Olaf II, King of Norway, St.

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Reigned 1015 to July 29, 1030; b. Oplandet, Norway, 995; d. Stiklestad, Norway. His father was a chieftain descended from Harold Finehair. Olaf Haraldsson's early career is not known in detail, but it seems that he was a Viking from his 12th year, the events of his youth being recorded in scaldic verse. Having been baptized in Rouen in 1014, he returned to Norway in 1015 to assert his royal claims. His rebellion against Danish and Swedish overlords in Norway had a strong popular appeal. Olaf was an ardent Christian and tried by every means to uproot the last traces of paganism in Norway; in this he was quite successful. When King Canute the Great was proclaimed king of all Norway in 1028, Olaf fled the country and went into exile in Russia. In the spring of 1030 he returned to Norway, leaving his illegitimate son, the future King Magnus the Good, at the Russian court. He met his opponents in the battle of Stiklestad, where he was killed. Very soon after his death even his enemies came to recognize that they had killed a saint; his intercession was invoked and miracles were recorded. His body was moved to Trondheim, which became the center of the Olaf cult. He was the patron saint of Norway and was venerated also in England, Denmark, Sweden, Finland, and Iceland. He was the subject of medieval Scandinavian iconography, and his life is recorded in several legends, or sagas, both in Latin and in the vernacular.

Feast: July 29.

Bibliography: Bibliotheca hagiographica latina antiquae et mediae aetatis, 2 v. (Brussels 18981901; suppl. 1911) 2:632226; Suppl. 240. o. widding et al., "The Lives of the Saints in Old Norse Prose: A Handlist," Mediaeval Studies 25 (1963) 294337, esp. 327328. s. undset, Saga of Saints, tr. e. c. ramsden (New York 1934); Sankt Olav, tr. m. neuhauser (Vienna 1947). a. w. brØgger, Norsk biografisk leksikon (Oslo 1923 ) 10:374390. g. turville-petre, The Heroic Age of Scandinavia (New York 1951) 140164. c. e. gibson, The Two Olafs of Norway (London 1968). v. henriksen, Sverdet; Hellig Olav i Borg (Oslo 1974); Hellig Olav (Oslo 1985). m. blindheim et al., Olav, konge og helgen, myte og symbol (Oslo 1981). e. luthen, I pilegrimenes fotspor til Nidaos (Oslo 1992). Gokstadho /vdingen og hans tid, ed. t. frost (Sandefjord 1997). Helgonet i Nidaros: Olavskult och kristnande i Norden, ed. l. rumar (Sweden 1997). m. kollandsrud, Pilegrimsleden til Nidaros (Oslo 1997). g. axel-nilsson, "Sankt Olavs hjälm och sporrar": helgonreliker eller vapengarnityr? (Göteborg 1998).

[h. bekker-nielsen]