20.0 THE SAINTING OF KING OLAF OF NORWAY

Copyright by Brian Howard Seibert

CHAPTER TWENTY POINT ZERO

20.0 THE SAINTING OF KING OLAF OF NORWAY  (Circa 1032 AD)

 

“King Olaf’s Fall” at the Second Battle of Stiklastad  (July 29, 1030 AD) by H Egedius

 

(1032 AD)  Prince Svein, the son of King Canute ‘the Great’ Sweynson, had just come of age and Canute appointed him King of Norway after the death of Olaf Haraldson at the Second Battle of Stiklastad.  His mother, Aelfgifu, had foregone being Queen of England, but would not be deprived of Norway and insisted on being called Queen of Norway, at least until young Svein found himself a suitable wife.  Queen Aelfgifu held the most sway in the country and the people of Norway conspired against her from the very beginning.  King Svein and Queen Aelfgifu had been living in Denmark for a number of years and Danish people suddenly had a great superiority given them within the country, to the great dissatisfaction of the people; and when conversation turned that way, the people of the rest of Norway accused the Trondheim people of having principally occasioned King Olaf the Holy’s fall, and also that the men of Norway were subject, through them, to the ill government by which oppression and slavery had come upon all the people, both great and small.  They insisted that it was the duty of the Trondheim people to attempt opposition and insurrection, and thus relieve the country from such tyranny; and, in the opinion of the common people, Trondheim was also the power center of Norway at that time, the Viken having long been under direct control of the Danish kings.

When the Trondheim jarls heard the remarks of their countrymen, they could not deny the truth in them, and, in light of the growing sentiment to gain sainthood for King Olaf ‘the Stout’, that depriving King Olaf of life and rule had been a great mistake.  The jarls began to hold consultations and conferences with each other, and the leader of these was Einar ‘Thong-Shaker’.  Such too was the case with Kalf Arnason, who began to admit what errors he had been drawn into by King Canute.  All the promises which Canute had made to Kalf had been broken; for he had promised him the earldom and the highest authority in Norway: and although Kalf had been the leader in the battle against King Olaf, and had deprived him of his life and kingdom, Kalf had not received any higher dignity than he had before.  He felt that he had been deceived, and therefore messages passed between the brothers Kalf, Fin, Thorberg, and Arne, and they renewed their family friendship.

King Canute had promised many things to many people and had acquired hostages from all, sons and brothers who were being fostered in England for better teaching and training, but ultimately, for better control.  He didn’t trust the Norse and Danish jarls and he wanted to put his own sons in place as kings to further his plans of a Great Northern Empire.  In order to be a true Emperor, a true king of kings, it helped to be born of the purple, or at least married into it, and an Emperor had to rule over true kings, so by having his sons rule over legitimate kingdoms in his name, he met all the parameters that King Conrad ‘the Second’ was having so much trouble meeting in his Holy Roman Empire of the Germans.  He planned on continuing to be the King of England while being Emperor of the Great Northern Empire, ruling over the Kings of Denmark, Norway and Gotland.  He planned on clearing pathways for his eastern sons, those born of the purple, to follow the long tradition of the Knytling Kings to retire as rulers in the west once they have put in their time in as Princes of the Hraes’ Trading Company, the trading empire that had financed all the Knytling efforts for generations.

Shortly after his crowning, King Svein introduced new Danish style laws into Norway.  No man must leave the country without the king’s permission; or if he did, his property fell to the king.  Whoever killed a man outright, should forfeit all his land and movables.  If anyone was banished from the country, and all heritage fell to him, the king took his inheritance.  At Yule every man must pay the king the equivalent of a meal of malt from every harvest steading, and a leg of a three-year old ox, which was called a friendly gift, together with a spand of butter; and every house-wife a rock full of unspun lint, as thick as one could span with the longest fingers of the hand.  The rich bondes were bound to build all the houses the king required upon his farms.  Of every seven males, one should be taken for the service of war, and reckoning from the fifth year of age; and the outfit of ships should be reckoned in the same proportion.  Every man who rowed upon the sea to fish should pay the king five fish as a tax, for the land defence, wherever he might come from.  Every ship that went out of the country should have stowage reserved open for the king in the middle of the ship.  Every man, foreigner or native, who went to Iceland, should pay a tax to the king.  And to all this was added, that Danes should enjoy so much consideration in Norway, that one witness of them was the equal of ten Norwegians.

