29 Jul: The Cult of Olaf

Viking King Olaf II Haraldsson was killed on 29th July, 1030, kicking off a campaign, led by an English clergyman, to declare him a Saint.

The cult of Olaf continues in Norway still, with festivals, pilgrimages and prayers given in his honour – even though Olaf used extreme violence and suppression to force parts of the country to convert to Christianity.

In this episode, Arion, Rebecca and Olly reveal the inner-workings of the medieval church’s PR machine; explain why ‘extreme violence’ and ‘missionary work’ are ever muttered in the same breath; and consider whether ‘Saint’ Olaf would in fact be best remembered by his contemporary suffices: Olaf ‘the Fat’ or Olaf ‘the law-breaker’… 

Further Reading:

• ‘St. Olaf’ (V&A Museum of Childhood, 2014): https://www.vam.ac.uk/blog/sanctus-ignotum/st-olaf

• ‘Today is Norway’s Day of St. Olaf, celebrated for over 900 years’ (Norway Today, 2021): https://norwaytoday.info/culture/today-is-norways-day-of-st-olaf-celebrated-for-over-900-years/

• ‘Olaf Haraldsson: King of Norway 1015-1028’ (History Time, 2018):