St. Magnús of Orkney

A Scandinavian Martyr-Cult in Context

Author: Haki Antonsson
The focus of this book is on the cult of St Magnús, Earl of Orkney, who was killed in 1116/1117 in an inter-dynastic dispute. More specifically, it looks at the emergence of the Magnús’ cult in the twelfth century and the hagiographical corpus that was composed in his honour by Icelandic and English men of letters. These aspects of the Orcadian cult are not, however, examined in isolation but are rather placed within broader Scandinavian and European contexts. Moreover, they provide points of departure for the examination of important topics relating to religious life and literature in early Christian Scandinavia, such as the earliest cults of native saints and the perception of martyrdom.

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Haki Antonsson, Ph.D. (2000) in Mediaeval History, University of St Andrews, is a Research Fellow in the Centre for Medieval Studies, University of Bergen. His main field of interest is European influence on Scandinavia ca. 1000 - ca. 1300, a topic on which he has published a number of articles.
Preface .. vii

Introduction .. 1

Part One: The Hagiographic Context .. 5
1.1. The St Magnús Corpus .. 5
1.2. Robert’s Life of St Magnús and its Components .. 14
1.3. Magnús saga lengri and the Cult of St Magnús in Iceland .. 17
1.4. The Narrative Pattern of Princely Martyrdom .. 23
1.5. The Literature on Princely Martyrs and the Periphery .. 30
1.6. Robert’s Vita and the Becket Corpus .. 42

Part Two: The Orkney Context .. 69
2.1. The Elevation at Birsay and the Translation to Kirkwall .. 69
2.2. The Earl .. 79
2.3. The Bishop .. 85
2.4. The Translation of Earl Rögnvaldr Kali .. 99
2.5. Concluding Observations .. 101

Part Three: Martyr-Cults of Secular Leaders in Eleventh- and Twelfth-Century Scandinavia .. 103
3.1. St Ólafr Haraldsson of Norway .. 103
3.2. The Cult of St Hallvard .. 121
3.3. The Danish Princely Cults: St Knud of Odense and St Knud Lavard .. 127
3.4. St Erik of Sweden .. 139
3.5. Conclusions .. 144

Part Four: Secular Leaders Associated with Sanctity in the Twelfth-Century Scandinavian Lands .. 147
4.1. Introduction .. 147
4.2. King Ólafr Tryggvason of Norway and King Erik emune of Denmark .. 149
4.3. Orkney: Earl Haraldr ungi .. 157
4.4. Denmark: King Knud Magnusson .. 160
4.5. Norway: Two Kings and Two Pretenders .. 164
4.6. Violent Death and Sanctity .. 181

Part Five: The Popular Context .. 193
5.1. The “Pagan Hypothesis” .. 193
5.2. Princely Saints as Heavenly Patrons .. 207

Main Conclusions .. 221

Geneology .. 227

Maps .. 229

Bibliography .. 231

Index .. 261
All those interested in the cult of saints in the period ca. 1050-1250 as well as those interested in the literary corpus produced in the Scandinavian lands in the same period.