Update after visit 2013
The side door of the church has been repurposed as a window.
Most of us in American schools had little of Scandinavian history in our texts. Mention of the Norse painted them as barbaric raiders, ignoring the equally barbaric forced conversions and slaughter of the Pope's ongoing Northern Crusades just to the south. The centuries of peaceful trading and acceptance of Celtic Christian missionaries came to a halt with the militant Christian branch of Rome on the march. The book develops well the changes that the Roman version wrought, the imposition of rigid rules, confiscations of property, denigration of the old culture, conformity or death.
Sigrid Undset, Norwegian author born in Kalundborg, Denmark, wrote the novel Kristin Lavransdatter and won the Nobel Prize for Literature for it in 1928. It was translated into English in the 1950's, and is a tome worth close reading of the 1069 pages. A film was made of Kristin's story in 1995 film, Liv Ullman directing, http://www.filmvault.com/filmvault/boston/k/kristinlavransdat2.html; and at http://movies.yahoo.com/movie/1800395840/info.
Reviews of the story, however, are inadequate to the reality it weaves. Mere fact summaries are like saying Moby Dick is about a man hunting a whale and who dies trying. I have not yet seen the film. Does it grasp more than the medieval scenery and stereotypes, Liv Ullman or no Liv Ullman directing. Penguin came out with a paperback, see that at http://www.amazon.com/Kristin-Lavransdatter-Penguin-Classics-Deluxe/dp/0143039164/
Frame Kristin Lavransdatter not as the story of a medieval woman, but as a Womansaga, a 3D portrait of men and women, both.struggling with and against the role changes forced by a new breed of church, the militant, demanding institution that takes no prisoners. Submit. Kristin Lavransdatter paints full portraits of many men, but appropriately puts the woman and her role at the forefront. What is done to her being, when she is ordered to trail dutifully and decoratively behind the man, forced into subservience by an imposed set of orders, where her own culture did not. For medieval life of the time, start at her beginning at Kalundborg: Womansaga, birthplace of Sigrid Undset.
The Ullman film also covers only the first of the three books. It needs sequels, just as Harry Potter needed its sequels.
I do not have an electronic reader. How can a tome like this, that thrives on flipping back, rereading, fit a small screen. Someday I will try it, but only after those come out with "finds" for reviewing who characters are, the name forms are too unfamiliar to be absorbed in one contact, and until there is a way to jump from the footnotes at the very end, back into each chapter, time and again, the readers are uselessly small-screened.
How accurate is this book's representation of Norse women on prosperous farm compounds of the high middle ages, 1200's? Lives of women were not recorded except as to Icelandic women storied in Icelandic Sagas, see an earlier era, The Far Traveler, by Nancy Marie Brown, that puts various accounts of Gudrid of the sagas in one narrative, at http://www.amazon.com/Far-Traveler-Voyages-Viking-Woman/dp/0156033976.
Women themselves did not record; is it true that only those at the spearhead of the new Roman church were literate in that way. Third parties with agendas, do we trust their viewpoints? I prefer Sigrid Undset projecting onto Kristin, rather than an institutional cleric.
The history seems accurate. There was plague, invasion of Roman christian officials in the wake of coercion-under-threat by the Holy Roman Empire. These radically shifted the course of Sweden, Denmark, Norway, displacing the more gentle, contemplative monks of the more Celtic tradition. Wikipedia offers a history of Sweden that touches on Norway, but no separate topic for Norway. Needed.
Violence, seemingly a part of any medieval culture, multiplied in Scandinavia as even the Inquisition hit the most northern parts. Misogyny culminated in the 16th Century in the placce where Christians said the gates of Hell opened: Finnmark. See http://www.jstor.org/discover/10.2307/4256708?uid=3739576&uid=2129&uid=2&uid=70&uid=4&uid=3739256&sid=21102707734543 . See the Steilneset Memorial for that time, at http://www.livhelenewillumsen.no/trolldomEngelsk.html/ That has to be for our next trip. The point is, however, that the forced diminution of woman's autonomy, a threat to the Roman church, culminated, as elsewhere in Europe, in inquisitions, witch hunts. Will this new pope ever recant (!) the use of the Malleus Maleficarum? It set the mindset still with us, is that so? FN 1
FN 1. Institutional churches thrive on lemmings, is that also so? Contrast that focal-point authority leading to property and authority all in the church, to the earlier independence of smaller groups. Those societies largely arranged for compensation and used outlawry instead of capital punishment and torture, I think. Which is more enlightened? Women used to have property rights and rights of inheritance (extensive), housing arrangements, respect for their herb remedies and healing simples, old ways persisting, nature there and its mosses, trees, scents, racing rivers, animals, childbirth, chivalric kurteis or courtesy, courtship, bastardy (abstention did not work then, either), shame as death-tool, political intrigue, revenge, redemption, fostering, social strata, fates and great shifts of plot, guilds.
Reviews of Kristin Lavransdatter that narrow the scope to the place of motherhood in this novel are misleading. See, e.g., http://www.firstthings.com/onthesquare/2011/01/under-her-heart-motherhood-in-kristin-lavransdatter This is also a tale of how formal and aggressive, no alternative forced Christianization, to the institutional after centuries of benign helful missionaries and monks living in the communities, at farm churches, now compelled into bureaucracy, European ways including capital punishment.
A real place: Skaun is southeast of Trondheim, the Husaby church-place, where there was a farm church in 1030. See it at https://maps.google.com/maps?hl=en&tab=wl.
There is another church at the Skaun area, the Borsa kirka, also southeast of Trondheim, but near the fjord at Skaun 7353. I think this is it, but it is newer, much renovated, redone. It is perhaps on old foundations. Need more research. Is there an older one somewhere that we missed, given references to the Borsa Kirke? Skaun had been part of the Orkdal clerical district, until it was redistricted in 1814 into the Borsa clerical district, so old references to Skaun or Borsa churches are confusing.