieval Norwegians have put here? This looks like a flattened model. Statues were added, not because they recreated the Gothic or Romanesque, but as a result of an art contest in 1908 or so. And they look it, modern, that is.  Gustav Vigeland, great 20th Century sculptor, provided many. And Edwardian and sentimental they are.

This pancaked facade, see Stones of Nidaros, houses rows of statues and theme design is a result of 20th Century architectural competitions 1908 and 1928, see p. 100.  They were based on English cathedrals, Wells Cathedral and Wells Cathedral -- not Scandinavian at all. Only 5 of the upper levels of statues are copies of medieval statues -- all the rest look oddly new.
  • In summary, the original structures began to fail in the early 1300's, when The Black Death decimated populations and builders, there were fires, and political and religious conflict. Then came reconstructions, deconstructions, destructions, all as laid out (worth the download for text and photos) at the Stones of Nidaros site.  More disasters, not necessarily theological but in terms of effect on the building:  Reformation and following, see FN 1.
This building, then, is not the largest medieval structure in Scandinavia. See the often-repeated claim at, e.g., http://www.sacred-destinations.com/norway/trondheim-nidaros-cathedral.  Nidaros is probably the northernmost cathedral, even the largest northernmost cathedral, but it is not the largest "medieval."   The peculiar forced symmetry gives it away. As a saving grace, there are some excellent guides inside to counter the platitudes of the tourist information brochures online and in the shop.

2.  Who are these facade figures.  Are they Gothic, or contemporary figures to the Christianization of Scandinavia -- not Gothic at all. Does that matter? Not if that information is openly provided at the outset at the site, but we found no clue until we pursued a really good guide inside, who was willing to respond in detail with questions.

These robed ones won their places on the facade as a result of a 1908 art contest.  See the Stones of Nidaros. Was Gustav Vigeland part of those contests?  Or were his commissions separate.  Not clear.

There are other disjoint elements. Many are anachronistic, in that they reside on a Gothic facade although many were born after that era, or achieved status not as Biblical or Gospel characters, but in Christianizing northern Europe and Scandinavia, many contemporaries of the man sainted under these stones, Olaf himself. Set aside the lack of spark of life, no aging -- no chips, no weathering, even the Reformation could have resulted (if these were authentic) in a bashing of saints' faces.  If they do not know what was there before that photo in 1818, why not keep it as it was in 1818. See Stones of Nidaros.

Anachronisms at Nidaros: Suppose that, at Rheims, or Rouen, somebody snuck a statue of Joan into the real Gothic facades there. Or even Saint Francis.

2.1  Saint Sigfrid of Sweden on the Nidaros facade

Saint Sigfrid was a Benedictine monk, made the patron saint of Sweden, second only to Ansgar, see http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/basis/anskar.asp, as an Apostle to the North. He began his conversions in about 830, the effort failed, and his nephews who worked with him and in his absence (the priest Unaman, the deacon Sunaman, and Wiaman, the subdeacon), were ultimately killed by "idolatrous rebels" and their heads boxed and cast into a pond; and the bodies buried elsewhere.  The heads were retrieved, venerated, and the perpetrators caught. The king would have killed the guilty parties, but Sigfrid pled for their lives and a fine to be imposed instead.  Early anti-capital punishment. See http://www.bartleby.com/210/2/152.html  The place of the church, shown at Bartleby as Wexiow, is not a misspelling of Wexford or some such, but refers instead to an early spelling of Vaxjo --pronounced something like Wa-(gutteral-epiglottal rattle) ch-augh. Not Vax Joe. You will get nowhere with that.


2.2.   Pilgrim on the Nidaros facade, but one of mixed messages.  Anachronistic hat?

The wardrobe on this Pilgrim is unsettling. The walking stick is fine, but the hat is worth another look. Why would a northern pilgrim need a broad-brimmed sunshade hat?  Or perhaps they did.  In mainstream Europe, pilgrimage routes often headed to the burial place of Saint James at Santiago de Compostela, Spain. Those pilgrims were known for their broad-brimmed sunshade hats, and carrying a scallop shell.  Did or would styles cross so many miles and bodies of water so that Norse pilgrims looked like the mainland Europeans? Or is this an anachronism, element of one era plunked into another where it does not really belong.

