1031 – Olaf II of Norway is canonized as Saint Olaf by Grimketel, the English Bishop of Selsey.
Olaf II Haraldsson (995 – 29 July 1030), later known as St. Olaf (and traditionally as St. Olave), was King of Norway from 1015 to 1028. He was posthumously given the title Rex Perpetuus Norvegiae (English: Eternal/Perpetual King of Norway) and canonised in Nidaros (Trondheim) by Bishop Grimkell, one year after his death in the Battle of Stiklestad on 29 July 1030. His remains were enshrined in Nidaros Cathedral, built over his burial site.
Olaf’s local canonisation was in 1164 confirmed by Pope Alexander III, making him a universally recognised saint of the Roman Catholic Church, and a commemorated historical figure among some members of the Anglican Communion. He is also a canonised saint of the Eastern Orthodox Church (feast day celebrated July 29 (translation August 3)) and one of the last famous Western saints before the Great Schism. The exact position of Saint Olaf’s grave in Nidaros has been unknown since 1568, due to the Lutheran iconoclasm in 1536–37. Saint Olaf is symbolised by the axe in Norway’s coat of arms, and the Olsok (29 July) is still his day of celebration. Many Christian institutions with Scandinavian links and Norway’s Order of St. Olav, are named after him.
Modern historians generally agree that Olaf was inclined to violence and brutality, and they accuse earlier scholars of neglecting this side of Olaf’s character. Especially during the period of Romantic Nationalism, Olaf was a symbol of national independence and pride, presented to suit contemporary attitudes.
Olaf II’s Old Norse name is Ólafr Haraldsson. During his lifetime he was known as Olaf ‘the fat’ or ‘the stout’ or simply as Olaf ‘the big’ (Ólafr digri; Modern Norwegian Olaf digre). In Norway today, he is commonly referred to as Olav den hellige (Bokmål; Olaf the Holy) or Heilage-Olav (Nynorsk; the Holy Olaf) in honour of his sainthood.
Olaf Haraldsson had the given name Óláfr in Old Norse. (Etymology: Anu – “forefather”, Leifr – “heir”.) Olav is the modern equivalent in Norwegian, formerly often spelt Olaf. His name in Icelandic is Ólafur, in Faroese Ólavur, in Danish Oluf, in Swedish Olof. Olave was the traditional spelling in England, preserved in the name of medieval churches dedicated to him. Other names, such as Oláfr hinn helgi, Olavus rex, and Olaf are used interchangeably (see the Heimskringla of Snorri Sturluson). He is sometimes referred to as Rex Perpetuus Norvegiae (English: Norway’s Eternal King), a designation which goes back to the thirteenth century. The term Ola Nordmann as epithet of the archetypal Norwegian may originate in this tradition, as Olav was for centuries the most common male name in Norway.
Olaf was born in Ringerike. His mother was Åsta Gudbrandsdatter, and his father was Harald Grenske, great-great-grandchild of Harald Fairhair, the first king of Norway. Harald Grenske died when Åsta Gudbrandsdatter was pregnant with Olaf. She later married Sigurd Syr, with whom she had other children including Harald Hardrada, who would reign as a future king of Norway.
Saga sources for Olaf Haraldsson
There are many texts giving information concerning Olaf Haraldsson. The oldest source that we have is the Glælognskviða or “Sea-Calm Poem”, composed by Þórarinn loftunga, an Icelander. It praises Olaf and mentions some of the famous miracles attributed to him. Olaf is also mentioned in the Norwegian synoptic histories. These include the Ágrip af Nóregskonungasögum (c. 1190), the Historia Norwegiae (c. 1160-1175) and a Latin text, Historia de Antiquitate Regum Norwagiensium by Theodoric the Monk (c. 1177-1188).
Icelanders also wrote extensively about Olaf and we also have several Icelandic sagas about him. These include: Fagrskinna (c. 1220) and Morkinskinna (c. 1225-1235). The famous Heimskringla (c. 1225), written by Snorri Sturluson, largely bases its account of Olaf on the earlier Fagrskinna. We also have the important Oldest Saga of St. Olaf (c. 1200), which is important to scholars for its constant use of skaldic verses, many of which are attributed to Olaf himself.
