Sanctus Olavus

From medieval

by Lars Boje Mortensen (Legenda), Eyolf Østrem (Officium) and Åslaug Ommundsen (Missa)

Sanctus Olavus, The Norwegian royal martyr saint, Olaf Haraldsson (d. 1030), became the most renowned local saint in the Nordic countries, as is evident from the great number of church dedications, place names, pieces of art, and texts. Little is known of his cult in the eleventh century, but during the twelfth and thirteenth centuries his shrine in Trondheim was turned into a major site of pilgrimage and celebration. The Nidaros cathedral was constructed and a series of liturgical, musical and literary monuments were composed. His status as a national saint remained uncontested, but his cult also diffused outside of Norway and assumed other functions.

Here the focus is on the Latin texts relating to Olaf. For recent surveys of the historical Olaf Haraldsson, the cult, art and musical history, and the Old Norse texts see SVAHNSTRÖM (ed.) 1981, KRÖTZL 1994, KRAG 1995, RUMAR (ed.) 1997, LIDÉN 1999, EKREM, MORTENSEN & SKOVGAARD-PETERSEN (eds.) 2000, ØSTREM 2001, MUNDAL & MORTENSEN 2003, RØTHE 2004.

The first critical edition of all the versions of Olav's Latin legend was finished (as a dissertation) by JIROUSKOVA in 2011 (see bibliography) after the present article had been written. It therefore reflects the status of research before her mapping and analysis of all textual witnesses and her critical edition (about to be published).


(BHL 6322-6326). For the present purpose the numerous versions of the legend are grouped under five headings, A-E, each referring to the text of the most important extant manuscript (see more information under editions and medieval transmission below). These letter codes will be used here as preliminary signposts for describing the surviving versions, not as an attempt at an exhaustive classification (the text published by STORM 1880 as Acta Sancti Olavi is not included here, because it is a secondary construct on the basis of a surviving vernacular version). The texts are usually easy to divide into a passio (or uita) and a miracle part. The differences between the versions are most conspicuous in the narrative of the first part, the passio. A gives the fullest passio account (ca. 5 pp.), B a very short abbreviation (half a page), hence the reference in the scholarly literature (and below) to a long and a short passio (or vita). In reality the “short” versions represent different extracts from what we suppose to be an original close to A. The second part, the miracles, is in general textually more stable between the versions, but the selection of miracles differs widely. The miracles will be counted according to the longest series as they appear in the major early manuscript (version A, Oxford, Corpus Christi College 209, from Fountains Abbey), namely 1-49. Only one miracle has been transmitted in Latin in the High Middle Ages (A, B, C) which is not present in this manuscript, the Miles Britannicus miracle, for practical purposes numbered here as 50. All these 50 miracles are posthumous, except no. 1, Olaf’s vision before the battle of Stiklestad, and no. 10, his trial for working on a Sunday. The additional late medieval miracles, performed by Olaf while still alive, are integrated into various late medieval versions of the Passio (D, E) and are not counted separately.

  • A Fountains Abbey (late twelfth cent.): long passio, miracles 1-49.
  • B Anchin (late twelfth cent.): short passio, miracles 1-9, 50, 10-21.
  • C Sweden (around 1200) rewritten passio (fragmentary transmission).
  • D Köln (ca. 1460) rewritten passio with more miracles.
  • E Ribe (ca. 1460-65) rewritten passio with more miracles.

The legend is traditionally referred to as Passio Olaui, but a more correct form authenticated by the Fountains abbey manuscript is Passio et miracula beati Olaui reflecting the clear division into two parts. In later medieval manuscripts other versions are entitled Legenda sancti Olaui, De sancto Olavo rege Norwegie and sim. or are left without a title.


A Regnante illustrissimo rege Olauo apud Norwegiamlibere quo uoluit suis pedibus ambulauit. B Gloriosus rex Olauus ewangelice ueritatis sinceritate in Anglia compertaQui cum patre et spiritu sancto uiuit, et regnat Deus per omnia secula seculorum. amen. C [mutilated at the beginning] ... Ecclesias et loca sancta oracioniset regnat in secula seculorum. amen. D Gloriosus martir Olauus norwegie rex per aliquorum sanctorum uirorum predicationem conuersusmultarum rerum ornata preciositate: in qua ipse requiescit testatur ecclesia. E In Nederos munitissimo castro tocius Norvegie regni ¬– cui est omnis honor et gloria in secula seculorum.


