Olav Haraldsson 1015-1030

Olav Haraldsson

 The history of 
Olav Haraldsson’s coinage

 Coins from 
Olav Haraldsson

Olav Haraldsson, Norway’s canonised king, remained a potent influence for several centuries after his death. Saint Olav, as he is frequently called, took part in Viking forays for several years. In 1009 he was in England with a Viking force under Danish leadership. Later, he changed sides and worked for King Ethelred II, defending England against the Danes. He accompanied Ethelred’s army to France, and for a period he also fought in the service of the Duke of Normandy, taking part in battles in Brittany, Anjou and Poitou.

In about 1013 he was baptised in Rouen in France. Olav returned to Norway in 1015 and was received as king in the Uplands region. The next year Olav was accepted as king both in the east and west of southern Norway. He was formally elected as king by the «Øreting» assembly in Trøndelag and had by then won the support of the country’s most powerful men. The Danish-Swedish intermezzo following Olav Tryggvason was now brought to a close. Olav Haraldsson played an important part in christianising Norway, bringing about the adoption of Christianity as the country’s only lawful religion with the king as the supreme leader of the church. Olav Haraldsson’s advocacy of the Christian faith was, however, destined to create serious political difficulties for him. When the people in Trøndelag and the Uplands region were unwilling to convert to Christianity, Olav used brute force to aid the process.

In the mid-1020s, Knut the Great presented claims on Norway. Olav, by this time, had lost much of his support and was forced to flee to Russia when Knut arrived in Norway in 1028. Olav returned through Sweden in 1030, recruiting soldiers on his way. With his army of Swedes, Jemtlanders, Icelanders and Norwegians, he came up against a peasant army at Stiklestad, north of Trondheim. Olav fell in the battle at Stiklestad on July the 29th.

Shortly after his death, Olav was canonised by the church. His body was disinterred and placed in a reliquary on the high altar in the Church of St. Clement in Nidaros, Trondheim. The veneration of Olav Haraldsson as a saint soon spread to the whole of northern Europe and a number of churches and monasteries were dedicated to him. After the Virgin Mary, Olav is the saint most commonly portrayed in Norwegian medieval art.

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