The faithful also included persons unable to go on crusade, or who were directed to go to Saint Olaf's as penance. See, e.g., http://en.trondelag.com/the-pilgrims-route-to-trondheim-and-nidaros-cathedral/


2.3  Adam and Eve, in full seduction, should I or shouldn't I, oh, dear, I am so undecided, I'll just let her go ahead, she's the thinking one anyway, and see how it turns out when I can deny, deny, deny, yes, that's the ticket....


 This Adam and Eve have just stepped out of an ad for a health club, and a teensy bit erotic, ja? Aryan, ja?

2.4  Central doorway pointed arch, pointy like a V, faking a last judgment.


This kind of V over an entry is often affixed to ranch-style and other flat-fronted ordinary houses seeking a more substantial appearance, also good as a protection against weather. 

2.5  A king carrying his head: Is this Erik IX of Sweden? This one is wearing a mitre, however, not a mere crown. Vincent, Bishop of Skara? Peter, Bishop of Westeras? Many have their heads tucked underneath their arms. Those, however, are Reformation era Sweden.  Why on a Gothic facade? These references spoil the historic connection, now found to be zip.



2.6  Nidaros facade, figure carrying encircled cross, what is on his head? Templar reference? Or Celtic?


Some figures are elusive.  And as plastic, silly-putty looking, as the rest.  Nidaros, steer your tourists to the side door, the transept, and pull a large curtain over this badly imagined facade, to be shown annually on a date to be determined.

3.  Role of authenticity in landmarks. Does any gap between fact and differing presentation matter? In politics, religion, or any human relationships?  Or is it rule of tough for the tourist or other purchaser of information who may not know what is really being sold. Tourists ooh and ah at this facade. But it is not what they are sold.

So, yes. Authenticity matters, and if it is not available, say so. This tourist would prefer overt acknowledgement in the brochures and commonly accessible sites that there are vast reaches of this structure that are not medieval, not original, and even made up.  And tell us some truth about Olaf.  The conversion facts do not appear to be disputed, just inconvenient for sainthood status.

Why is Olaf II a saint?  Olaf II was a political being, killed in battle not at Trondheim, but at nearby Stiklestad trying to regain his throne against King Canute of Denmark in 1030, body secretly brought here by circuitous route. He was canonized fast under the rationale of his efforts to Christianize Norway, although his methods were decidedly brutal during his first reign -- those who refused to convert were driven from the land, or maimed by having hands or feet cut off, or eyes gouged, or hanged or decapitated.  See p.4 at  http://userwww.sfsu.edu/epf/journal_archive/volume_XVII,_2008/kerrigan_r.pdf   That kind of force is hardly saintly.  He was unsuccessful in his conversion efforts in his lifetime; and construction here began in 1070. Sainthood not by what is done in life, but the claim of miracles by the body after. Some of those are alleged at http://www.orthodox.net/western-saints/olaf-martyr-king-of-norway.html

........................................................................................
FN 1

2.  Roster of Disasters, 1537 ff  The criteria is not theological; but the effect on the building site.  The references here are to the Stones of Nidaros site

 In 1537 came the Reformation, and the diminution of the now-heavily damaged, neglected site, to a mere parish church.

In 1633, enter the Baroque influences, with new money from an expanded congregational base in Trondheim. Up went a spire of some 69 meters -- the current one (the original collapsed, another disaster, onto the north transept,  facade wing) is only 49 meters, never rebuilt.

In 1708-1719 -- More fires.  And the thousand people buried under the floors began to stink and cause unhealthy conditions, see p. 72.  (The old graves were dug out and tidied 1870's).

1818 --  There was no facade at all by this year, when the church was designated the coronation church for Norway now in a loose connection with Sweden (until 1905) but free of Denmark.. See p. 90. Then restoration squabbles delayed progress, leading to a last big effort in 1869.  From 1869-1969, big projects and without architectural evidence to base it on, so one Architect Schirmer used his on imagination. See p. 92. So he engaged in demolition and rebuilding.  He was sacked, and a new architect hired, with the fortuitous name of Christian Christie.





Sunday, December 13, 2015

Surname Widing with Norwegian Roots


From someone of Norwegian ancestsry whose surname is spelled as ours, Widing, and we believed our name to be completely Swedish.

