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Archaeologists in Trondheim, Norway have unearthed the church where Viking King Olaf Haraldsson was first enshrined as a saint.
Experts working for the Norwegian Institute for Cultural Heritage Research (NIKU) uncovered the stone foundations of a wooden stave church where Haraldsson was likely enshrined after he was declared a saint in the 11th century.
Olaf Haraldsson, or Olaf II of Norway, is the country’s patron saint.
“This is a unique site in Norwegian history in terms of religion, culture and politics,” said excavation director Anna Petersén, in a press release. “Much of the Norwegian national identity has been established on the cult of sainthood surrounding St. Olaf, and it was here it all began!”
Haraldsson died fighting rival nobles in the Battle of Stiklestad in 1030 and his body was buried in Trondheim, or Nidaros as it was then known. Local people soon reported tales of miracles attributed to the dead king, according to NIKU, and in 1031 his coffin was dug up and opened in in the presence of a bishop, revealing his well-preserved body.
The dead king was declared a saint and his remains were enshrined above the high altar of St. Clement’s Church, which became his first mausoleum. Olaf’s coffin rested in the church for a number of years before it was moved to a larger church. The remains were eventually enshrined in Trondheim’s Nidaros Cathedral.
St. Clement’s Church was eventually destroyed and its location remained a mystery until NIKU archaeologists unearthed the site in Trondheim, which was dated to the time of Olaf’s rule.
“During its excavation, the archaeologists uncovered a small rectangular stone-built platform at the building’s east end,” said NIKU, in a press release. “This is probably the foundation for an altar – probably the very same altar on which St. Olaf’s coffin was placed in 1031!”
A small well was also discovered at the site, which may have been a “holy well” associated with the saint’s remains.
Other stunning Viking era discoveries have been made in Scandinavia this year. In March, for example, a 10th century Viking crucifix was unearthed in Denmark, prompting experts to reconsider the dates when Christianity arrived in the country.
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