Olaf III of Norway

Olaf III redirects here. It can also refer to Olaf Guthfrithson of Dublin and to Olof Skötkonung of Sweden. Also, sometimes Olaf II of Denmark is numbered as III when counting a previous anti-king. For other people of the same name, see Olaf Haraldsson.
Olaf Kyrre

Gerhard Munthe: illustration for Olav Kyrres saga in Heimskringla (1899)
King of Norway
Reign 1067 – 22 September 1093
Predecessor Magnus II
Successor Magnus III, Haakon Magnusson
Born c.1050
Died 22 September 1093 (aged about 43)
Haukbø, Rånrike, Norway (now Håkeby, Tanum, Sweden)
Burial Nidaros Cathedral
Consort Ingerid of Denmark
Issue Magnus III of Norway
Full name
Óláfr Haraldsson
House Hardrada
Father Harald III of Norway
Mother Tora Torbergsdatter
Religion Roman Catholicism

Olaf Haraldsson (Old Norse: Óláfr Haraldsson, Norwegian: Olav Haraldsson; c. 1050 – 22 September 1093), known as Olaf Kyrre (Old Norse: kyrri, English: Peaceful), ruled Norway as (King Olaf III) from 1067 until his death in 1093.[1]

He was present at the Battle of Stamford Bridge in England in 1066 where his father, King Harald Hardrada, saw defeat and was killed in action, an event that directly preceded his kingship. During his rule, Olaf made peace with regards to earlier royal conflicts with the church, strengthened the power of the monarchy, and is said to have founded the city of Bergen circa 1070. Around 1225, Snorri Sturluson wrote Olav Kyrres saga about King Olaf in the Heimskringla.[2]

coin dating to the reign of King Olaf Kyrre


Olaf was a son of King Harald Hardrada and Tora Torbergsdatter. Olaf joined his father during the invasion of England during 1066. However, he was only 16 years old during the Battle of Stamford Bridge in September 1066. He stayed on a ship and did not participate in the fighting. After the Norwegian defeat, he sailed with the remains of the Norwegian strike force back to Orkney, where they wintered. The return journey to Norway took place in summer 1067.[3]

After the death of his father, Olaf shared the kingdom with his brother Magnus II (Magnus 2 Haraldsson) who had become king the previous year. When King Magnus died during 1069, Olaf became the sole ruler of Norway.[4][5]

During his reign, the nation of Norway experienced a rare extended period of peace. He renounced any offensive foreign policy, rather he protected Norway as a kingdom through agreements and marriage connections. Domestically he laid emphasis on the church's organization and modernizing the kingdom. The latter resulted in, among other things, the reorganization of the body-guard and of measures under which key cities, especially Bergen, could better serve as a royal residence. According to the Heimskringla by Snorri Sturluson, Olaf is said to have founded the city of Bergen (originally called Bjørgvin).[6][7]

The death of Harald Hardrada and the serious defeat suffered by the Norwegians in 1066 tempted the Danish king, Svend Estridsen, to prepare for an attack on Norway. King Svend no longer felt bound by the ceasefire agreement signed with Harald Hardrada in 1064, since it would only be valid for the two kings during their own lives. However Olaf made peace with King Svend and married the king's daughter Ingerid. Later, Olav's half sister Ingegerd of Norway married King Svend's son and heir Olaf I of Denmark, who would later become the Danish king. Although there were some attacks on England by Danish forces, peace persisted between Denmark and Norway. Olaf also made peace with William the Conqueror of England.

King Olaf broke with his father's line in his relationship to the church. Harald Hardrada had developed a continuing conflict with the Archbishopric of Bremen due to the archbishop's authority over the Norwegian church. Unlike his father, Olav recognized that authority fully. Political considerations may have been behind this conciliatory attitude, as may have been Olaf's concern with the church organization. Until his time bishops had formed part of the king's court and traveled with him around the country to take care of the ecclesiastical affairs while the king took care of worldly matters. The bishops established fixed residence in Oslo, Nidaros and Bergen. King Olaf also took the initiative for the construction of churches, including Christ Church in Bergen and Nidaros Cathedral in Trondheim.[8]

Olaf strengthened the power of the king and instituted the system of guilds in Norway. There are strong indications that the government of King Olaf began writing secure provincial laws to a greater extent. The Norwegian law Gulatingsloven was probably put in writing for the first time during his reign.[9]

King Olaf died of illness on 22 September 1093 in Haukbø, Rånrike, then part of Norway (now Håkeby, Tanum Municipality, Sweden).[1] He was buried at the Nidaros Cathedral.[1] His marriage to Ingerid did not produce any children. His successor as king, Magnus III nicknamed Magnus Barefoot (Magnus Berrføtt), was acknowledged to be his illegitimate son.[10]

Physical appearance

The Morkinskinna (c. 1220) describes Olaf III as:

Another description is found in the Heimskringla of Snorri Sturluson:


A memorial to King Olaf Kyrre was placed in Bergen, Norway in connection with the city's 900 year anniversary. The abstract equestrian statue by noted Norwegian sculptor, Knut Steen, was unveiled on 21 May 1998.


See also


  1. 1 2 3 Claus Krag Olav 3 Haraldsson Kyrre (Norsk biografisk leksikon)
  2. "History of Bergen". The 27th Meeting of the European Crystallographic Association. Retrieved May 20, 2016.
  3. Per G. Norseng Olav 3 (Haraldsson) Kyrre (Store norske leksikon)
  4. "Olav 3. Kyrre". Den Store Danske. Retrieved May 20, 2016.
  5. Claus Krag. "Magnus 2 Haraldsson, Konge". Norsk biografisk leksikon. Retrieved May 20, 2016.
  6. "Saga of Olaf Kyrre". Heimskringla by Snorri Sturluson. Retrieved May 20, 2016.
  7. Hallvard Magerøy. "Bjørgvin". Store norske leksikon. Retrieved May 20, 2016.
  8. Odd Brochmann Nidarosdomen (Store norske leksikon)
  9. Per G. Norseng Gulatingsloven (Store norske leksikon)
  10. Claus Krag. "Magnus 3 Olavsson Berrføtt, Konge". Norsk biografisk leksikon. Retrieved May 20, 2016.
  11. Morkinskinna chronicle, quoted in History of the Norwegian people, Gjerset, Knut, New York, MacMillan, 1915.
  12. Tennant, Roy. "Heimskringla or The Chronicle of the Kings of Norway Saga of Olaf Kyrre". The Online Medieval & Classical Library. Retrieved April 21, 2015.
Olaf Kyrre
Cadet branch of the Fairhair dynasty
Born: c. 1050 Died: 22 September 1093
Regnal titles
Preceded by
Magnus II
King of Norway
with Magnus II (1067–1069)
Succeeded by
Magnus III
& Haakon Magnusson
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