I spent most of the past week with Professor Steve Steve at the Internationales Sachsensymposion in Trondheim, Norway. We had two and a half days of paper sessions and one day’s bus excursion in the vicinity, all pertaining to post-Roman archaeology.
Here the professor is studying a Roman/Migration Period large-scale iron production site at Heglesvollen, a shieling in the mountains east of Trondheim. He’s in animated conversation with two of his admirers, Oslo PhD students Ingunn Røstad and Gry Wiker.
Here’s a piece of production slag that the professor found eroding out of the hillside at Heglesvollen.
Norway’s patron saint, St Olaf, died on the battlefield at Stiklestad in AD 1030. Having been killed by troops commanded by pagan leaders that the christian pretender Olaf Haraldsson was trying to beat into political submission, there was a tenuous case for seeing him as a martyr. Sure enough, someone swore that Olaf’s blood had cured his blindness, and the old Viking became canonised in record time. His cult became exceptionally popular e.g. in Sweden, and he is recognisable in church art from the instrument of martyrdom he carries: a battle axe. Look for him on the right-hand side of the nave’s front wall next time you visit a Medieval Swedish church.
St Olaf’s bones were kept in the Cathedral of Trondheim/Nidaros, where they proved a great boon to the town throughout the catholic Middle Ages as they attracted pilgrims from all of northern Europe. But the field at Stiklestad where he bit the grass was celebrated too: a century and a half after Olaf’s demise a church was erected with its altar right on the spot were the lethal axe blow was supposed to have been dealt. In our final picture, Prof. Steve is sitting on that altar and studying the tasteless 1930s murals that cover the walls and ceiling of the chancel.
Prof. Steve tells me he’s planning to join in the blogmeet on Tuesday before moving on to the next conference, where he will no doubt deliver a keynote adress and chair a few sessions while tripping on peyote.