A runs to ca. 40 pp., the others from around 5 to 15 pp. The various extracts for liturgical readings make up ca. 1 to 3 pp.

  • Jacobus de Voragine, Legenda aurea [+ Historie plurimorum.... CHECK], Köln 1483, 307a-308d. [version D including miracles 2,5,4].
  • Breviarium Otthoniense (Odense), Lübeck 1483 & 1497 (repr. in STORM 1880, 255-64) [short passio, miracle 1].
  • Historie plurimorum sanctorum nouiter et laboriose ex diuersis libris in unum collecte, Louvain 1485, 101-103v (repr. in STORM 1880, 277-82) [version D including miracles 2,5,4].
  • Breviarium Lincopense (Linköping), Nürnberg 1493 (repr. in STORM 1880, 247-51) [short passio, miracles 1,2,4].
  • Breviarium Strengnense, Stockholm 1495 (repr. in STORM 1880, 255-64) [short passio, miracle 1].
  • Breviarium Upsalense (Uppsala), Stockholm 1496 (repr. in STORM 1880, 255-64) [short passio, miracle 1].
  • Breviarium Scarense (Skara), Nürnberg 1498, f. CCLVII verso. (repr. in STORM 1880, 251-54) [long passio, no miracles]
  • Breviarium Aberdonense (Aberdeen), Edinburgh 1509/1510 (repr. in METCALFE 1881, 117-18) [short passio, miracles 1,2,4].
  • Breviarium Slesvicense (Sleswig), Paris 1512 (repr. in STORM 1880, 265-66) [short passio, miracles 1,2,10,5].
  • Breviarium Arosiense (Århus), Basel 1513 (repr. in STORM 1880, 255-64) [short passio, miracle 1].
  • Breviarium Roschildense (Roskilde), Paris 1517 (repr. in STORM 1880, 255-64) [short passio, miracle 1].
  • Breviarium Lundense (Lund), Paris 1517 (repr. in STORM 1880, 255-64) [short passio, miracles 1-2].
  • Breviarium Nidrosiense (Nidaros), Paris 1519, fols. qq II-rr IIII (repr. in TORFÆUS 1711, LANGEBEK 1773 & STORM 1880, 229-45), [extended short passio, miracles 1-3, 6-10, 19, 15, 20, 23, 4, 12, 14].
  • Breviarium Arhusiense, Århus 1519 (repr. in STORM 1880, 247-51) [short passio, miracles 1,2,4].
  • Officia propria ss. patronorum Regni Sueciæ, Antwerpen 1616 (and several reprints) [short passio, miracle 1].
  • TORFÆUS, T. 1711: Historia rerum Norvegicarum, Copenhagen, vol. 3, 211-13 [reprint of the BN text].
  • Acta Sanctorum, Antwerpen 1731, Julii Tomus VII, 87-120: “De S. Olavo, rege et martyre, Nidrosiæ in Norvegia Commentarius Historicus”. [excerpts from medieval and early modern historiography with discussions; also includes brief quotations from a lost Utrecht manuscript. The pages 113-16 prints the text, subsequently lost, from the late medieval legendarium, Codex Bodecensis, under the title “Acta brevia auctore anonymo, ex passionali pergameno ms. cœnobii Bodecensis”, which includes an A version of the passio with miracles 1,2,6,7,8,19,20,3,5. Additional material from BN is quoted via TORFÆUS 1711, 117-20.]
  • LANGEBEK, J. 1773: SRD 2, Copenhagen, 529-52: “Legendæ aliquot de Sancto Olavo Rege Norvegiæ” [edition of various fragments and transcriptions in Arne Magnusson’s collection, a reprint of the Low German translation and the BN text]
  • Officia propria ss. patronorum Regni Poloniæ et Sueciæ, Mechlen 1858 (repr. in STORM 1880, 264-65) [short passio, miracle 1].
  • STORM, G. 1880: “Acta sancti Olavi regis et martyris,” in MHN, Kristiania 1880, 125-44 [an eclectic A text based mainly on BN and Acta sanctorum, but ordered with the Old Norse homily as structural guideline].
  • • METCALFE, F. 1881: Passio et Miracula Beati Olaui, edited from a twelfth-century manuscript in the library of Corpus Christi College, Oxford, with an introduction and notes by F. M., Oxford [first edition of the full A version, the Fountains abbey text].
  • • STORM, G. 1885: Om en Olavslegende fra Ribe, (Christiania Vidensk.-Selsk. Forhandl. 3), Kristiania. [A partial first edition of E, the “Ribe”-legend, ca. 1460/65].
  • • MALIN 1920 [first edition of the Miles Britannicus-miracle from a thirteenth-century fragment].
  • • ØSTREM 2000 [first edition of C, based on thirteenth-century breviary fragments, Stockholm, Riksarkivet, Fr. 596 & 614 (together also called codex 97) – see also ØSTREM 2001]
  • • ØSTREM 2001 [appendix 2, pp. 263-280, ‘Lessons from Passio Olavi’: the long passio (A) based on Storm 1880, the short passio (B) and miracles 1-11 based on the Anchin manuscript, all with copious additional readings from a number of liturgical manuscript fragments. Appendix 5, pp. 288-91 reprints the edition of the C version from Østrem 2000].