Finally, there are many hagiographic sources describing St. Olaf, but these focus mostly on miracles attributed to him and cannot be used to accurately recreate his life. A notable one is The Passion and the Miracles of the Blessed Olafr.
1924 – Leon Uris, American soldier and author (d. 2003)
Leon Marcus Uris (August 3, 1924 – June 21, 2003) was an American author, known for his historical fiction. His two bestselling books were Exodus (published in 1958) and Trinity (published in 1976).
Life and career
Uris was born in Baltimore, Maryland, the son of Jewish American parents Wolf William and Anna (née Blumberg) Uris. His father, a Polish-born immigrant, was a paperhanger, then a storekeeper. His mother was first-generation Russian American. William spent a year in Palestine after World War I before entering the United States. He derived his last name from Yerushalmi, meaning “man of Jerusalem”. (His brother Aron, Leon’s uncle, took the name Yerushalmi.) “He was basically a failure”, Uris later said of his father. “I think his personality was formed by the harsh realities of being a Jew in Czarist Russia. I think failure formed his character, made him bitter.”
At age six, Uris reportedly wrote an operetta inspired by the death of his dog. He attended schools in Norfolk, Virginia and Baltimore, but never graduated from high school, and failed English three times. When he was 17 and in his senior year of high school, the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor and he enlisted in the United States Marine Corps. He served in the South Pacific with the 2nd Battalion, 6th Marines, where he was stationed in New Zealand, and fought as a radioman in combat on Guadalcanal and Tarawa from 1942 through 1944. He was sent to the US after suffering from dengue fever, malaria and a recurrence of asthma that made him miss his battalion’s decimation at Saipan that featured in Battle Cry. While recuperating from malaria in San Francisco, he met Betty Beck, a Marine sergeant; they married in 1945.
Coming out of the service, he worked for a newspaper, writing in his spare time. Esquire magazine, in 1950, bought an article, and he began to devote himself to writing more seriously. Drawing on his experiences in Guadalcanal and Tarawa, he produced the best-selling Battle Cry, a novel depicting the toughness and courage of U.S. Marines in the Pacific. He then went to Warner Brothers in Hollywood helping to write the movie, which was extremely popular with the public, if not the critics. He went on to write The Angry Hills, a novel set in war-time Greece.
His best-known work may be Exodus, which was published in 1958. Most sources indicate Uris, motivated by an intense interest in Israel, financed his research for the novel by selling the film rights in advance to MGM and by writing newspaper articles about the Sinai campaign. It is said that the book involved two years of research, and involved thousands of interviews. Exodus illustrated the history of Palestine from the late 19th century through the founding of the state of Israel in 1948. It was a worldwide best-seller, translated into a dozen languages, and was made into a feature film in 1960, starring Paul Newman, directed by Otto Preminger, as well as into a short-lived Broadway musical (12 previews, 19 performances) in 1971. Uris’ 1967 novel Topaz was adapted for the screen and directed by Alfred Hitchcock in 1969.
Uris’s subsequent works included: Mila 18, about the Warsaw ghetto uprising; Armageddon: A Novel of Berlin, a chronicle which ends with the lifting of the Berlin Blockade in 1949; Trinity, about Irish nationalism and the sequel, Redemption, covering the early 20th century and World War I; QB VII, about the role of a Polish doctor in a German concentration camp; and The Haj, set in the history of the Middle East. He wrote the screenplays for Battle Cry and Gunfight at the O.K. Corral. His work on the subject of Israel has been criticized for being biased against Arabs.
Uris was married three times. His first wife was Betty Beck, whom he married in 1945. They had three children before divorcing in 1968. He then married Marjorie Edwards in 1968, who committed suicide by gunshot the following year.
His third and last wife was Jill Peabody, with whom he had two children. They married in 1970, when she was 22 years old and he was 45; the couple divorced in 1989.
Leon Uris died of renal failure at his Long Island home on Shelter Island in 2003, aged 78. His papers can be found at the Harry Ransom Center, University of Texas in Austin. The collection includes all of Uris’s novels, with the exception of The Haj and Mitla Pass, as well as manuscripts for the screenplay, Gunfight at the O.K. Corral.
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