Friday, January 10, 2014

Stiklestad. Olaf II Haraldsson. Saint Olaf Died Here. Memorial, Church.

Battle of Stiklestad 1030 CE
Why a saint? Why was Olaf made a saint within a year of his death on the battlefield at Stiklestad?  He was but another warrior chieftain, who had assisted British King Ethelred earlier against the Danes; then converted to Christianity.  He then obtained the assistance in return of King Ethelred against King Cnut of Denmark -- Cnut was also a Christian, and ruled in much of Britain as well as Denmark. 
Sainting him served ideological needs, opportunism on the part of the institution seeking dominance, and was not reflective of a saintly life.
The battle, then was among territorially competing Christians --Christian Olaf v Christian Cnut -- a matter of political dominance and unification of power, Olaf trying to oust the Danish Cnut, and using religion as a motivating symbol and concept for people caught in the middle. As of the mid 1500's, the whereabouts of his body was unknown, somewhere buried in rubble at the collapsed Cathedral at Trondheim, or parts elsewhere.

Regardless of where he is now, this is where Olaf fell.

Other stories say otherwise. His body, revered, was secreted away, and ultimately soon reappeared near Trondheim.  He was laid at St. Klement's, sainted, and a huge (for the time) Cathedral was built.  This was for political reasons, to firm up the Norwegian Christian cause, the Danish Christians having been expelled eventually; and provide an ideology to unify Norwegians, but not for saintly behavior.  Conversions to Christianity were seldom voluntary or legal, but punitive, coercive, on pain of death.  Irony.

An alternate narrative for where Olaf fell is this:  he was wounded three times, leaned against a stone before his death, and the church St. Olaf's (see below) was constructed over it, and with the stone even beneath the altar.
Olaf II himself upon first retaking the throne, from which he was ejected and had to flee to Sweden because he was so hated) had reinstated the forced conversion methods of a predecessor, Olaf I (mutilations, murder, confiscation, see  He returned with allies, and lost again, and lost his life.
A fine church was constructed at the battlefield.  Notice the pointy steeple.  This is not an original style.
St. Olaf's Church was built in 1180. An earlier wooden church on the site burned down.


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