Nidaros Cathedral in Trondheim is the largest medieval building in Scandinavia and the most important church in Norway. Since its foundation in 1066 it has been an important pilgrimage destination, thanks to its relics of St. Olav, a Norwegian king and national hero.
The history of Nidaros Cathedral begins with a Viking chieftain who went on to become a king and finally a saint. His name was Olav Haraldsson and he was born in 995. He led the traditional Viking life of invading and raiding until, while serving as a mercenary under the Duke of Normandy and King Ethelred of England, he was converted to Christianity. In 1015, he returned to Norway, defeated his enemies, and became king.
Christian missionaries had already arrived in Normandy in the 10th century, but King Olav accelerated the process of the country’s conversion. However, he was very aggressive in promoting his new religion and it wasn’t long before this combined with bribes from his chief rival (Knut of England and Denmark) to lose Olav most of his supporters.
In 1028, King Olav was deposed and forced into exile. Within two years, he raised an army and returned to take back the throne, but he was killed in battle near Trondheim on July 29, 1030.
Olav was treated significantly better in death than he was in life. As luck would have it, the new Christian community in the area needed a saint. Olav’s supporters seized his body from the battlefield and buried it on the banks of the River Nid, where miracles were soon reported. At the same time, his legend was cultivated as a national hero who had fought off the „foreigner” Knut and was martyred in the process.
As Olav’s popularity grew, a bishop was called in to investigate the reports of miracles. Going straight to the source, the bishop exhumed Olav’s body, found it miraculously incorrupt, and declared him a saint. It had been one year and five days since his death. St. Olav’s remains were placed in a silver casket and a small wooden chapel was built over his grave.
Source: Nidaros Cathedral / Norway Today