For medieval translations see Medieval transmission and reception.

  • SKARD, E. 1930: Passio Olavi. Lidingssoga og undergjerningane åt den heilage Olaf, (Norrøne bokværk 46) Oslo (repr. 1970). [Norwegian, nynorsk, from STORM’s edition, with additions and transpositions].
  • LUDWIG 1994 ##-## [English, selections from METCALFE’s edition (version A)]
  • PHELPSTEAD, C. (ed.) 2001: A History of Norway and The Passion and Miracles of the Blessed Óláfr, translated by D. Kunin, ed. with introduction and notes by C. Phelpstead (Viking Society for Northern Research Text Series, vol. 13), London [from METCALFE’s edition (version A)].
  • IVERSEN, G. (transl.) in LIDÉN 1999, 404-10 [Swedish, from STORM 1885 (version E)].
  • EKREM, I. 2000, 145-46 [Norwegian, bokmål, the short Passio from version B].
  • ØSTREM 2000, 192-97 [Norwegian, bokmål, from his own edition ibid. (version C)].
  • ØSTREM 2001, ##-##. [English, from his own edition ibid. (version C)].
  • METCALFE 1881 [literary and historical footnotes for the entire text].
  • SKARD 1930.
  • KRAGGERUD 1993, 130-44.
  • PHELPSTEAD 2001, ##-##.

Date and place

There can be no doubt that the legend of St. Olaf went through a formative phase shortly after the establishment of the archbishopric in Trondheim in 1153, and in particular during the period when Eystein Erlendsson was in office (1161-1188). Our earliest extant manuscripts of both the legend and the chants and lectiones derived from it, stem from the end of the twelfth century, and a number of miracles date and place themselves in Trondheim after 1153 and some even explicitly during the reign of Eystein. This date also tallies well with a number of significant textual and musical compositions for the liturgy of St. Olaf (see below), and with the contemporary organisation of pilgrimage on a larger scale.

Furthermore the historian Theodoricus Monachus, who was a probably a canon at the cathedral in this very period and certainly a well-informed local who dedicated his work to Eystein sometime between the years 1177 and 1188, writes in ch. 20:

Quomodo vero mox omnipotens Deus merita martyris sui Olavi declaraverit cæcis visum reddendo et multa commoda ægris mortalibus impendendo, et qualiter episcopus Grimkel – qui fuit filius fratris Sigwardi episcopi, quem Olavus filius Tryggva secum adduxerat de Anglia - post annum et quinque dies beatum corpus e terra levaverit et in loco decenter ornato reposuerit in Nidrosiensi metropoli, quo statim peracta pugna transvectum fuerat, quia hæc omnia a nonnullis memoriæ tradita sunt, nos notis immorari superfluum duximus.

