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Olsok (literally "Olaf's Wake" or "Olaf's Vigil" - that is the eve of St. Olaf's Day) is now the Norwegian name for 29 July, traditionally the date of the death of King Olaf II Haraldsson of Norway in the Battle of Stiklestad, east of Nidaros (Trondheim), Norway, in 1030. Olaf was canonised by Bishop Grimkell in Nidaros on 3 August 1031, and is remembered as Rex perpetuus Norvegiae, the Eternal King of Norway. More so than his attempts to finally (and forcefully) convert the country to Christianity, Olaf's martyrdom at Stiklestad appears to have contributed decisively to establishing the Church in all parts of the country.

Until the Lutheran reformation in the Nordic countries in the 16th century, Olsok was a major church feast in these countries. The late 19th and the early 20th century saw a renewed interest in Olsok, particularly in Norway. In the Faroe Islands 29 July - Ólavsøka ("Olaf's Vigil") - is still the national day, as it was when the islands were part of Norway in the Middle Ages. In Denmark 29 July is called Olai ("Olaf's Day"), in Sweden Olofsmässa ("Olaf's Mass") and in Finland Pyhän Olavin Päivä ("St. Olaf's Day"). The Roman Catholic Church in Norway still celebrates Olsok as a major feast all over the country, while the Lutheran Church of Norway celebrates the day in Nidaros Cathedral and in some other churches. Since the 900th anniversary of Stiklestad in 1930, 29 July is an official flag day in Norway.

In Savonlinna, Finland, 29 July is the biggest festival day of the summer, as Olaf was the patron saint of the castle Olavinlinna ("Olof's Castle").

See also[edit]

Other Sources[edit]

  • DuBois, Thomas Sanctity in the North: Saints, Lives, and Cults in Medieval Scandinavia (Toronto, 2008) ISBN 978-0802091307
  • Lynch, Joseph The Medieval Church: A Brief History (Routledge, 1992) ISBN 978-0582494671
  • Myklebus, Morten Olaf Viking & Saint (Norwegian Council for Cultural Affairs, 1997) ISBN 978-82-7876-004-8
  • Winroth, Anders The Conversion of Scandinavia: Vikings, Merchants, and Missionaries in the Remaking of Northern Europe (Yale University Press, 2014) ISBN 978-0300205534