Olaf III of Norway

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Olaf III redirects here. It can also refer to Olaf Guthfrithson of Dublin and to Olof Skötkonung of Sweden. Also, sometimes Olaf II of Denmark is numbered as III when counting a previous anti-king. For other people of the same name, see Olaf Haraldsson.
Olaf Kyrre
File:Olav Kyrre mynt 1.jpg
Coin attributed to Olaf.
King of Norway
Reign 1067 – 22 September 1093
Predecessor Magnus II
Successor Magnus III, Haakon Magnusson
Born c. 1050
Died 22 September 1093 (aged about 43)
Haukbø, Rånrike, Norway (now Håkeby, Tanum, Sweden)
Burial Nidaros Cathedral
Consort Ingerid of Denmark
Issue Magnus III of Norway
Full name
Óláfr Haraldsson
House House of Hardrada
Father Harald III of Norway
Mother Tora Torbergsdatter
Religion Roman Catholicism

Olaf Haraldsson (Old Norse: Óláfr Haraldsson, Norwegian: Olav Haraldsson; c. 1050 – 22 September 1093), known as Olaf Kyrre (Old Norse: kyrri, English: "the Peaceful"), was King of Norway (as Olaf III) from 1067 until his death in 1093.[1] He was present at the Battle of Stamford Bridge in England in 1066 where his father, King Harald Hardrada, saw defeat and was killed in action, an event that directly preceded his kingship. During his rule, Olaf made peace with regards to earlier royal conflicts with the church, strengthened the power of the monarchy, and is said to have founded the city of Bergen in 1070.


Olaf was a son of King Harald Hardrada and Tora Torbergsdatter. Olaf joined his father during the invasion of England during 1066. However, he was only 16 years old during the Battle of Stamford Bridge in September 1066. He stayed on a ship and did not participate in the fighting. After the Norwegian defeat, he sailed with the remains of the Norwegian strike force back to Orkney, where they wintered. The return journey to Norway took place in summer 1067.[2]

After the death of his father, Olaf shared the kingdom with his brother Magnus II (Magnus Haraldsson) who had become king the previous year. Magnus died during 1069, and Olaf became sole ruler of Norway.

During his reign the nation experienced a rare extended period of peace. He renounced any offensive foreign policy, rather he protected Norway as a kingdom through agreements and marriage connections. Domestically he laid emphasis on the church's organization and modernizing the kingdom. The latter resulted in, among other things, the reorganization of the body-guard and of measures under which key cities, especially Bergen, could better serve as a royal residence. Olaf is said to have founded the city of Bergen in 1070.

The serious defeat of Harald Hardrada and the Norwegians suffered in 1066 tempted the Danish king, Svend Estridsen, to prepare for an attack on Norway. Svend no longer felt bound by the ceasefire agreement signed with Harald Hardrada in 1064, since it would only be valid for the two kings during their own lives. Olaf made peace with Svend Estridsen and married his daughter Ingerid. Later, Olav's half sister married Svend Oluf's son, who would become the Danish king. Although there were some attacks on England by Danish forces, peace persisted between Denmark and Norway. Olaf also made peace with William the Conqueror of England.

King Olaf broke with his father's line in his relationship to the church. Harald Hardrada had developed a continuing conflict with the Archbishopric of Bremen due to the archbishop's authority over the Norwegian church. Unlike his father, Olav recognized that authority fully. Political considerations may have been behind this conciliatory attitude, as may have been Olaf's concern with the church organization. Until his time bishops had formed part of the king's court and traveled with him around the country to take care of the ecclesiastical affairs while the king took care of worldly matters. The bishops established fixed residence in Oslo, Nidaros and Bergen. King Olaf also took the initiative for the construction of churches, including Christ Church in Bergen and Nidaros Cathedral in Trondheim.[3]

Olaf strengthened the power of the king and instituted the system of guilds in Norway. There are strong indications that the government of King Olaf began writing secure provincial laws to a greater extent. The Norwegian law Gulatingsloven was probably put in writing for the first time during his reign.[4]

King Olaf died of illness on 22 September 1093 in Haukbø, Rånrike, then part of Norway (now Håkeby, Tanum Municipality, Sweden).[1] He was buried at the Nidaros Cathedral.[1] His marriage to Ingerid did not produce any children. However, his successor Magnus III, nicknamed Magnus Berrføtt (Magnus Barefoot), was his illegitimate son. Around 1225, Snorri Sturluson wrote a saga about Olaf in the Heimskringla, a history of the kings of Norway.

Physical appearance

The Morkinskinna (c. 1220) describes Olaf III as:

"[A] tall man, and everyone agrees that there has never been seen a fairer man or a man of nobler appearance.

He had blond hair, a light complexion, and pleasing eyes, and he was well proportioned. He was taciturn for the most part, and not much of a speechmaker, though he was good company after drink."[5]

Another description is found in the Heimskringla of Snorri Sturluson:

"Olaf was a stout man, well grown in limbs; and every one said a handsomer man could not be seen, nor of a nobler appearance.

His hair was yellow as silk, and became him well; his skin was white and fine over all his body; his eyes beautiful, and his limbs well proportioned. He was rather silent in general, and did not speak much even at Things;
but he was merry in drinking parties. He loved drinking much, and was talkative enough then; but quite peaceful.

He was cheerful in conversation, peacefully inclined during all his reign, and loving gentleness and moderation in all things."[6]


A memorial to King Olaf Kyrre was placed in Bergen, Norway in connection with the city's 900 year anniversary. The abstract equestrian statue by noted Norwegian sculptor, Knut Steen, was unveiled on 21 May 1998.


See also


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 Olav 3 Haraldsson Kyrre (Norsk biografisk leksikon)
  2. Olav 3 (Haraldsson) Kyrre (Store norske leksikon)
  3. Nidarosdomen (Store norske leksikon)
  4. Gulatingsloven (Store norske leksikon)
  5. Morkinskinna chronicle, quoted in History of the Norwegian people, Gjerset, Knut, New York, MacMillan, 1915.
  6. Tennant, Roy. "HeimskringlaorThe Chronicle of the Kings of NorwaySaga of Olaf Kyrre". The Online Medieval & Classical Library. Retrieved April 21, 2015.

External links

Olaf Kyrre
Cadet branch of the Fairhair dynasty
Born: c. 1050 Died: 22 September 1093
Regnal titles
Preceded by
Magnus II
King of Norway
with Magnus II (1067–1069)
Succeeded by
Magnus III
& Haakon Magnusson