Saint-Making in Early Iceland

Saint-Making in Early Iceland

By Bernadine McCreesh

Scandinavian-Canadian Studies, Vol.17 (2006-7)

Abstract: This article examines briefly the lives of Iceland’s earliest candidates for canonization—the Norwegian king, Óláfr Tryggvason, and, more particularly, the Icelandic bishops, Þorlákr Þórhallsson, Jón Ögmundarson and Guðmundr Arason—and discusses some of the facts that led to their acceptance or rejection as saints of the Roman Catholic Church.

Introduction: Iceland was settled in the late ninth and early tenth centuries by mainly Norwegian Vikings, with a fair number of Irish wives, slaves and servants. For a good two hundred years after that, Icelanders still seem to have felt that they were part of Norway; for example, around 1030, a treaty was signed establishing an affiliation between the Icelandic people and the Kingdom of Norway, giving Icelanders privileges in Norway and vice versa. Up and coming young men—at least those in the sagas—would pay a visit to the court of Norway and hope to be well received. Most of the skalds at the Norwegian courts seem to have been Icelandic too. Norway was Iceland’s main trading partner, and, when Icelanders first started to write history, they recorded the history of Norwegian kings.

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