In my line of Widing's the last name was once spelt both Hveding and Hviding.  They were from the Nordland region of Norway, before that roots of the family were all over Scandinavia and mixed with Royalty through out Europe.  Anyway back to the Nordland region to chase down the idea of this history...

In Nordland there was a group of families that seemed set from the rest.  "There exists no fixed method for defining a Nordland family. Some basic factors are that they were socially established since the centuries before 1800, that they lived on the countryside, where they had typical burgher culture and professions, that they married each other, that they bore permanent family names, something that very few people had (ordinary people used patronyms), and that they often had roots outside Norway, mostly in Denmark and the Duchies."  And also, "Nordland families are often associated with the region's several trade seats. One is Lauvøya, which has been possessed by, among others, the Jentoft family and the Hveding family."  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nordland_families  

Now it's interesting to note, these people are told to be traced back to the Benkestock noble family. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Benkestok_(noble_family)  Now the part that made my ears perk up is that the origin of the family is similar to your Widing tale. "The origin of the family's name, allegedly meaning ‘tree-trunk seat’, has not been established. According to a myth, the family's founding father saved the King of Norway from Swedish soldiers by hiding him in a wooden bench, wherefore he was rewarded with noble status, name, and arms."

Now lets reach back a bit further and what do we find. The Hvide clan which presumably is where this all started.  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hvide    I guess our people were "protectees of the non-black god Odin."   
 http://swedenroadways.blogspot.com/2015/12/surname-widing-with-nordland-roots.html

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Oslo's Child Friendly Airport, Gardermoen

And the flight view from the aircraft home:


Our sites post photographs and research from arrival to departure, but chronologically for the trip -- not for the viewer.  Backwards is good.   Our earliest posts are the last shown.

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Norway's Unbroken. Lauritz Sand. Grini, World War II.


1.  Prominent prisoner, Grini.  Lauritz Sand, 1879-1956, was a founder of the Norwegian Intelligence Organization known as XU.  He was held and tortured here at Grini Camp.  Grini was a Nazi labor camp, detention camp, transition pen for captured resistance fighters, political prisoners, Jews, others destined for other extermination and other camps elsewhere, usually on "mainland" Europe, Germany, Poland, etc. In general terms, Grini was a concentration camp with brutal conditions, but its type was classified by the Nazis not as KZ-Lager, but as Haftingslager or Detention Camp.

Sand, held at Grini, became known as the most tortured man in Noway, and symbolized the resistance.  His memorial states simply, Nie, or No.  And he did survive. See http://www.wwiinorge.com/notes/grini/.

Lauritz Sand, most tortured man, Grini Concentration Camp, Norway.  Inscription:  NEI.


Lauritz Sand memorial, Nazi torture survivor, most tortured man, Grini Camp, Norway

Grini processed some 19,750 prisoners, men and women. It has been ignored too long. See sample listing of prisoners at http://www.fold3.com/page/286061947_grini_concentration_camp/

2.  Current Grini memorials

The area has moved on, repurposed; and only a few Grini buildings, memorials remain where businesses now occupy an office park. Still, stop your car on the road headed to Grini, and follow the wooded paths to see more.

Grini execution site, off-road location, Norway 

Grini woods road path marker, to execution memorial, Norway


This path one led to a spot where some 7 inmates were executed, and later memorialized.




Memorial, like standing stone, Grini execution site, NO

On one side is a pattern, chevron-like. Are those six chevrons, for the six killed?










Plaque says something like:  

Dette minnesmerke over seks Norske frihetskjempere som ble henrettet her av tyskerne 21, Juli 1944, er reist for innsamlede midler.  Minneskerket er laget av billedhuggeren nic.schioll og ble avduket 11 oktober 1952 av H.K.H. Kronsprins Olav. Minnesmerket ble samtidig overlevert baerum kommune.  

Now to the translator:


Inscription:  Patch together something like, here from Bing,
This remembrance of six Norwegian freedom fighters who were executed here by the Germans 21, July 1944, is raised for funds raised. Minneskerket is made by the sculptor Nic. Schioll and was unveiled on 11 October 1952 by H.K.H., Olav Kronsprins. (Crown Prince Olav?) The Memorial was at the same time handed Baerum municipality, Norway.

