instruere...inlustrare...delectare Disputations

Friday, August 25, 2006

Afterwards holy

Michaelus asks, "Who has a problem with St. Olaf?"

Who would dare? As Thomas J. Craughwell put it in Saints Behaving Badly:
The conversion of Norway proved to be a slow, tedious business, and Olaf was in a hurry to get the job done. With three hundred of his best men-at-arms he marched to those regions of Norway where resistance to Christianity was strongest. He destroyed pagan temples and smashed images of pagan gods. Anyone, of whatever rank, who would not abandon paganism risked execution, or blinding, or having a hand or foot lopped off. As Snorri tells us, the king "let none go unpunished who would not serve God."

It's interesting to note that Olaf's brutal, violent approach to converting a brutal, violent society worked. By 1030, Norway was a Christian country, nor did it backslide into paganism after Olaf's death.
Though not terribly popular in life, miracles after his death in battle (while trying to regain his throne, a common means of martyrdom for the saint-kings of the time) (and the miracles began pretty much immediately; there are reports of wounded soldiers being cured when they touched St. Olaf's blood while recovering his body) contributed to a very speedy canonization by his good friend Bishop Grimkell of Trondheim.

All the versions of the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle being kept up in the early eleventh century record his death, while MS C adds an express acknowledgement of his sanctity: "Her wæs Olaf cing ofslagen on Norwegon of his agenum folce [ond] wæs syððan halig," "In this year [1030] king Óláfr was killed in Norway by his own people, and was afterwards holy."
A lot of us, I think, sort of plan on being "syððan halig," though I don't know how many of us will be working miracles.