Viking King’s church found

Archaeologists find remains they believe to be the resting place of Saint Olav II

Charlotte Bryan & Michael Sandelson
The Foreigner

Klemenskirken in Sør-Trøndelag County’s Trondheim originates from the Middle Ages. It is believed to have been built in around 1015.

Olaf Tryggvason (King Olav I of Norway), whose reign was between 995 and 1000 A.D., constructed it after Trondheim was founded in 997, historians have said.

What the archaeologists have now found in a courtyard between Søndre gate and Krambugata in the town’s center appears to be the church’s foundations.

“I’m as certain as possible about this [discovery],” Anna Petersen, project manager at the Norwegian Institute for Cultural Heritage Research (NIKU), told Adresseavisen.

In 1030 A.D., King Olav II was slain at the Battle of Stiklestad in Nord-Trøndelag County following his reign between 1015 and 1028. He was first buried where Trondheim’s Nidaros Cathedral stands now. The cathedral was well known as a popular place for pilgrimage in the Middle Ages.

King Olav II is thought to have played a fundamental role regarding the introduction of Christianity into Norway.

He was first canonized by Bishop Grimkell about one year following his death—this was later confirmed by Pope Alexander III of the Roman Catholic Church in 1164.

Saint King Olav II’s remains were subsequently moved to Klemenskirken, where his coffin lay placed on the altar for approximately 25 years.

The recent find by archaeologists is a continuation of a preliminary investigation, which they started last year after being called to the site by the Directorate of Cultural Heritage. Their discoveries also include a church’s stone foundations, some graves, a well, and a choir area.

What has been found is thought to be the single most important archaeological discovery in Trondheim for more than 100 years.

“This is one of the most exciting things I have been part of as an archaeologist,” said the Norwegian Institute for Cultural Heritage Research’s Anna Petersen.

This article was originally published on The Foreigner. To subscribe to The Foreigner, visit

It also appeared in the Dec. 2, 2016, issue of The Norwegian American. To subscribe, visit SUBSCRIBE or call us at (206) 784-4617.

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