A team of Norwegian archaeologists believes they have discovered the remains of a 1,000-year-old church that once served as the final resting place for one of Norway’s great Viking kings, and it’s patron saint.
Olaf II Haraldson reigned in the eleventh century, from 1015 until 1028 AD, and today is largely credited for spreading the Christian religion throughout Norway. Olaf was driven into exile by the Danish King Canute and was slain in battle upon his return to Norway, just north of the city of Trondheim, where his forces fell to the enemy Danes and a rebellious group of Norwegian nobles.
Olaf was proclaimed a saint and was buried in St. Clement’s Church in Trondheim, but as his cult grew larger and larger, his body was eventually moved to the Trondheim cathedral. Some time after, historians believe that St. Clement’s church was destroyed, its location lost –until now.
Researchers at the Norwegian Institute for Cultural Heritage Research (NIKU) may have discovered the original foundations of St. Clement’s Church, and even believe that they have identified the lost shrine of the martyred King. They uncovered a stone slab which they claim had been the foundation of the altar where the King’s coffin once rested. Researchers have also found skeletons at the site, believed to be the remains of the church graveyard, but they were likely buried many years after Saint Olaf.
Medieval historical accounts attribute a number of miracles to the dead king, such as his coffin being dug up to reveal not only his well-preserved appearance but even the continuous growth of both his hair and fingernails after his death.
These marvels and the historical significance of Olaf’s reign, during which he united a fractured kingdom under Christianity, all led to his canonization in 1164, and he was eventually proclaimed the patron saint of Norway.
Today, he is immortalized on the country’s coat of arms, represented by the ax held in the lion’s arms.
Anna Petersén, the excavation’s director, said ‘This is a unique site in Norwegian history in terms of religion, culture, and politics,” Mail Online reported.
‘Much of the Norwegian national identity has been established on the cult of sainthood surrounding St Olaf, and it was here it all began.’