The Chronicle of The Kings of Norway

by Snorri Sturlson | c.1179-1241 | 320,198 words

The "Heimskringla" of Snorri Sturlason is a collection of sagas concerning the various rulers of Norway, from about A.D. 850 to the year A.D. 1177....

Part 2 - Of King Olaf's Manner Of Living

It was the fashion in Norway in old times for the king's high- seat to be on the middle of a long bench, and the ale was handed across the fire [1]; but King Olaf had his high-seat made on a high bench across the room; he also first had chimney-places in the rooms, and the floors strewed both summer and winter. In King Olaf's time many merchant towns arose in Norway, and many new ones were founded. Thus King Olaf founded a merchant town at Bergen, where very soon many wealthy people settled themselves, and it was regularly frequented by merchants from foreign lands.

He had the foundations laid for the large Christ church, which was to be a stone church; but in his time there was little done to it. Besides, he completed the old Christ church, which was of wood.

King Olaf also had a great feasting-house built in Nidaros, and in many other merchant towns, where before there were only private feasts; and in his time no one could drink in Norway but in these houses, adorned for the purpose with branches and leaves, and which stood under the king's protection. The great guild-bell in Throndhjem, which was called the pride of the town, tolled to call together to these guilds. The guild- brethren built Margaret's church in Nidaros of stone.

In King Olaf's time there were general entertainments and hand-in-hand feasts. At this time also much unusual splendour and foreign customs and fashions in the cut of clothes were introduced; as, for instance, costly hose plaited about the legs. Some had gold rings about the legs, and also used coats which had lists down the sides, and arms five ells long, and so narrow that they must be drawn up with ties, and lay in folds all the way up to the shoulders. The shoes were high, and all edged with silk, or even with gold. Many other kinds of wonderful ornaments were used at that time.

Footnotes and references:


We may understand the arrangement by supposing the fire in the middle of the room, the smoke escaping by a hole in the roof, and a long bench on each side of the fire; one bench occupied by the high-seat of the king and great guests, the other by the rest of the guests; and the cup handed across the fire, which appears to have had a religious meaning previous to the introduction of Christianity. — L.

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