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The first Christians

The first Viking expeditions at the end of the 8th century were the prelude to a period that would influence Europe greatly. As Vikings influenced the development in Europe, the encounters also shaped the Viking world.

The greatest and most permanent influence was the introduction of a new religion, Christianity. At the end of the 8th century, stone crosses were erected along the Norwegian coast. These are early signs of the establishment of Christianity in Norway.

Olav becomes a Christian

Around the year 1008 Olav Haraldsson went on his first Viking expedition. Eventually he reached Normandy in France. In the city of Rouen he visited churches and monasteries, and in the winter of 1014 he was baptized. At the time, Olav was probably already planning to unite Norway under his rule. Through his baptism Olav abandoned the pagan Norse religion in which many gods in Valhall reflected the many chieftains of Norway. He became part of a European Christian society, where one God in heaven legitimized one ruling king.

One legal religion

After the death of king Olav Trygvasson in the battle of Svolder in the year 1000, Norway was ruled by Danish kings with Norwegian earls as local representatives. In 1015 Olav Haraldsson chased the powerful earl Håkon from the country and made himself king. Olav brought with him bishops and priests to Norway and changed the laws to reflect the new Christian religion.

In 1024 Christianity was accepted as the official religion at the governing assembly at Moster. Olav then travelled through the country to make sure that people were baptized. He often used violence to make people convert to Christianity.

Olav's defeat

In 1026 Olav tried to conquer Denmark together with the king of Sweden. At a battle in Skåne they were defeated by the powerful Danish king Cnut the Great. Olav fled to Russia and Cnut became king of Norway. In 1029 Cnut’s earl drowned in a shipwreck and Olav seized the opportunity to try to regain power. When he returned to Norway, he met an army of farmers from central Norway, supported by chieftains from the north and west. They remembered his harsh rule and did not want him as a king. On the 29th of July 1030, Olav was killed in the Battle of Stiklestad. His body was brought to Nidaros, where he was buried.