(It has been related by several how almighty God soon made known the merits of his martyr Óláfr, by restoring sight to the blind and bestowing manifold comforts on the infirm; and how, after a year and five days. Bishop Grímkell (who was the nephew of bishop Sigeweard, whom Óláfr Tryggvason had brought with him from England) had Óláfr’s body exhumed and laid in a fitly adorned place in the metropolitan city of Nidaróss, where it had been conveyed immediately after the battle was finished. But because all these things have been recorded by several, I regard it as unnecessary to dwell on matters which are already known.) (transl. MCDOUGALL & MCDOUGALL 1998, 32-33).

Although this passage has given rise to a number of discussions (further references in MCDOUGALL & MCDOUGALL 1998, 32-33) it is safe to infer that Theodoricus knew of writings (“memoriæ tradita sunt”) about some of Olaf’s posthumous miracles and about the translation of Olaf’s body to Trondheim – and that he expected his primary audience to know about such texts. All other traces of a translation text has disappeared, but the miracles must at least be some of those we know from the legend, or even simply identical to a certain group of them. ØSTREM 2001, 34-35, has questioned STORM’s hypothesis (1880, XXXIV) that Theodoricus is here speaking of a lost Translatio S. Olavi. Others have extended his doubts (e.g. CHASE 2005, 12) with the resulting interpretation that Theodoricus’s testimony simply shows that the events were known. But although ØSTREM is correct in saying that we cannot take for granted that Theodoricus is referring to a liturgical text, we have to acknowledge that he is referring to specific writings existing at the cathedral in Trondheim. “Memoriae tradere” is standard classical and medieval Latin for putting into writing, and it would need other indicators and a lot of good will to make it refer to, for instance, (unwritten) skaldic verse. That Theodoricus is not talking vaguely of knowledge floating around in common memory is underlined by the phrase “a nonnullis”, i.e. writings by certain people. He may or may not have known who the authors were, but his entire point is to say that what you do not find in this book you will find in others (almost certainly, Latin books here at the cathedral). Leaving aside the question of the Translatio, for the present purpose it is sufficient so far to establish that Theodoricus presumed that it would be straightforward for his readers/listeners around 1180 to find one or more written accounts of a number of Olaf’s posthumous healing miracles.

STORM 1880 and SKARD 1932 were convinced that Theodoricus also knew the Passio, i.e. the vita-part of the legend more or less as we have it in its long version. Their textual arguments are not particularly strong and their view has since become muddled by a number of factors. First, METCALFE’s discovery of the fullest version (A) of the legend in 1881 with some of its additional miracles penned by Eystein led to an assumption that the entire legend came from his hand (and, consequently, must have been at least contemporary with Theodoricus, if not later). The stylistic investigation by SKARD 1932 allegedly proved unitary authorship by the archbishop – a position that has been accepted by most leading scholars since, for instance by HOLTSMARK 1937 and GUNNES 1996 although both believed that some sort of written account did exist before 1153 and was used by Eystein acting as redactor. The unitary style which SKARD had suggested, however, was difficult to uphold, both because what seemed to him stylistic idiosyncrasies are now known to be standard medievalisms, and because a number of other traits in the text point to more to a multilayered composition than unitary composition or redaction (cf. EKREM 2000 & MORTENSEN 2000a, MORTENSEN & MUNDAL 2003, and see Summary of contents below). A particularly intriguing passage in Theodoricus complicates matters further. He presents as his personal finding (and there is no reason to doubt this) that Olaf was baptized in Rouen: this can be learnt from the Norman chronicler, William of Jumièges (ca. 1070, book 5, ch. 11-12). The Passio takes this information for granted and it would therefore seem to postdate Theodoricus (for a full discussion of this see MORTENSEN 2000b). It has also been shown that the short vita (evidenced before ca. 1200 in the Douai manuscript, version B above) – by some scholars believed to have been a first version – is in fact an abbreviation of the long vita (ØSTREM 2001, 45 ff., MORTENSEN & MUNDAL 2003, 366). Finally ANTONSSON 2004a has pointed to a convincing motif parallel (see Sources below) with the legend of Thomas Becket which gives a terminus post quem of 1173. All this certainly point to the 1170s and 1180s as the crucial period for the composition of the long vita. Instead of focusing on Eystein alone, it is probably safer to talk of a team effort by the senior clergy at the Trondheim cathedral (cf. Theodoricus’s share in discovering evidence for Olaf’s baptism, see also Composition and style below).