3.   Memorials, Grini Detention Camp, main area

The names of the executed:  Ruth Andersen born 1907, Sigrid Hammerg, born 1893, Helene Johannessen born 1924, Helse Larsen born 1901, Jacob Palkin (?) born 1892, Arne Stolan born 1909.  In addition, were these additional persons executed as well? Age Kennensbad (?) born 1921 and Kjell Segelenev____? born 1925.  Hard to read. 
















Friday, January 2, 2015

Oslo: Akershus. Doors, Crests, Resistance Museum, View of Olympic Ski Jump

Akershus Fortress; Akershus Castle; Oslo on the Fjord.
.
1.  Akershus architecture.  A quick look never suffices for doorways.  Get closer to figure out the symbols, history.  Akershus has stood in some form for 700 years, its earliest written reference, I understand.  Surely at this strategic point, a settlement or defense spot would have bloomed earlier.

1.1  At Akershus, this peaked small bricked A-frame shape shows earliest functions and size for a fortress equipage, later eclipsed by a larger stone building surrounding and over.  Munitions?  Offices?  

1.2  The top door-window at this early structure is heavily armored, with whose coats of arms?   


The top coat of arms has the date 1657, a crown, are those swan heads? A Z and a 5 perhaps, and not really a cross, but a something.  Frederick III was king of Norway and Denmark in 1657. He declared war on Sweden in that year, see http://www.historyofwar.org/articles/wars_swedish_danish1657.html/  That does not help with the rest of the crest, however. Z and 5

1.3  The faces sculpted in relief on left and right of that same high door-window above the main door.  Those look like warriors, and Norse NORSE NORSE.  The castle appears in written history in the 1300's with King Haakon V Magnusson. See http://www.slottsvenn.no/english/akershus-castle-and-fortress  Is that the V or 5?  

1.4  The center crest, however, looks more abstract.  Research ongoing.


There had been a great fire after a lightning strike in 1527, and rebuilding could have expanded this spot, perhaps.

2.  At this other little room area, different, the door was open.

Akershus Fortress, Oslo. Open doors.

 Go inside.


Nothing.

3.  More modern uses.  Akershus in WWII.  Akershus was used by the Nazis in WWII as a holding prison for those sentenced to death, and for the executions.

The Resistance Museum at Akershus demomstrates a national religious effort to oppose the Nazis, and 800 of 850 clergy and bishops resigned in 1942 after the Nazis occupied Nidaros Cathedral at Trondheim for its own purposes.  The BBC from Radio London, enabled the King and Government in exile in England to reach the Norwegians, and slip coded messages to the Resistance. The Swedes, remained "neutral" and continued to supply the Nazis, and some argue in their support that they were in a different position, so close to the German border and aware that German bombing would devastate them.  Still, profits are profits, is that so?  Complex. 

See the maps:  radio BBC also passed through Stockholm, apparently, with relays to Norway. 




4.  Peacetime.  Oslo hosted the Olympics in 1952, and the ski jump is still working and visible just outside the downtown area.


  • An aside:  Best children's book from my recollection WWII:  Snow Treasure, children sledding past the Germans lying on gold bullion to get the gold to the coast and out. Find it still at http://www.scholastic.com/teachers/book/snow-treasure#cart/cleanup.  Next best:  Kwik and Kwak, two ducks in the Netherlands when the Germans invade, escape on a ship to New York, and on the way, save they day in spotting bad scowling green ducks on their German submarine.  See it still, at http://zwelbast.blogspot.com/.


Olympic Ski Jump 1952, Oslo

Norway had considered competing to host the 2022 Olympics, but will not do so this time.

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Oslo and strong women. Akershus fortress, Radhussplassen. Prominent sculptures, frieze scenes

Oslo offers many opportunities for admiring mighty and productive women.  

1.  At Akershus Fortress, find the National Memorial for the Victims of World War II, featuring a mini-man, a very large woman. Gunnar Jansson is the sculptor. 
.
. Akershus Fortress, National Memorial for Victims of World War II.  Sculptor:  Gunnar Jansson

2. At Radhussplassen, the park in front of City Hall, and at a section of the Oslo waterfront, find women's work extolled -- at last.  The great hall in City Hall is where the Nobel Peace Prize gets awarded.  Traffic is routed well in advance to tunnels beneath the new City Hall, or Town Hall, area, as it is also called.  The view of the marina, at the bay of Oslo fjord, is uninterrupted.


