Olaf Haraldsson’s Relics – an Example of ‘Hagiocracy’ in Scandinavia

Olaf Haraldsson’s Relics – an Example of ‘Hagiocracy’ in Scandinavia

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Olaf Haraldsson’s Relics – an Example of ‘Hagiocracy’ in Scandinavia


Confluence: Interdisciplinary Communications (2007/2008)


The analysis of the ideology of leadership in the medieval North would not be complete without the study of the source material concerning the three Scandinavian kings: Olaf II of Norway (k. 1015–1028/30), Knut IV of Denmark (k. 1080–1086) and Eric IX of Sweden (k. 1150–1160), who were reputed to be saints. The questions which are central to my research concern the cult of those individuals and the perception of their authority as reflected in written sources dating from about 1000–1250. Since the number of extant writings is quite large, it provides relatively good information about the way this authority was skilfully used to promote certain ideologies concerning the rule of particular sovereigns. The impact of such ideologies (understood, to use the simplified popular definition, as “a set of ideas proposed by the dominant class of a society to all members of this society”) on medieval mentality was crucial. As the main purpose behind an ideology is to promote change in a society through a normative thought process, a study of this kind may enable us to better understand socio-political changes in medieval Scandinavia.

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