Saint Olav – isn’t that the snowball guy from Frozen?
Actually no, but he did live in a cool place high up on the map, and long before anyone had heard of Jon Snow he’d be crowned King in the North. Born not as a saint but as Olav Haraldsson in AD 995, and grew up in Ringerike in Norway. Being of the north, he was of a viking.
You might have heard of the vikings. You know, the guys that worshipped all those cool deities like Odin, Tor, and Balder. The people who believed that if you died a death of glory in battle, you would spend the remainder of eternity feasting and fighting in the halls of Valhalla, the guys who wore horned helmets, yeah? Actually that horned helmet thing is a myth, but a myth that’s great for selling merchandise to international tourists.
Maybe as an act of rebellion upon his forefathers (teenagers, right?) Olav decided to get baptised in England, and with a bunch of bishops he returned to Norway to claim the throne for himself – and to bring Christianity to the country.
Once he was king, (we skipped a few vital chapters here, but yeah, he got a hold of the crown) he went out on many mission walks to tell other people not to believe in the old Norse gods. As always when someone tells someone else what to believe, this must have been very popular.
Someone that did not like the cut of Olav’s jib was the Danish king Knut, who resided in England. Knut was a good networker (it is believed he had read How to win friends and influence people seven times) and used his people skills to buy influence amongst the most powerful people of Norway. Soon enough Olav’s friends were nowhere to be seen, and he had to escape the country.
In exile, Olav spent a few years studying Eastern religion, which is why some call him the Steve Jobs of the viking age. But instead of going to India like Apple’s famed founder, Olav went to study christianity in Eastern Europe. In 1030 he decided he was tired of his life as a non-king.
Olav sailed off to Sweden, and from the city of Selånger he made his way to Stiklestad in Norway where he was slain in battle on July 29th. His body was in secrecy buried at the place where one can now find the Nidaros Cathedral, called Nidarosdomen in Norwegian. Nidaros is today known as Trondheim.
“If you strike me down, I shall become more powerful than you can possibly imagine” was said by Obi-Wan Kenobi, but it seemed that Olav also gained some funky abilities after his passing, because strange events started to occur once he was gone.
After the battle, the sky went dark. Duh, that’s just night! you might say, but no, this was in the midst of day! And people who were sick and injured were miraculously being healed from their ailments. “Let’s check out Olav’s grave” was the natural reaction to these strange happenings.
When they looked upon Olav a year after his death, people refused to believe he was head. It looked like the man was sleeping! His face was not the pale one of a dead man, and his hair and beard had in the grave managed to grow!
“He’s napping!” someone alledgedly said before someone else pointed out that no one can hold his breath for that long. “Well, then then he must be a saint!”
Thus Olav became holy, and in his honor the Norwegians celebrate him every July 29th. How long his beard is today, we can only guess.