Olaf I Tryggvessøn, King of Norway

views updated


Reigned 995 to September 9 (or 10), 1000; b. c. 968;d. Swold. Olaf (Tryggvasøn) was brought up in Novgorod and spent his youth as a Viking. From c. 991 he lived in the British Isles, where he was baptized. Only in 995 did he return to Norway, which he had left with his mother soon after his birth. He was the great-grandson of Harold Finehair, and thus the chieftains recognized him as the sovereign ruler of Norway without any serious opposition. Olaf was an ardent Christian who was determined to introduce Christianity throughout his country, and this led to minor struggles with the strong pagan chieftains. Christianity was legally introduced in Iceland c. 1000 at the instigation of Olaf. His methods of conversion were hardhanded and not very subtle. He is remembered as the apostle of Norway and Iceland, and he is the hero of several sagas of a hagiographic cast. He died in the naval battle of Swold, where he was fighting against an alliance of the Danish and Swedish kings and an exiled Norwegian chieftain.

Bibliography: b. aÐalbjarnarson, Om de norske kongers sagaer (Oslo 1937), with bibliog. s. undset, Saga of Saints, tr. e.c. ramsden (New York 1934). h. koht, Norsk biografisk leksikon (Oslo 1921) 10:413419. g. turville-petre, The Heroic Age of Scandinavia (London 1951) 130139. h. holzapfel, Lexikon für Theologie und Kirche, ed. j. hofer and k. rahner, 10 v. (2d, new ed. Freiburg 195765) 7:1138.

[h. bekker-nielsen]