When these laws were announced, the people were instantly against them and objections were quietly raised.  They who had not taken part in the battle against King Olaf told the others who had that it was their responsibility to do something about this oppression.  They complained of King Svein and his mother, Queen Aelfgifu, but in truth, it was King Canute who had ordered these laws into place.  Then the truth, with regard to King Olaf, became evident to many…he was Saint Olaf ‘the Holy’!  A year earlier many in the Trondheim district had begun to declare that Olaf was in reality a holy man, and his sanctity was confirmed by many miracles.  Many began to make promises and prayers to King Olaf in the matters in which they thought they required help, and many found great benefit from these invocations.  Some in respect of health, others of a journey, or other circumstances in which such help seemed needful.

The summer after the Second Battle of Stiklastad there was much talk about King Olaf’s sanctity, and people began to change the way they talked of their former Christian king.  There were many who now believed that King Olaf must be a saint, even among those who had persecuted him with the greatest animosity, and would never in their conversation allow truth or justice in his favour.  People began then to turn their reproaches against the men who had principally excited opposition to the king; and on this account Bishop Sigurd, in particular, was targeted.  He acquired so many new enemies that he found advisable to go over to England and visit with King Canute for a time.  Then the Trondheim people sent men with a message to the Uplands, to Bishop Grimkel, desiring him to come north to Trondheim.  Bishop Grimkel had been Olaf’s tie to Norway when he had gone east into Hraes’, and since that time Grimkel had been preaching in the Uplands.  When the message came to the bishop he made ready to go, and it contributed much to this journey that the bishop considered it as true what was told of King Olaf’s miracles and sanctity.

Bishop Grimkel went first to Einar ‘Thong-Shaker’, who received him joyfully.  They talked over many things, and, among others, of the important events which had taken place in the country; and concerning these they were perfectly agreed. Then the bishop proceeded to Lade and Nidaros and was well received by all the community.  He inquired particularly concerning the miracles of King Olaf that were reported, and received satisfactory accounts of them.  The bishop sent a verbal message to Thorgils and his son Grim in Stiklastad, inviting them to come to Nidaros and they came to the bishop.  They told him of all the signs they had seen and also where they had deposited the king’s body.  The bishop sent a message to Einar to come to the town.  Then the bishop and Einar had an audience with King Svein and Queen Aelfgifu in which they asked the king’s leave to have Olaf’s body taken up out of the earth.  Against his mother’s wishes, King Svein gave his permission, and told the bishop to do as he pleased in the matter.  At that time there were a great many people in the town.  The bishop, Einar, and some men with them, went to the place where the king’s body was buried.  It was then the opinion of many that the bishop should proceed to have the king buried in the earth at Clement’s church; and it was so done.  Twelve months and five days after King Olaf’s death, his holy remains were dug up, and the coffin had raised itself almost entirely to the surface of the earth; and the coffin appeared quite new, as if it had but lately been made.  When Bishop Grimkel came to King Olaf’s opened coffin, there was a delightful and fresh smell.  Thereupon the bishop uncovered the king’s face, and his appearance was in no respect altered, and his cheeks were as red as if he had but just fallen asleep.  The men who had seen King Olaf when he fell remarked, also, that his hair and nails had grown as much as if he had lived on the earth all the time that had passed since his fall.  Thereupon King Svein, and all the chiefs who were at the palace, went out to see King Olaf’s body.  Then Queen Aelfgifu said, “People buried in sand rot very slowly, and it would not have been so if he had been buried in earth.”  Afterwards the bishop took scissors, clipped the king’s hair, and arranged his beard; for he had had a long beard, according to the latest fashion.  Then said the bishop to King Svein and Aelfgifu, “Now the king’s hair and beard are such as when he gave up the ghost, and it has grown as much as you see has been cut off.”  Then Aelfgifu answered, “I will believe in the sanctity of his hair, if it will not burn in the fire; but I have often seen men’s hair whole and undamaged after lying longer in the earth than this man’s.”  Then the bishop had live coals put into a pan, blessed it, cast incense upon it, and then laid King Olaf’s hair cuttings on the fire.  When all the incense was burnt the bishop took the hair out of the fire, and showed the king and the other chiefs that it was not consumed.  Now Aelfgifu asked that the hair should be laid upon unconsecrated fire, but Einar ‘Thong-Shaker’ told her to be silent, and gave her many severe reproaches for her disbelief, for Aelfgifu was English and had been born a Christian.  After the bishop’s recognition, with the king’s approbation and the decision of the Thing, it was determined that King Olaf should be considered a man truly holy; whereupon his body was transported into Clement’s church, and a place was prepared for it near the high altar.  The coffin was covered with costly cloth, and stood under a gold embroidered tent.  Many kinds of miracles were soon wrought by King Olaf’s holy remains.

