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The Viking Saint (Hardback)

Olaf II of Norway

Military P&S History > Medieval World > Medieval History

By John Carr
Imprint: Pen & Sword Military
Pages: 208
Illustrations: 20 mono
ISBN: 9781399087810
Published: 28th June 2022


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The Vikings and sainthood are not concepts normally found side by side. But Norway’s King Olaf II Haraldsson (c. 995-1030) embodied both to an extraordinary degree. As a battle-eager teenager he almost single-handedly pulled down London Bridge (as in the nursery rhyme) and took part in many other Viking raids . Olaf lacked none of the traditional Viking qualities of toughness and audacity, yet his routine baptism grew into a burning missionary faith that was all the more remarkable for being combined with his typically Viking determination and energy – and sometimes ruthlessness as well. His overriding mission was to Christianize Norway and extirpate heathenism. His unstinting efforts, often at great peril to his life, earned him the Norwegian throne in 1015, when he had barely reached his twenties. For the next fifteen years he laboured against immense odds to subdue the rebellious heathen nobles of Norway while fending off Swedish hostility. Both finally combined against Olaf in 1030, when he fell bravely in battle not far from Trondheim, still only in his mid-thirties. After his body was found to possess healing powers, and reports of them spread from Scandinavia to Spain and Byzantium, Olaf II was canonized a saint 134 years later. He remains Norway’s patron saint as well as a legendary warrior. Yet more remarkably, he remains a saint not only of the Protestant church but also of the Roman Catholic and Greek Orthodox Churches – perhaps the only European fighting saint to achieve such acceptance.

I found the book to be quite informative and quite a battle at some points but it was certainly a good read.

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The History Fella

As featured in

Church Times

Enhanced with an insert of photographs, an Epilogue (Where is he now?), a two page Bibliographical Note, and a four page Index, "The Viking Saint: Olaf II of Norway" is a seminal and scholarly study that reads with all the inherent narrative storytelling flair of an historical novel. While also available for the personal reading lists of students, academia, historians, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject, "The Viking Saint: Olaf II of Norway" is a welcome and unreservedly recommended addition to community, college, and university library Medieval History & Biography collections.

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Midwest Book Review

A fascinating, if gory, read.

4/5 points

Army Rumour Service (ARRSE)

About John Carr

John Carr has enjoyed a career as a journalist, correspondent and broadcaster (The Times, Wall Street Journal Europe, Vatican Radio), mainly in the Mediterranean and particularly Greece, where he now resides. He is the author of On Spartan Wings: The Royal Hellenic Air Force in World War IISparta’s KingsThe Defence and Fall of Greece 1940-41RHNS AverofFighting Emperors of ByzantiumThe Knights HospitallerThe Komnene Dynasty; and Mussolini’s Defeat at Hill 731; he is also the co-author of Philip, Prince of Greece (with Constantinos Lagos) and the translator of Who Really Won the Battle of Marathon? by Fotis Karyanos and Constantinos Lagos, all published by Pen & Sword.

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