The village of Stiklestad is a tiny town even by Norwegian standards. But the village has a special place in many Norwegians hearts. The area around Stiklestad was the scene of the battle of Stiklestad which took place in 1030. The battle was between King Olaf who had been forced in exile by a powerful family known as the Earl of Lade who had the support of the Danish kings including King Knud den Store also known in English as King Canute the Great.
The last of the Earls of Lade died in 1029 and after this Olaf decided to come out of exile and try to become king again. He travelled across the mountains with what was a huge army of its time. It is thought he had a combined strength of 3,600 men. At Stiklestad he met a peasant army one hundred hundred. This might sound like it was an army of 10,000 men – but a hundred in the old Norse was actually a dozen dozen – hence 144. So according to legend the peasant army was an astonishing 14,400 men strong.
The battle was not only about the Norwegian throne – it was also one of the last major battles about religion. Olaf had converted to the new Middle Eastern religion of Christianity while the opponents were supporting the traditional Norse religion.
The battle ended badly for Olaf who got killed quickly. It is a bit uncertain if he was killed by the enemy in an ambush, if he were killed by his own men or if he was killed during the battle. What is certain is he didn’t survive the battle and die at a stone in Stiklestad.
After the battle Olaf was taken to Trondheim which was the closest major town. He was buried in the city and within a year the local priest had started the beautification already in 1031. In 1164 he was made a full blown saint by Pope Alexander III. Hence Olaf lost the battle but in the end his Christian supporters came out on top and Christianity prevailed and slowly the traditional Ase-Vane faith of the Norwegians was moved into the background.
Today there is a museum at the location and a church. The church is built on top of the stone where Olaf is said to have died. The church is built in the 12th century and has remained here ever since. The church had a special place in later Norwegian history as well. In 1814 Norway got its independence from Denmark for the first time since they formally lost their independence with the Kalmar Union in 1397. They decide to hold and election and the first election took place at the church of Stiklestad. The Norwegian independence of 1814 didn’t last long and they fell under Swedish control until 1905 when they finally got their independence and choose a new king – which just happens to be a son of the Danish king who never learnt to speak Norwegian and spoke Danish till the day he died.
There is a fee to go inside the museum and look around – but the museum closed at four in the afternoon and we arrived only a quarter before so we didn’t go inside. Instead we walk around the ground outside.
Outside the museum is an outdoor museum which you can wonder around without an entrance fee after the main museum is closed. We walked around the different old houses which were nice to have a look at. There are different old houses including a chapel dedicated to Saint Olaf. The chapel look like an orthodox church which is to indicate Olaf had a close connection to the Kievan Rus who had given him a safe haven during his exile.
There outdoor museum also have some old houses which are recreation of Viking age houses including a long house. During the museum opening hour you can go inside the long house and there is some activities taking place outside – but not late in the day when we arrived.
The other houses are nice to wonder around and see the old wooden houses from an old era. It is quite to go and wonder around the area. We only see a couple of other people walking around the area in the distance.
It was well worth going here and see the place – it was still well worth the stop even though the museum was closed for the day.