In the sand-hill where King Olaf’s body had lain in the ground a beautiful spring of water had come up and many human ailments and infirmities were cured by its waters.  Things were put in order around it, and the flowing water was allowed to pool and was carefully preserved.  Soon a chapel was built and an altar consecrated where the king’s body had lain.

Thorarin Loftunga was himself with King Svein, and heard these great testimonials of King Olaf’s holiness: that people, by heavenly power, could hear a sound over his holy remains as if bells were ringing, and that candles were lighted of themselves upon the altar as if by a heavenly fire.  Thorarin wrote down that a multitude of lame, and blind, and other sick, who came to the holy Olaf, went back cured and, through King Olaf’s miraculous workings, regained their health.  King Olaf’s greatest miracles were clearly written down and sent off to superiors in both Rome and Constantinople.  The race was on and this was clearly going to be the fastest sainting ever.  He had already been locally sainted by Bishop Grimkel a year after his death and was sainted by both Rome and Constantinople shortly after.

Back in England, the merchant fleets both east and west had sailed and Bishop Sigurd had settled into a new position in Winchester.  But a drought, too, had settled upon the land and a large number of wild fires erupted across the oak forests of Southern England.  And the oak forests were very important to the ship building efforts of the Hraes’ Trading Company.  Oak was needed for the new tallships and the large seagoing longships.  Pine and cedar and spruce were not strong enough for the larger ships that were evolving for greater transport capacities and oak was only available in the southern tip of Norway and was fast being consumed there.  Denmark had none left and Skane and Gotland were bereft of oak as well.  The Danes had plundered and pillaged England for decades not for gold or silver, but for the people, for slaves, but had conquered it for the oaks they needed for their ships.  And now those oak forests were burning.

At first, King Canute thought the fires might be caused by the drought which may have been brought on by the changeover to world-wide cooling, but he sent a cohort of knights out to Dorset to investigate a large number of fires around the city of Dorchester and they caught a group of Saxon thanes who had been setting fires to deprive the king of income from his forests.  It would appear the locals considered the forest to be the property of the Saxon people and did not like the Jutes of Southampton paying the king for the rights to log in his forests.  It was the old seven kingdoms problem manifesting itself once more.  Both the Angles and the Saxons could not seem to abide under the concept of one king owning everything.  He had all the culprits taken to Dorchester and publicly hanged and he posted notices in all the cities and towns of England informing all that the King’s Forest Services would be monitoring the woods for fires and anybody setting them and he empowered the local sheriffs to protect the forest resources.

Queen Emma thanked him for his astuteness.  The shipyards of Southampton needed the oak timbers for the tallships she was building, both as merchant sailing ships and as Canute’s new tall warships.  As the vessels got larger and costlier, the wood species used throughout the construction became more and more specific.  Her designers in Portsmouth were taking naval engineering to a new higher level.  The English construction was beginning to surpass that of the Mediterranean countries.  Emma also had shipyards in Caen, Normandy right across the English Channel from Southampton and a small one in Bruges in Flanders.  She was the richest woman in Europe and quite possibly the world, but she put little stock in her family’s shipyard in Rouen.  She had never trusted her brother, Duke Richard ‘the Good’, who had sold her to King Athelred for a stake in England and she certainly did not trust his son, Duke Robert ‘the Magnificent’ who was presently humping King Canute’s daughter, Princess Estrid, for what she was sure was a stake in the Eastern Roman Empire.  She had always told her lover, King Sweyn, that they were all the sons of Hraegunar Lothbrok and Hraegunar’s sons had always lusted to conquer Constantinople, to surpass their father’s conquest of Paris in 845.