3.  The frieze around Town Hall also has substantial areas focused on women's work, women's roles, relationships. The overall theme is trades, Norwegian way of life, and without specifically Christian tie-ins.  This is not surprising, given a mild resurgence of interest in Asatru, the pre-Christian belief system of the people already in Scandinavia before lower Europe slid and beat its way in.  See overfiew of Asatru at  http://www.gladsheim.org/whatis.html/  Norway has abolished its earlier state-sponsored religion, Christianity, see history and timeline at http://www.redicecreations.com/article.php?id=20074/


.

.  Frieze, City Hall, Oslo:  Women with children

The park is not only peopled by women, of course.

4.  And the men Find men in trades well represented, here in a line at the City Hall entrance. Some in shape, some not, like life. Their depictions are not representative of a larger role in life's cycles, just earning a living.

This was election day, with dignitaries' cavalcades stopping the little traffic there was (remember the tunnels below).  I was invited to vote, ushered in with great courtesy to what I thought was an interior gallery  -- all to say that appearances do give an unfair advantage in travel.  The ability to blend in opens doors even unsought.  Yes. An unfair advantage.


5.  City Hall took its toll on humans. Pipervika lost.

Before the big construction project, this area of Oslo was known as Pipervika, an area for common people, housing, a slum.  So what is this fine piper?


  • On this base of the piper statue, all is in Norwegian.


  • Best effort at reproducing the Norwegian, as an ignorant amateur:
I mange hundre ar la den fatrige forstaden Piperviken nedenfor skrenten her. Pa dette stedet gikh en bratt sti upp til Piperviksporten, den emesta adkomsten vestfra til byen inmenfor voliene.

Har Christian IV besoktor Akershus, kadde han med seg egne musikanser fra Kobenhavn . De unge musikantens, med sine flotte og fargerike uniformes, gjorde seg bemarket blant Pipervikens fatuge befolkning.
  • Mash up several translations and get:
 For hundreds of years the fatrige suburb of Piperviken lay below the bluff here. At this place gikh a steep path wove up to the Piperviksporten, the emesta entry from the West to the town of inmenfor voliene.
Have Christian IV besoktor Akershus, brought with him his own musikanser from Kobenhavn. The young musicians, with their beautiful and colorful uniformes, made his bemarket Pipervikens fatuge among the  population.

6.  Eating.  Avoid mass-produced, too technological places. 

Vapiano is a big, industrial-size modern pasta place where you are given a computer card, aim to the lineuyp of cooks each with his or her own cooking supplies and wokkies, and heat-not water source.  You tell the cook what you want from the list of ingredients and types of pasta, the cook is supposed to do it while you watch, but we lost.  Our dear cook hadn't a clue, and the one next had to keep dashing over to fix.  We ended up with glue.  Get an experienced cook, and you might be ok.


 http://www.dark-tourism.com/index.php/italy/15-countries/individual-chapters/821-norwegian-resistance-museum-oslo

Monday, December 29, 2014

Oslo's Patron Saint, Saint Hallvard. A dubious saint.

Saint Hallvard.
Workings in mysterious ways.
Role of saint-making in religious expansion.


Meet St. Hallvard, patron saint of Oslo, patron for "innocents."  Yet, wade in deeper.  Here was  a) a single spontaneous good deed of attempted (failed) rescue on the fjord by  b) a noble young merchant of Christian family (what was his commitment?) whose motives have no identifiable religious overlays; as to c)  an always naked woman who died/drowned anyway, and whose story is also unknown -- did anybody ask anything at the time? at least her circumstances are not agreed at all; and  d) other guys in hot pursuit, killing both, and then trying to cover up their murders. Where does the saint come in?

Norway in the 11th Century indeed needed some saints to solidify the conversion of the people to Christianity (convert or die had been the formula; a softer touch of persuasion would help), and presto, Saint Hallvard.

Hallvard was nonetheless sanctified, and because of a knot that might have loosed, called a "miracle", and he was even declared a martyr although faith seems to have had nothing to do with this episode, and he is buried at Oslo Cathedral, Saint Hallvard's Cathedral, see http://www.oslodomkirke.no/artikler/1163/the-cathedrals-history/.  Oslo chose Hallvard for its city seal, instead of adopting a coat of arms.


