Out of Nazareth - A Son of Light

The most far-reaching universal event in history took place on a single day in April around the year AD 33 when a twenty-nine-year-old rabbi out of Nazareth, whose Hebrew name was Joshua, was tried and crucified as a heretic. This universal event was first linked to Norway through the actions of Olaf Tryggvason, King of Norway (995-1000), who was a great-grandson of King Herald Fair Hair.

Olaf was brought up in Russia and later participated in numerous Viking raids along the Baltic and North Sea coasts and in the British Isles. During his last campaign, in England (994), he was converted to Christianity, and the following year he returned to Norway, where a rebellion had erupted against the pagan Earl Haakon. The victorious Olaf founded the city of Nidaros (now Trondheim) as his capital and set out to Christianize the country.

Only partly successful in Norway, his efforts contributed to the conversion of Iceland, Greenland and the Faeroe Islands to Christianity. Olaf`s force were defeated by a coalition consiting of Swey Forkbeard, King Olaf of Sweden, and the two sons of Earl Haakon in the naval Battle of Svold (1000), during which Olaf Tryggvason lost his life.

Again another Viking, Olaf Haraldsson, also called St. Olaf (995-1030) was converted to Christianity in Rouen, Normandy, in service of the exiled King Ethelred II of England. He returned to Norway in 1015 and, as a descendant for King Herold Fair Hair, he quickly won recognition, displacing the ruling earls. He introduced a strong central administration, completed the conversion of the Norwegians begun by Olav I, and built churches throughout Norway. Many local chieftains, alienated by Olaf`s domineering way, sided with Knut II (Canute II), King of Denmark and England, when he invaded Norway in 1028; Olaf was compelled to take refuge with his brother in law, Grand Duke Yaroslav of Novgorod. Returning with a force to Norway in 1030, he was defeated by a peasant army and killed at the Battle of Stiklestad. Olaf was subsequently worshipped as Norway`s patron saint and was canonized in 1164.

Painted by Reidar Berge

Michael Holmboe Meyers history-guide of Stavanger.