Friday, February 21, 2014

Stiklestad, St. Olaf's Church. Interior, Olaf II Haraldsson

Saint Olaf's Church, Stiklestad.  This 1150 church, once a wooden church, commemorates the believed place of death of Olav II, Saint Olav, on the battlefield here in 1030. He had earlier converted to Christianity while in England, fighting with King Aethelred there; and the formal conversion brought him allies thereby in his quest to unify Norway under his rule. In Norway, however, he fought not against "pagans" but against another Christian:  the Danish King Cnut. Why then, is he a saint? Both were bent on conquering and converting all of Norway. Either way, Christianity would prevail.

Accordingly, this was a turf battle grudge-match between Christians, see http://www.stmarystjames.org.uk/history/83-the-battle-of-cruden-1012.html/ and does not make a saint or martyr of either except by institutional convenience and solidification of its own power. See the tale told yet again about what a  saint Olav was, at http://wp.stolaf.edu/about/mission/history/, the site that proclaims Olaf II a martyr. Nonetheless, nationalism blends well with religious hegemony -- everybody does it, and Olaf was declared a saint within a year of his demise.

St. Olaf's.has retained the traditional stone church exterior, with changes to the steeple. The pity is, however, that the older wooden stave church was not restored when the piers rotted (having been placed directly in the ground), as is understood to have caused its replacement by the stone structure.  See the imagination and individuality of stave churches that remain, see http://www.eurotravelogue.com/2013/08/Norways-Stave-Churches.html

  • The interior. The interior of St. Olaf's in Stiklestad shows a range of styles and changes. Missing, however, is the star performer:  the legendary stone on which Olaf leaned before his death, and that had healing powers, so went the stories.  It is gone, parts unknown.

1.  Chancel, Altar

Interior, St. Olaf's Church, Stiklestad; Altar and baptismal font.

2.   Baptismal Font and ewer

The huge 12th Century Romanesque baptismal font, made of soapstone, is the oldest artifact in the church and is in an unusual place, at the front.  Many churches in later years moved the fonts to the rear. There are histories of fonts,  but none so far focus on Norway, see Indiana University's site, https://scholarworks.iu.edu/dspace/bitstream/handle/2022/5232/02.11.08.html?sequence=1



3.  Frescoes

These date from the 16th Century. See Frommers site above.


 The nave was extended at some point. 


Frescoes in the chancel:  These were part of a 19th Century 900-year celebration of the battle.


These frescoes appear to resemble the 19th Century forms, rather than the earlier designs on walls.


Search for St. Olaf as well as St. Olav -- both spellings are used. See http://www.spellweb.com/how-do-you-spell/st-olav/  Some say that Olaf with the f became favored in the 19th Century, see site for St. Olaf's College, US, https://wp.stolaf.edu/about/mission/history/ with Olav with the v being more indigenous Norwegian. See http://www.geni.com/people/Olav-II-Haraldsson-the-Saint-Digre-den-Hellige/6000000001200091331

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