Ancient Vikings at Avaldsnes, Norway …and a really old church

St. Olav’s Church is a medieval church in Avaldsnes on the island of Karmøy, on the west coast of Norway. During the Viking Age Avaldsnes was an ancient centre of power for Viking Kings in Norway.

Rich discoveries from the Viking era has been found around the entire area of the St. Olav’s Church. Amongst several interesting findings, a burial ship from around 680-750 AD was found here. It is presently the oldest ship burial uncovered within the Nordic countries. While walking, or in my case, biking, around Avaldsnes, one can easily stumble upon archeologists digging for lost treasures of an ancient world (although you can not see them in this photo…). Or one can stumble across some cows:

During World War II and the German occupation of Norway, the Germans demanded St. Olav’s church to be completely camouflaged with timber to avoid the steeple being used as a landmark for allied planes.

Although the current church was built from 1250-1320, it appears a wooden church was located on the same site, built around 1000 AD.

It appears the reason why Avaldsnes became such a centre of power was due to the narrow ocean passage between the island of Karmøy and the main land. The strait allowed for ships to seek shelter from the harsh North Sea winds & waves.

As St. Olav’s Church is located at the edge of the island, it has served as a landmark for seafarers passing through the strait for over 750 years. Today there is a bridge that connects the island of Karmøy to the main land.

A sheep looking across the Karmsund to the main land.

Virgin Mary’s Needle (Norwegian: Jomfru Marias synål). The stone leans towards the wall of St. Olav’s church. The legend has it that “Judgement Day will come when the stone comes into contact with the church wall“. Priests used to climb a latter up to the top of the monument stone and cut off pieces to avoid it coming too close to the church wall.


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