While we can be certain that the Passio is a late twelfth-century Trondheim composition, and that the entire legend, including the miracles, must have been put together in a form like A at the same time and place, this does not preclude the possibility that a first series of miracles were taken down at an earlier stage, before Eystein, and probably also before 1153 (for the various groupings of miracles, see below Summary and Composition). There is a good amount of evidence for this. Theodoricus’s statement quoted above implies that he knew written accounts of a number of miracles (and of the translation), but not of a passio. At the beginning of miracle 37 Archbishop Eystein writes:

Perlectis his, que de uita et miraculis beati Olaui nobis antiquitas commendauit, congruum estimamus a nobis quoque, qui eius presentialiter nouis passim illustramur miraculis, que ipsi uidimus aut ueratium uirorum testimoniis uirtuose ad eius gloriam adeo facta probauimus, futuris generationibus memoranda litteris assignari.

(Having read all those accounts which antiquity has entrusted to us concerning the life and miracles of the blessed Óláfr, we deem it fitting that we, who have been personally enlightened by his widespread miracles in our own day, should also commit to the attention of future generations, in writing, those things which have been performed by miraculous powers, to his greater glory, as we have seen for ourselves or have learnt from the testimony of truthful men.)

Eystein’s reference to antiquitas here is somewhat puzzling because it was clear to him that both the vita and most of the miracles were taken down after 1153. But he may think of the oldest core of miracles (see below Summary) at the beginning of the book which radiated “antiquity” – or he may have known for a fact that the collection of miracle reports had indeed been initiated before 1153.

The strongest indication that a written tradition of old miracles was available before 1153 is the Old Norse stanzaic poem Geisli (Sunbeam) composed on commission by the poet Einar Skúlason for the festivities at the establishment of the archdiocese in 1153. In Geisli eight of the first nine miracles of the Latin collections are describes in a poetic rephrasing (cf. HOLTSMARK 1937, PHELPSTEAD 2001, XXXII & CHASE 2005). Usually this is taken as evidence that the vernacular poet was drawing on Latin writing or stories told on the basis of a Latin text (EKREM 2000, PHELPSTEAD 2001, MORTENSEN & MUNDAL 2003). It is correctly pointed out by CHASE (2005, 13) that we cannot be certain that the influence does not run the other way (as long as we do not possess a pre-1150 fragment containing Latin miracles), but probability, I think, speaks against it. It is a widely well-attested practice in the eleventh and twelfth centuries to take down miracle reports at the main shrine in Latin rather than in the vernacular, and in this case it is difficult to see how the Latin should have been extracted from a highly specialized poetic discourse. Some details of authentication have also been left out by the poet, such as the presence of votive gifts in the church stemming from miracle 4 and 5 (cf. Geisli, stanzas 51-56 & 35-36). As these miracle report seem to have served as an explanation of the votive gifts it would be more difficult to interpret the authentication as an addition to the Latin text than as something left out through poetic treatment. More analysis drawing on the entire miracle corpus in Latin and Old Norse is needed, but I am inclined to agree with the widely held view that a small collection of Latin miracle reports was already available in Trondheim before 1153 (cf. HOLTSMARK 1937, GUNNES 1996, 178-79, EKREM 2000, PHELPSTEAD 2001, XXXVIII) – although it is difficult to say when it was taken down. One possibility is the active period of building and “positioning” in the 1130s and 1140s, but at the present stage of research there is no clear indication that it could not be as old as around 1100.

Apart from this possible group of pre-1153 core miracles (1-10) the remainder of the miracle collection as we know it in version A consists of various layers composed between 1153 and 1188 (death of Eystein who penned some of the last miracles) or ca. 1200 (latest palaeographical date of the Fountains Abbey manuscript.) The Summary below gives some additional internal evidence for this time frame.

