Saint Olaf

cropped Stained glass window with St Olaf in left panel, church of St Olave Hart StreetAugust 2nd –  On this day in 1031, the Norwegian King Olaf II, who had been killed fighting the Danish Vikings at the Battle of Stiklestad, was made a saint by the  English Bishop of Selsey, Grimketel.

Relief of St Olaf, church of St Olave Hart Street

Relief of St Olaf, church of St Olave Hart Street

A number of churches in and around the City of London later came to dedicated to St Olaf.

This is because, in 1014, Olaf Haraldsson, as he then was, was an ally of the Saxon English, under Ethelred “The Unready”, in their fight against the against the Viking Danish, under Cnut, and he helped save Saxon London from Viking attack (albeit only temporarily).

According to the Norse Sagas, he destroyed the Saxon incarnation of London Bridge, and the Viking army assembled on it poised to attack, by pulling it down with ropes tied to his long-boats.

The  court poet Ottar Svarte wrote, in the eleventh century, and Snorri Sturluson rewrote, in the thirteenth:

“London Bridge is broken down.

Gold is won, and bright renown.

Shields resounding, war-horns sounding,

Hild is shouting in the din!

Arrows singing, mail-coats ringing-

Odin makes our Olaf win!”.

Many believe this to be the origin of the much-loved nursery-rhyme “London Bridge is falling down”.


3 thoughts on “Saint Olaf

  1. rafterd1972

    Always an interesting bit of English history. I enjoyed your book. I am rereading Rutherford;s ‘London.’

      1. rafterd1972

        Hope you enjoyed your holiday. It is always fun to get away to try something new, to visit a new scene, just to relax. As always, I enjoy your posts. Just finishing Rutherford’s “London”. Second time around.

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