Olaf – The holy viking


Olsok, the eve of St. Olaf’s Day, is the Norwegian name for 29 July. This is traditionally the date of the death of King Olaf II Haraldsson in the Battle of Stiklestad in 1030. Olaf was canonised and is one of very few Norwegian saints, remembered as the Eternal King of Norway. Every year since 1954 there have been an outdoor play at the site were the king was killed. The holy king Christianized Norway. His death was the breakthrough for both the state and the church in Norway. One thousand years ago. Some of this story is disputed, but it is still fascinating, also the play.


The actor Henrik Mestad as King Olaf II (Olav den hellige).


The play is showing this dramatic history, and transition from the pagan agrarian society in the Viking Age. Our state, church and the monarchy has its roots in Stiklestad, north of the old city of Nidaros (Trondheim). I saw the play some years ago. This year it was played in the middle of the night for the first time, starting at eleven, and with with a very dynamic use of light. With horses, dance, professional singers, a very good orchestra and actors, and hundreds of volunteers. These pictures are from the rehearsal before the weekend, and there are more photos in my Stiklestad photo gallery.


The sun-dance (solleiken), danced before the peole of Norway became Christians



50 thoughts on “Olaf – The holy viking

  1. I love historical and mythical stories from different counties. Thanks for sharing the story of King Olaf.


  2. Love these historical open air plays you have in Norway – they look both interesting, as well as enjoyable. and obviously take great organisational skills (with so many participants).


  3. Wonderful post Bente–so medieval in feel and large-scale night photography is such a challenge! I would love to see your beautiful portrait of the actor as King as a vertical crop. It would be like one of those head shots actors use as marketing promos!!


  4. Thank you so much for this post. I would love to have been there to see the play. I shall have to do more reading on King Olaf ll. Interestingly enough my Uncle used to teach at St. Olaf’s college in
    Northfield Minnesota, but I’ve never read much on the subject, but will now. Perfect photos.


    1. And guess who your uncles collage got it’s name from. 🙂 This is certainly your kind of stuff, but I don’t know if there is much knowledge about the vikings food. Must have been a lot of meat, fish, brown bread and mjød, and otherwise meagre…?


  5. Beautiful photography – there is a certain kind of glow, makes them seem like paintings. Very nice read, thank you for sharing.


  6. Very much reminds of some of the Latvian pagan heritage. I often think we might have been far better off if we had continued to worship and appreciate our mother earth far better than our current christians seem to.


    1. I would guess there are some similarities in the pagan heritage in Latvia and Scandinavia. The Norwegian church is much reformed and are appreciating mother earth more and more it seems. The problem might be that so many people don’t care, not about religion and certainly not about mother earth. Thanks for your interesting comment, Gunta.


  7. great photos, Bente. and interesting article. When I look at the photos I feel I just stepped back in time.. super shots .
    groetjes, Francina


  8. Dear Bente,
    I really like your photos, how well you captured the atmophere.
    But with Olaf, oh dear, I have my problems. In my view he betrayed the old Viking way. On the other hand it seems to be that Olaf turned to Christianity for strenghens his power but he himself wasn`t a “real” Christian.
    With greetings from the old Viking country of Norfolk


    1. Yes, they are discussing this all the time, and I guess the answer is not that simple, at least since this happended almost one thousand years ago. As far as I know the vikings were not “soft” ones, christians or not. And religion and battles was used to get power more than anything. I would like to visit the old viking country of Norfolk, at least is is interesting history. Thanks for your comment.


  9. Great, very moody photos, Bente. To me Olav is not a hero to worhip. Like Klausbernd I have my problems with him, thanks for th respond to his comment. Have a great day. Greetings from sunny Hvaler,


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