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Monday, 7 November 2016

Olaf II of Norway

Olaf was born in Ringerike, Norway in 995. His mother was Åsta Gudbrandsdatter, and his father was Harald Grenske, great-great-grandchild of Harald Fairhair, the first king of Norway.

Olaf saw it as his call to unite Norway into one kingdom, as his ancestor Harald Fairhair had largely succeeded in doing. After spending his teenage years in Denmark and England, he returned to Norway in 1015 and declared himself king, obtaining the support of the five petty kings of the Uplands.

Coin of Olaf dated 1023–28.

At the Battle of Nesjar, which was fought off the coast of Norway on March 25, 1016,  Olaf Haraldsson was victorious over former co-regent Sweyn Haakonsson confirming his status as King of Norway.

Olaf had been converted to Christianity in Rouen, Normandy whilst in the service of the exiled King Ethelred II of England. Before leaving, Olaf was baptized in the pre-romanesque Notre-Dame Cathedral by the Norman duke's own brother Robert the Dane, archbishop of Normandy.

After taking the throne of Norway in 1015, Olaf started building churches throughout the land and completing the conversion of the Norwegians began by Olaf I.

Missionaries recruited by Olaf II were preaching the gospel with some success in Iceland. Unfortunately civil war broke out between those who accept and those who oppose Christianity. The matter was referred to a wise old man for decision and after much thought he pronounced the new religion to be good.

During his lifetime Olaf was known as Olaf 'the fat' or 'the stout' or simply as Olaf 'the big'.

In 1026 King Olaf II and King Anund Jakob of Sweden took advantage of the commitment of Danish King Canute to England and began to launch attacks on the Danish in the Baltic Sea. The Battle of the Helgeå was fought between joint Danish and English forces and a combined Norwegian and Swedish force, at the estuary of a river called Helgeå in Sweden. Canute's victory left him as the dominant leader in Scandinavia.

In 1029, King Canute invaded Norway supported by the Norwegian nobles and Olaf II was forced to take refuge. When Olaf tried to claim the throne back, he was defeated and killed at the Battle of Stiklestad on July 29, 1030.

Olav den Helliges død Peter Nicolai Arbo (1859)

Olaf swiftly became Norway's patron saint; his canonization was performed only a year after his death by Bishop Grimkell in Nidaros (Trondheim.

Olaf's canonization was confirmed by Pope Alexander III in 1164, making him a universally recognized saint of the Roman Catholic Church.

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