Viking Kings of Norway

One of the oldest buildings in Chichester is the Church of St Olave or Olaf, who was a Viking King of Norway, born 995 and died 1030.He was also a Christian and was canonised a saint in 1164.

It seems though that the young Olaf, known as Olaf the Stout, was not always so saintly.  In his teenage years he was given his first Viking Ship and spent his early teens raiding towns and villages up and down the Baltic Sea.    At 18 years old, he joined forces with another Viking, Thorkell the Tall, a Danish Viking Chief, and, as young men do, they decided to head west to England, where they spent three years pillaging and destroying much of the south east of England.    When they got bored of England, they sailed across to Normandy and carried on to parts of France and Spain, before returning to Normandy,   While he was in Normandy, he became a Christian, and in 1013 he headed home to Norway and a few years later, at the age of 22,  he became King.

Over the next few years, he slowly converted the people of Norway to Christianity, and Olav did not only make people accept Christianity, but on advice from his Bishops, he also made ‘Christian law’ the law of the land. All other laws had to be changed to fit the ‘Christian law’. This meant big changes in the everyday life of the people and he soon became very unpopular among many, especially the chiefs and earls. The new laws reduced their position in society and they too now had to abide by them.

All did not go well for Olaf  because of his new rules, and  King Canute, who was ruler of Denmark and England at the time,  saw that a lot of the people in Norway were unhappy with Olaf, so in 1028 he arrived in Norway and siezed the throne from Olaf.   Olaf  had to flee to Russia, and he stayed there for two years, getting together an army to go back and re-conquer Norway.   He came back in 1030 and a fierce battle ensued, but Olaf was killed in the battle.  After his death, there were rumours of miracles happening  and strange lights being seen in the place where he was buried.   Even his enemies had a change of heart, and decided that they should not have killed him,  and shortly after that  he was declared a saint.

Gradually,  the whole of  Norway embraced the Christian faith and values, and for a long time, his shrine was one of the most visited in northern Europe.    His popularity spread to many places outside Norway, and there are churches and schools all over England, and even a few in Ireland, dedicated to St.Olave or Olaf.   This article will tell you more about this Viking King.


Church of St.Olave, Chichester


4 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Roy McCarthy
    Mar 17, 2014 @ 07:55:02

    I think the criteria for sainthood must have been less strict in the 12c Joan! Interesting story, lovely old church.



  2. The Silver Voice
    Mar 18, 2014 @ 03:23:12

    Beautiful church, great story. All these men were forgiven their sins when they converted it seems. Rarely hear of women having had the same good fortune! Chichester is a lovely town!



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