Conversion Of Scandinavia And Olaf Tryggvason

Charlemagne was the king who helped christianity spread more quickly through Europe, by force, by his armys and slaughtering many who wanted to keep their old faith and the beliefs of their ancestors. After his death, the empire that Charlemagne created, started to fragment, and so for a time people stood still and there was a considerable peace, the Frisians had been converted to christianity and the Franks had their own empire by the cost of many inocent lifes. There was peace now in the countries of scandinavia.

Along the ninth century, churchmen were afraid from the people of the north that still remained faithful to the old gods, and so they prayed to be relieved and be guarded from the fury of the vikings, that to these churchmen,  the peoples of the north were even more terrifying because they weren’t christians, they were heathens, and for the church, these pagan people worshiped the devil and themselves were demons.

As the north countries and its people began to settling instead of raiding and pillaging, the church saw this as a good opportunity to bring the new faith into their northen neighbors, and many norse princes that were in refuge from the wars with the south and with the christians, saw this as a good  opportunity as well, because they realized that conversion to the religion of the kings with whom they had taken refuge, could win them suppot and alliance.

Denmark was the first country to fall under the new faith, king Harald Bluetooth took christianity and imposed it to his people, those that did not want to embrace this new faith and refused the orders of Harald, were forced to do so.

In Norway, at this time, an other king called Harald Hairfair, remained heathen to his death, however, he had many sons who fought over the kingship and sometimes they found in the christian alliances a very useful tool to ascend the throne.
The oldest of his sons, Eric bloodaxe was baptized with his wife, during their exile in the viking lands of England. Harald’s youngest son, called Hakon, was fostered by King Aethelstan of England, who raised him as a christian. Harald’s great-grandson, Olaf Tryggvason, was introduced to christianity, when he was still a very young man, when he took refuge in Russia. After taking power in Norway, all these kings tried to impose the new religion to their countrymen.

Hakon was the only one of these kings, to be tolerant, and the only one to be called “the good”. Hakon was called to the throne by the heathen jarl, when his older brother, Eric, proved to be a tyrant, so king Hakon was indeed a good king, he respected the rights of his own people. When he told his people that they should be converted to chirstianity, they responded that they thought he was bringing them freedom, but now he wanted to take them prisoners into a new and strange religion, and made them forget the beliefs of their ancestors. The people had so far tolerated their king’s strange ways in a strange new religion, but wanted him to join them in the autumn feasts, and so he did, a christian amoung pagans, being friends and sharing the heathen drinks to Odin. So Hakon kept the loyalty of his people. He was such a great and good king, that after his death in the last battle, the skald Eyvind sang in the old faith about Hakon and his deeds in the poem called “Hakonarmál”.

Olaf Tryggvason came to power, throughout these years, any men had allowed themselves to be baptized, in order to trade with the Christian Europe, or agreed to do so when they were forced by a christian overlord. Many chieftains welcomed christian missionaries and built churches to encounrage christian merchants to come and trade with them, but even baptized, the norsemen still returned to their old ways. King Olaf resolved to put an end to that, the people should be entirely christians, or no christians at all, the old gods and old faith, should be forgotten. Those that weren’t persuaded by threats or promises, he slew them, some he maimed, and some he drove  away from the land. Olaf Tryggvason pillage the heathen temples and destroyed the images of the gods, those people who were considered to do magic, he drowned, or killed them by setting a bowl full of hot coals on their belly, for exemple, there was a chieftain who was killed by being forced to swallow a poisonous snake.

In the years that followed, the new religion was very much implemented on the land. Churches had been built on the old sacred places and above the mounds of the dead, on the sites of demolished pagan temples, and bishops became powers in the land. The holy feasts became saints’ days.

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