Avaldsnes is the oldest royal seat in Norway!
It was here Harald Fairhair established his main royal seat after winning the battle at Hafrsfjord in 872 AD. Avaldsnes kept this position of power until 1450. Today, the beautiful Olav’s church is the mightiest memorial of former days of glory.
King Håkon Håkonsen started the work on the Olav’s church in 1250. Presumably there was already a church in the same spot as Olav Tryggvason built around year 1000. Most likely this was a smaller building in wood, torn down to make room for the new stone church. But the peculiar thing is that the area of the church in Avaldsnes is surrounded by burial mounds and obelisks from pre-christianization. Why wasn’t a more “available” building site chosen for such monumental builds?
The old royal seat Avaldsnes is compared to Uppsala in Sweden and Jellinge in Denmark. Here you can also find giant mounds and obelisks in the spot where a stone church is built. Here they have reached the conclusion that the first Christian kings must have been strategic and sought areas already culturally established when introducing new faith, rituals, laws and rules.
The Olav’s church used to be surrounded by several large obelisks. Some have disappeared or wrecked, but on the north side of the church you can still find the tallest and well-known obelisk called “Virgin Mary’s sewing needle”. With its 7,2 metres above ground level it is Norway’s second tallest, but no-one knows how deep it is underneath ground level.
There are many myths attached to the obelisk by the Olav’s church. Some say that this is the needle virgin Mary lost one day whilst sewing in heaven. Others say that this is a petrified magician that helped Olav the Holy to build the church, but fell off the roof and turned in to stone when the king at last found out that his name was Sigge. The most famous myth however, is that since the obelisk approaches the church wall by a few millimetres each decade, doomsday will come when it finally touches the wall!
Many believe that the chisel marks on the top of the obelisk are proof of how priests chiselled off the tip when it came dangerously close to the wall.
Visit Avaldsnes and see and experience the era of former days of glory. See opening hours if you want a guided tour inside the Olav’s church or if you wish to hear more stories attached to the mighty memorials here.