Olaf II Haraldsson of Norway
King and Saint
St. Olaf, Norway’s Eternal King and Patron Saint, has a reputation and place in history that has been unchallenged by any other Norwegian King for the last 1000 years. Olaf Haraldsson was born in 995 A.D. He was a Viking who raided throughout Western Europe and the Baltics until he returned to Norway in 1015. He was elected king of the Norwegians with the support of the Upland chieftains. His reign was typical for a king of the Viking Age. He defeated his opponents and governed as the King of Norway for a decade. Then he had to leave his throne to a more powerful king, Canute the Great of Denmark and England. Olaf Haraldsson tried to regain his kingdom but ended up losing his life at the Battle of Stiklestad. King Olaf is so famous in Norwegian history because he is traditionally considered to have converted Norway into Christianity. Even though most of Norway was already Christians, Olaf finished the job by bringing several missionary bishops from England to help
convert the remaining pagan areas of the country. The Battle of Stiklestad is the battlefield where King Olaf Haraldsson died on July 29, 1030, and became known as St. Olaf. Olaf was returning to Norway with a small Swedish army to regain the Norwegian crown he had lost. His opponents learned about this and assembled a large army of farmers and soldiers that were against him. The two armies met at the place where Stiklestad church is located today. Tradition says he died from three wounds. The first one was a serious injury from an ax. Olaf leaned against a rock, and threw his sword away, knowing his death was coming. The other two wounds were caused by two rival chieftains with a spear and an ax. He is buried in Nidaros Cathedral, Trondheim, which has become the most important place of Christian pilgrimages in Norway.
By Irene Davis
St. Olaf 13 years old