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Religion in pre-Reformation Norway

The earliest written sources to the pre-Christian Norse religion, dominant in the Nordic countries, are from Christian writers working in the 13th century. While these writings provide basic details of religious myths and conceptions, they transmit only scattered information about practices, rituals or beliefs among the general populace. Archaeological evidence, in particular from burial mounds, has provided some clues to the cultic nature of Norse religion, although the day-to-day religious activities of the population remain unknown.

The Christianization of Norway is generally considered to have begun during the latter half of the 900s, commonly linked to the efforts of kings Olaf Tryggvason (968-1000) and Olaf Haraldsson (995-1030, also known as "the Holy"), although the influence of Christianity from Continental Europe via Denmark probably started as early as the 800s, perhaps earlier. The introduction of Christianity was a gradual process, but following the creation of Nidaros (present-day Trondheim) as a separate church province directly under papal authority in 1152/1153, the church established a secure foothold in Norway.

Following decades of unrest from the mid 12th century onwards, the Norwegian polity was consolidated under the reign of Magnus Lagabøte ("Lawmaker"), 1263-1280. Magnus furnished the emerging state with a unified code of laws, the core of which remained in effect with only minor changes until the 17th century, and settled the often chaotic power struggles between churchly and stately authority during the meeting with Archbishop Jon Raude ("The Red") at Tunsberg in 1277 (known as Sættargjerden).

D 19 September 2016    AHelge Årsheim

CNRS Unistra Dres Gsrl

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