Unity Under the Cross: Norway’s Christianization and State Formation in the Tenth and Eleventh Centuries
Date of Award
Bachelor of Arts
Professor Jeffrey Bowman
Professor Ruth Dunnell
Between the late tenth century and the late twelfth century Norway grew from a patchwork of small Viking territories to a unified Christian kingdom. The following essay seeks to examine how the introduction of Christianity by the missionary kings Olaf Tryggvason and Olaf Haraladsson influenced the growth of centralized government in medieval Norway. Through an alliance in 994 with Ethelred II of England, Olaf Tryggvason successfully conquered Norway through military force and by using Christianity as a way of gaining the loyalty of the nobility. Olaf and his priests blended Christian beliefs and practices with the native culture so that they converted a large portion of the Norwegian populace. Through another alliance with Ethelred II, Olaf Haraldsson continued the work of his predecessor by reuniting Norway under his rule. During his reign, Olaf Haraldsson passed legislation which enforced the uniform practice of Christianity in Norway. He also established a central government and supported the increasing power of the clergy within that government. After his death and canonization Olaf Haraldsson’s successors continued his work and increased the power of the Norwegian monarchy, culminating in the Law of Succession if 1163 which legislated primogenitor succession. This essay will examine how specific actors such as Ethelred, Olaf Tryggvason, Olaf Haraldsson, and the lesser kings of Norway influenced the social and political changes of Norway, and how these changes turned Norway into a recognizable medieval kingdom.
Odegaard, Andrea M., "Unity Under the Cross: Norway’s Christianization and State Formation in the Tenth and Eleventh Centuries" (2014). Honors Theses. 109.
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