St. Olaf’s Day
St. Olaf’s Day is a public holiday that’s observed in Norway and the Faroe Islands on the 29th of July. Also known as Olaf’s Wake or Olaf’s Vigil, this holiday is also observed in the provinces of Savonlinna in Finland, and Harjedalen in Sweden.
It’s a day to remember King Olaf II Haraldsson as the Eternal King of Norway-otherwise known as the Rex Perpetuus Norvegiae. July 29th is when this King died at the Battle of Stikestad in 1030 AD. It was his apparent martyrdom that is said to have established Christianity all throughout Norway, and traditionally with the canonization of King Harjedalen in 1031 AD, this day has been a major feast day in Norway.
The History Of St. Olaf’s Day
At the end of the 9th century, King Harald Fairhair was able to hold together and manage a number of fiefdoms that were controlled by several different kings on the local level. He was able to accomplish this feat of creating a unified Norwegian state by using military superiority and by a strategic marriage alliance with Hákon Grjótgarðsson of Nidaros. This worked out pretty well until Harald died and the alliance that he had managed to hold together for so long came apart at the seams.
After Harald’s death, his descendants and the Earls of Lade would spend the next century locked in a series of feuds over who would control Norway. These feuds not only involved power and politics, however. Sometimes religion was a part of the conflict as several of Harald’s descendants attempted to convert pagan Norwegians over to Christianity.
The conflict would all come to a head during the Battle of Stiklestad. During this battle, King Olaf II Haraldsson would fall and his body was carried away and buried in secret. A year after the battle, his grave was opened and supposedly his body was incorrupt. His body was moved to St. Clement’s Church in Trondheim and he was canonized as a saint. The date of his death has been a church feast day ever since.
Observing St. Olaf’s Day
All over Norway, this holiday is celebrated with feasts and festivals to mark Rex Perpetuus Norbegiae-the eternal king of Norway.