When Prince Hraerik led the great merchant fleet back north through Kiev in the fall, Prince Ivaraslav thanked him for the gold he paid him out of profits from the sale of Polish slaves in Constantinople and Baghdad over the summer.  Then Ivar took him on a short side-trip up the Ros River to show him the towns he was building for the Polish captives that had ransomed themselves the prior year.  “For their ransoms I gave them land,” Ivar started, “but they are indentured to the land just as the turf is and are not allowed to leave it.  I call them serfs and I am providing them with Slav wives and half their children will be indentured to the land and half will be sold to the Hraes’ Trading Company as slaves.  Misty and I came up with the idea to keep the slave schools of Kiev full at all times.  What do you think of it?”

“But if the Poles have paid their ransom for freedom, why would they want to stay here?” the Prince asked.

“Their lands in Poland are gone.  King Boleslaw gave them my lands to settle and we have taken those lands back.  They are mine.  Their ransoms paid for half their freedom and half their land.  I own the other half and they’ll have half their children and I shall own the other half.  Prince Mstislav is building towns along the Seim River east of Chernigov under the same conditions.  This will reduce the tribute we take from the Slavs each year and hopefully keep them at peace.”

“And you call them serfs?”

“They serve me by working the turf,” Ivar said.

“Your serfdom sounds a lot like slavery to me,” Hraerik told him, and he could feel Princess Gunwar turning over in her grave with this.

“I know!” Ivar said, very pleased with himself.  “It sounds like slavery, yet it isn’t.”

When Prince Hraerik stopped in at Chernigov to drop of Witch Nadege he got the same sales pitch from Prince Mstislav.  “It sounds like slavery, but isn’t!”  He didn’t have time to sail up the Seim with his grandson, but he told him he was happy to see him working so closely with Ivar again.  It was a little awkward meeting with Witch Nado again, after the spiritual sex they’d had before, but witches knew that sex was a part of witchcraft and often had to participate in rituals that involved warlocks and he noticed that both Nado and Nadege were treating him as one of their own.  He realized then that he was slowly becoming a warlock, not just a normal warlock, but a rather famous one.  He had killed a khan from the future and the witches and warlocks of the Aesir and Vanir religions were slowly learning of it and paying him homage.  Even the goddess Irpa had wanted to have sex with him before she allowed him to save Witch Hallveig and this was not required by her, but rather desired by her.  And both Nado and Nadege were there in spirit and they saw Irpa’s lust for their Prince.

“I’ll be back in the spring to pick you up,” he told Nadege and he picked her up and kissed her deeply.

When King Svein had ruled three years in Norway, the news came to him that a force had been assembled in the western countries, under a jarl who called himself Trygve, and who claimed that he was a son of King Olaf Tryggvason and Princess Gyda of Suffolk, England.  When King Svein heard that foreign troops had come to the country, he ordered out the people on a levy in the north, and the most of the lendermen hastened to him; but Jarl Einar ‘Thong-Shaker’ remained at home, and would not go to King Svein.  When King Svein’s order came to Jarl Kalf Arnason at Eggja, that he should go out on a war levy with King Svein, he took a twenty oared ship, had it manned and provisioned, and proceeded in all haste out of the fjord, without waiting for King Svein, and sailed southwards to More, and continued his voyage south until he arrived at Giske where his brother Thorberg lived.  Then all the brothers, the sons of Arne, held a meeting, and consulted with each other.  After this Kalf returned to the north again; but when he came to Frekeysund, King Svein was lying in the sound before him.  When Kalf came rowing from the south into the sound they hailed each other and the king’s men ordered Kalf to bring his vessel alongside and follow the king for the defence of the country.  Kalf told them, “I have done enough, if not too much, when I fought against my own countrymen to increase the power of the Canute family.”  Then Kalf rowed away to the north until he arrived home at Eggja.  None of the Arnesons appeared at this levy to accompany the king.  Svein steered with his fleet southwards along the land; but as he could not hear the least news of any fleet having come from the west, he steered south to Rogaland, and all the way to Agder; for many guessed that Trygve would first make his attempt on Viken, because his forefathers had been there, and had most of their strength from that quarter.

