Table of Content | Introduction | Freedom | Faith and War | Where We Come From... | Imprint



Where We Come From...

The Battle of Stiklestad, 1030

Olaf II Haraldsson, also known as Saint Olaf, is considered the unifier of the kingdom and the founder of the Norwegian Christian nation. Shortly after his death in 1030 the bishop of Trondheim declared him a saint and »Rex Perpertuus Norvegiae« - Norway’s eternal king.

When Olaf returned from Viking wars abroad in 1015, Norway consisted of many different little kingdoms. His greatest antagonist, the Danish king Canute, was involved in the crusades at this time, so that Olaf succeeded in gathering the other chieftains under his command and having himself declared king. He also began introducing Christianity in Norway at that time. However, the Christianisation - by force - also earned him many enemies, who joined forces with the Danish king and temporarily forced him to leave the country. In 1030 Olaf attempted to reconquer Norway, but he was killed in the Battle of Stiklestad when his army met the enemy. According to the saga, the king’s corpse had still not decomposed after a year. His death and this miracle turned the tide of public opinion and led to an intense veneration of Olaf, even by his former enemies.

This is the subject of a sketch by Olaf Isaachsen. Pictured here is the king, slain in battle, who is illuminated by the ray of God. Isaachsen's painting "The Shrouded Body of St. Olav" shows him once again in keeping with Christian iconography as the lifeless Saviour who will rise from the dead. In this way he takes the place of Thor. 

The greatness and significance that Olaf had for Norway was due according to 19th century historians not only to his achievement of the political unification of Norway, but above all to his introduction of Christianity. This gave the country an intellectual and cultural foundation which led to domestic peace and external power. In the eyes of the historians, this was why Olaf’s unification of the kingdom was able to last while all other attempts had been doomed to failure.


Faith and War

The Battle of Kringen, 1612

The Battle of Kringen in 1612 was basically an episode of little consequence during the Kalmar War (1611-1613) between Denmark and Sweden. Norway, which was a province of Denmark, was drawn into the war when the Danish king, Christian IV, demanded that the Norwegians supply an army of 8,000 peasants. Mass desertions began as soon as the troops began to assemble. The reason the peasants deserted, according to 19th century historians, was their love of freedom and attachment to their native land, which they placed above their loyalty to the crown. It was not until an army of some 900 Scottish farm labourers serving for the Swedish king landed on the Norwegian coast on their way to Sweden that the Norwegians took up arms and defeated the invaders near Kringen in the Gudbrandsdal valley.

35.jpg (16369 Byte)The memory of this victory – and thus of their contribution to the Danish triumph over the Swedes – enhanced the Norwegians' national pride in the 19th century. An important part of this tradition is the idealisation of the Norwegian peasants, their courage, their cleverness in fighting and above all their love of freedom. Hand in hand with this image was the glorification of the Norwegian mountains as the home of an intensely freedom-loving, proud and daring people. So the pictures of the event are as much a monument to the mountainous landscape as they are to the battle itself, as depicted for example by Adolph Tidemand and Morten Müller.



The Constituent Assembly at Eidsvoll, 1814

Norway attained its sovereignty in 1814, just as suddenly as unexpectedly. It had belonged to Denmark since the 14th century, but as a result of the Battle of the Nations near Leipzig (1813) Denmark had to cede the Norwegian province to Sweden. During the power-political vacuum that occurred until the new Swedish king could be installed, the Norwegians seized the opportunity to become independent. In April 1814 the Danish crown prince Christian Fredrik, who was governor of Norway at that time, called a constituent assembly to meet in the town of Eidsvoll, north of Christiania, which was attended by 112 representatives of the Norwegian people. 12.jpg (19760 Byte)The majority of them spoke out for a liberal constitution and the installation of a constitutional monarchy. To this end they developed a constitution, the so-called »Grundlov«, which was passed on 17th May 1814. It not only realised, in accordance with the Norway’s image of itself in the 19th century, the ideals of freedom and equality embodied in the Enlightenment and the French Revolution, but it moreover represented a continuation and advancement of the old constitution from the time of Norwegian greatness and autonomy. In July 1814 the Swedish crown prince and future king Charles XIV John sent an army to attack Norway. The brief war ended with Charles John being crowned king of Norway and for his part accepting the Eidsvoll constitution and giving the Norwegian parliament the power to take care of its own affairs.

Four-hundred years of Danish rule meant that the country had neither its own separate language nor genuinely Norwegian traditions. The core of the newly established national consciousness therefore became the memory of the Eidsvoll assembly.

Oscar Arnold Wergeland immortalised it in 1885 in a monumental painting which still hangs behind the speaker’s desk of the Norwegian parliament, the Storting. The assembly and especially the assembly building play an important role in the historical memory of the nation. They are among the most popular motifs recalling the founding of the nation, which is celebrated in Norway on May 17th.


Table of Content | Introduction | Freedom | Faith and War | Where We Come From... | Imprint

HomePage Mail Imprint Guestbook