On this day in 1030, the Norwegian King Olav II was killed fighting the Danish Vikings at the Battle of Stiklestad. A year later, he was canonised by the English Bishop of Selsey, Grimkell or Grimketel (the local canonisation was later confirmed by Pope Alexander III in 1164). In the later Middle Ages, Olav’s tomb, in the most northerly cathedral in Christendom, in Nidaros [Trondheim], became an important pilgrimage site, and the centre of a widespread “cult of Olav”.
Interestingly, a number of churches in and around the City of London are dedicated to St Olav(e).
This is because, in 1014, Olav 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 relieve Saxon London from Viking occupation (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”.
Two of the churches dedicated to St Olave, namely, St Olave Jewry and St Olave Hart Street in the City, are visited on our “Dark Age London” themed special walk.
Further details of all our walks are available in the “Our Guided Walks” section of our web-site (www.lostcityoflondon.co.uk).