Jerusalem in Viken: Crusading Ideology, Church-Building and Monasticism in South-Eastern Norway in the Twelfth Century

Volume editor:
Bjørn Bandlien
Chapter authors:
Bjørn Bandlien, Christer Carlsson, Øystein Ekroll, Øivind Lunde, Helen J. Nicholson, Karen Skovgaard-Petersen, Trond Svandal, Jes Wienberg


St Olav’s Church in Tønsberg in Viken (the area surrounding the Oslo Fjord in south-eastern Norway) burned along with most of the medieval town in 1536, the same year the Reformation was introduced to Norway. The church was never rebuilt, and its ruins were forgotten for centuries. When they were finally uncovered in the late nineteenth century, scholars realized that this was by far the largest round church built in medieval Scandinavia.

Later excavations have revealed that this church was erected in the late twelfth century and became a part of a Premonstratensian foundation. However, the scarcity of written records has left many questions open for debate – such as the identity of the founder and the intentions behind its construction.

The contributors to this anthology look at the material and textual evidence afresh, from different starting points and perspectives. Most importantly, St Olav’s Church is seen in connection with both the introduction of the Hospitallers to Varna just across the Oslo Fjord, and with the other round churches or rotundas in Scandinavia. Several chapters discuss the foundation of the church in light of the political and religious context in Viken, as well as Norwegian participation in the crusading movement in the twelfth century, and in this way, the building of St Olav’s Church can be seen as a monumental example of the attempts to imitate the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem and associate the region with a holy topography.

With the publication of Jerusalem in Viken: Crusading Ideology, Church-Building and Monasticism in South-Eastern Norway in the Twelfth Century, these important sites are presented to an international audience for the first time. The book will be useful to scholars – and the general reader – interested in round churches, the crusading movement, religious culture, the Premonstratensian order, and relations between Scandinavia and Europe in the Middle Ages.

Author Biographies

Bjørn Bandlien

Bjørn Bandlien is a professor of Viking age and medieval history at the University of South-Eastern Norway. Bandlien defended his PhD thesis Negotiations of Masculinity in Old Norse Society at the University of Oslo in 2005 and published Strategies of Passion: Love and Marriage in Medieval Norway and Iceland on Brepols the same year. His more recent publications include articles and edited volumes on the crusades, courtly culture, the medieval self, and the global Middle Ages.

Christer Carlsson

Christer Carlsson is a medieval archaeologist who received his PhD from the University of Southern Denmark in 2010. His publications include articles on the Hospitallers and the military orders in the journal Crusades, and he co-edited the volume Archaeology and Architecture of the Military Orders (with Mathias Piana, Ashgate 2014). Carlsson is currently working as an independent archaeological consultant.

Øystein Ekroll

Øystein Ekroll is a medieval archaeologist and senior researcher at the Nidaros Cathedral Restoration Workshop in Trondheim, Norway. Ekroll defended his PhD thesis The Octagonal Shrine Chapel of St Olav at Nidaros Cathedral: Investigation of its Fabric, Architecture and International Context at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (Trondheim) in 2015. He has published numerous studies on various aspects of medieval history, with an emphasis on medieval church architecture, monastic institutions, and religious culture in Norway.

Øivind Lunde

Øivind Lunde is a professor emeritus in medieval archaeology at the University of Oslo, Norway. Lunde was the general director of the Norwegian Directorate for Cultural Heritage from 1991–1996 and director of Nidaros Domkirkes Restaureringsarbeider (Nidaros Cathedral Restoration Workers’ Association) in Trondheim from 1996–2011. After excavations undertaken in Tønsberg, Lunde worked extensively on the archaeology of medieval Trondheim. He is currently working on a book about the Archbishop’s Palace in Trondheim.

Helen J. Nicholson

Helen J. Nicholson is a professor emerita in medieval history at Cardiff University in Wales. She has published extensively on the military orders, the crusades, and medieval warfare, and has done pioneering work on the proceedings against the Templars, the representations of military orders in medieval literature, and, not least, women and the crusades. Nicholson’s most recent publications include The Knights Templar (Amsterdam University Press, 2021), Sibyl, Queen of Jerusalem (Routledge, 2022), and Women and the Crusades (Oxford University Press, 2023).

Karen Skovgaard-Petersen

Karen Skovgaard-Petersen, Dr.Philos., is the director of Det Danske Sprog- og Litteraturselskab (The Danish Society for Language and Literature). She defended her doctoral thesis on Historiography at the Court of Christian IV at the University of Bergen in 1999 (published by Museum Tusculanum Press in 2002). Her publications include a number of studies on and translations of medieval and early modern Scandinavian Latin literature. She is currently working on a new edition of Historia de Profectione Danorum in Hierosolymam with comments and critical apparatus (and an English translation by Peter Fisher).

Trond Svandal

Trond Svandal, a division leader at Arkiv Øst, received his MA in medieval history from the University of Oslo in 2004. He has published two books on the Hospitallers in Varna, Norway: Johannitterordenen: En ridderorden ved verdens ytterste grense (Middelalderforum, 2006) and Hellige krigere: Johannitterne på Værne kloster (Valdisholm forlag, 2010). Svandal has also done research on the Napoleonic wars in Norway and published many articles on various aspects of the local history of Østfold.

Jes Wienberg

Jes Wienberg is a professor of historical archaeology at Lund University in Sweden. He received his PhD in 1993 from Lund University with a dissertation on the gothicization of the ca. 2700 parish churches in medieval Denmark. He has archaeological field experiences from Denmark, Norway, Sweden and Estonia, covering periods from the Mesolithic to the present. Wienberg’s research focuses on five topics: historical archaeology as a discipline; church architecture and church archaeology; pseudoarchaeology as a phenomenon; memory, monuments and memorials; heritage and world heritage. His numerous publications include De kirkelige institutioner i middelalderens Tønsberg (1991) and Grund og gård i Tønsberg (1992).

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April 26, 2023


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