A.  The story and variations.

In about 1043 CE, one Hallvard, son of nobleVebjorn of Husaby. came across an uneven contest.  He was a noble merchant son of a Christian family from farther north, apparently on his own trader ship (a wider longboat, still shallow draft) and he intervened to rescue a woman being pursued by men in their boats.  Was it simple opportunistic rapine and assault, with an unguarded female helpless; was she a slave, pregnant, or just poor; was she a thief, does her status define what entitlements the bully men enjoyed?  Stories vary.

The bad guys loosed their arrows there on the Oslo fjord.  Hallvard, trying to protect the woman then in the water, was shot; she drowned, he drowned, and the bullies tried to hide their crime against Hallvard by weighting his body with a millstone, so it would sink.  The woman they buried on the beach.

1.  The label.  Hallvard as patron saint of innocents. Where does that come from?  Who has any idea whether this woman was an innocent..  No eyewitnesses, and even then, who asked. Define your terms. Does it matter? Does this one good deed attempted by Hallvard make him a saint? That wins the lottery.  He is indeed known as patron saint of beleagured innocents. Was she "innocent?"

2. The miracle.  Usually miracles succeed, save someone, involve religious symbolism, even visions, words, even a pattern. Here the body floated up, and that was deemed to be the miracle.  More likely, or equally likely, a floating body could easily be the result of loosely tied ropes with the murderers making mistakes in their haste to cover up their deed. Yet, look back. This was Norway in process of firming up its baptism or execution form of Christianization.  So,  this must be a miracle.

The miracle took hold.  Hallvard holds his millstone and the arrows, while clothed as a saint with the woman floating underwater below.  These are also on manhole covers, seated like a saint. See the official Oslo seal of the city, here on a manhole cover. 

Hallvard may have been intended to supplement Olaf as the national saint, but Olaf comes out the winner with steed and horse and death by battle, and many miracles attributed, see http://www.orthodox.net/western-saints/olaf-martyr-king-of-norway.html



    • In Old Norse society, the place of women was restricted, but a woman (not a slave, or also slaves?) did not need to tolerate unwanted attentions.  See http://www.hurstwic.org/history/articles/society/text/women.htm/  Note: Her position in Scandinavian societies, even traditional pre-Christian ones, was far superior to that of women in the already Christian countries, see site. 
    • Still, low-class and foreign women could be taken as booty, as slaves in raids, but rape was not a common topic. A topic to be explored. 
3.  The martyrdom.  Why use that term.  There was no Christian tie-in, no symbols, no words, no carrying a banner, declaring for Christ, no dogma. Just a good guy against some bad guys and the good guy lost. 

B.  Consider:  In days of early Christian empire-expansion conversions (usually convert or die) the times and powers du jour of course needed figureheads. How else  to personify the new ideology, show it is truly local, and form an indigenous-local rallying point.
St. Hallvard, as Byzantine. Odd.
In Norway, St. Olav was far more amenable to those persuasions, as a concept, but Hallvard is a fine favorite son. No sainthood needed. Is that so?

Anywhere: Test whether ideological opportunism arises to adapt and spin an otherwise ordinary local tale to religious purposes. In other depictions, he is not saintly dressed, but in ordinary Old Norse.  This tryptych, three scenes combined to make one, is on Town Hall. Bully boaters on the left, bully boaters with archer on the right, Hallvard in the center, the woman drowning, drowning, drowned.
Saint Hallvard, Patron Saint of Oslo; in Norse dress,

Sources:  Find the tales and various narrators at



 See also http://thornews.com/2012/04/26/oslo-citys-patron-saint-hallvard-defending-a-pregnant-women.

Perhaps just skip the hype, look about, and enjoy the fjord at Oslo, the marina, and make a note to look all this up further.

Oslo Fjord, Marina.  Downtown area.

So:  Is this so?  That sainthood may well be a matter of religio-politics and institutional needs at the time for their own agendas, not sanctity at all. Is doing a single good deed enough to sanctify someone?  No. A miracle is needed. Have none? Call a slipped knot a miracle. Perhaps, of course, it was. And a martyrdom would be good. But here, there is no indicia of the faith of the failed rescuer to put his religious faith behind trying to save a lady in distress and himself getting killed in the process.

Follow the underwater dots of Saint Hallvard to his sainthood. Was there a miracle, a martyrdom, anything really saintly, a repeated saintly pattern. Yes, that is a naked woman, and he a young man.