When Jarl Trygve came from the west he landed first on the coast of Hordaland, and when he heard King Svein had gone south he went the same way to Rogaland.  As soon as Svein got the intelligence that Trygve had come from the west he returned, and steered north with his warships and both fleets met within Bokn in Soknarsund, not far from the place where Erling Skjalgson fell.  The battle, which took place on a Sunday, was great and severe.  People tell that Trygve threw spears with both hands at once.  “So my father,” he said, “taught me to celebrate mass.”  His enemies had said that he was the abandoned son of Olaf, had been left in England with Princess Gytha when Jarl Olaf sailed to Norway to take up the crown there, but praise must be allowed him that he showed himself to be the true son of King Olaf Tryggvason, for this Trygve was a slaughtering man.  In this battle King Trygve fell, but he took many men down with him and many of his men fell alongside him.  Those that didn’t, fled, and some received quarter and their lives.  After this battle King Svein ruled the country in honour for some time, and there was peace in the land.

When Prince Hraerik led the great merchant fleet into Roskilde harbour to collect tithes and release the merchants, he heard about King Svein’s victory, but he also heard of the jarls, the friends of King Canute who had refused to answer the king’s levy.  It reminded the Prince of his youth, when his father, Hraegunar Lothbrok, had refused to answer the war arrow of King Gotar of the Vik and he and Hraelauger had gone in his stead so that Stavanger Fjord would not be razed for ignoring the call.  At least his father had an excuse, the Nor’Way trade to look after, but that was being attended to by the Jarls of Halogaland now, and Einar and Kalf had no such obligations.  He’d heard that young King Svein had taken no actions against the truant jarls and he fully intended to take this up with King Canute when he got back to England.  If the jarls were not punished, there would be rebellion in the land.  Disloyalty and treason had to be dealt with immediately or king’s reigns ran short.

When the Prince arrived in Southampton, Queen Emma told him that Princess Estrid had just given birth to a daughter she and Robert had named Adelaide after a famous singer named Adele.  “Robert won’t be happy,” Emma warned.  “He wanted a legitimate, born of the purple son to be his first-born, to replace little William ‘the Bastard’ as his heir.”

“Why would he want a born of the purple son?” Hraerik asked her, then stopped.  “That’s why he took Estrid to Apulia?  He’s fighting the Eastern Romans there.  He’s conquering Italy.  He’s following King Sweyn’s plan and he’s taking his claim to the throne of Constantinople with him.  But how would Duke Robert know of King Sweyn’s plan against the Byzantine Romans?”

“King Sweyn may have told me about it,” Emma confessed, “and I may have let it slip out to Duke Richard.  He must have shared it with his sons.”

“But Duke Richard married Estrid and used her as a brood sow to pry born of the purple sons out of her.  It sounds like Duke Robert is up to the very same thing!”

“I have never seen two people more in love than Estrid and Robert.  Perhaps the two are just complimentary?”

“And you told Duke Richard this, after he gave you to Athelred, without even asking your permission?”

“It slipped out,” Emma said, “and Sweyn hadn’t sworn me to secrecy and he was already dead by then anyway.  I thought the plan died with him.”

“Apparently it hasn’t,” Hraerik said and rolled away from Emma’s side of the bed.  “If Duke Robert causes Estrid any pain, I’m going to bend him over my shield.”  She slid up against his back.  “Don’t be angry with me,” she pleaded in her poutiest voice.  She put her arm over Hraerik and took his lingam into her hand and whispered, “When Irpa took all Hallveig’s gifts away from her and she aged before our very eyes, did Irpa also take back her gifts to you?”

“I don’t know,” Hraerik told her honestly.  He had been with Witch Nadege all summer and she was just a young girl of virginal qualities and he wouldn’t even dream of going full Irpa in her.

“Let’s find out!” Emma said and she began stroking her Prince and all was soon forgiven.

 

The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle for the year read:

A.D. 1032.  This year appeared that wild fire, such as no man

ever remembered before, which did great damage in many places.

The same year died Elfsy, Bishop of Winchester; and Bishop Sigurd and Elfwin, the

king’s priest, succeeded him.

 

The Prince Hraerik’s New Chronicle of the Hraes’ for the year read:

(1032 AD).  Ivaraslav began to found Polish towns along the Ros’ River.