Version B is contemporary with A and strongly related to it (see Summary below). Version C in all probability stems from Sweden, perhaps from the diocese of Linköping where it could have been composed around 1200 (ØSTREM 2000 & 2001).

D and E are both late medieval texts (ca. 1460) composed outside of Norway, D is known through the legendary put together by Herman Greven in Köln 1460 – it is probably of German origin as it reflects the world of Hanseatic traders and was immediately translated into Low German. E is known through the work of Petrus Mathie in Ribe in southern Denmark (ca. 1460-1465), and is related to D in narrative and motifs.

Summary of contents

Version A: Passio: The long Passio begins by a lofty summary of the role of Olaf as the ruler who converted the cold North. It includes a number of biblical quotations where this deed is foreshadowed, and Olaf is hinted at – he is for instance the “boiling pot” (olla) mentioned by Jeremiah. The rest of the Passio is structured chronologically from the time he was baptized in Rouen. He was the perfect ruler, a rex justus, who spread the word of God, uprooted paganism, and kept justice by his own humble example and by restraining the proud. But his efforts was not welcomed by everyone and due to rising pressure he went into exile in Russia to await a better time to carry through God’s plan. After a while he felt ready to return, also to suffer martyrdom if that was God’s will. His adversaries gathered to meet him, partly bribed by his enemy “a certain Canute” [the Great], partly through their own ambition and reluctance to accept Christianity. Olaf faced death bravely with his eyes fixed on eternal life and was struck down at Stiklestad [north of Trondheim] on Wednesday July 29, 1028 [according to this version].

Miracles: In this version 49 miracles are collected which can be divided in four major series: 1-10, 11-21, 22-36, 37-49. For discussion of possible divisions see HOLTSMARK 1937, GUNNES 1996, 178-88, EKREM 2000, JØRGENSEN 2000, MUNDAL & MORTENSEN 2003. The present division, and others that have been proposed, owes as much to the transmission of miracles in other versions as to an analysis of formalities, style and contents – a distinction that has not yet been systematically applied. In terms of content the first series stand out in several respects: it includes two miracles which happened in Olaf’s lifetime (1 & 10, all other miracles are posthumous); three miracles (3-5) end with a reference to the votive gift which can be seen in the martyr’s church now (hec ecclesia). There are no references to archbishop or arch see. Number 10, which deals with Olaf’s self-inflicted punishment of his transgression against the rule of resting on a Sunday, is introduced by an editorial voice explaining that although this miracle comes last, it should really have been put first in terms of chronology. No. 2 narrates the “protomiracle”, the first healing worked by the saint on the day after his death. 3-5 and 9 report stories of miracles outside of Norway through prayers to Olaf, and 6-8 of healings of people who attended the memoria of the saint, i.a. the feast of 29 July. These miracles (with or without no. 10) are also usually grouped together because the Old Norse poem Geisli from 1153 (see above) reports all the miracles here except 8 and 10 and none from any subsequent series.

The beginning of the next series, 11-21, is marked by the reference to the “archbishop and the brothers” at the end of 11 (... archiepiscopo et fratribus exposuit) – the brothers no doubt referring to the regular canons of the Trondheim cahtedral. Miracle 19 is explicitly dated to the year when Olaf’s church in Trondheim received the pallium. The majority of these miracles are healings, but two deal with escape from fire and one with a boy lost and found (!). The feast and shrine in Trondheim again dominate, but there are two miracles reported from the Norwegian community in Novgorod and two from the province of Telemark. No. 21 deals with the healing of an unnamed Norwegian king at Olaf’s local church in Stiklestad, but there is no textual break between 21 and 22, in fact 22 begins by saying “in the same year...”. The reason that scholars have put a caesura here is because the miracles 1-21 are transmitted together in a number of other manuscripts and vernacular texts. With one small exception (part of miracle 23 in the Breviarium Nidrosiense from 1519), miracles 22-49 are only known from version A – the Fountains abbey manuscript. The Anchin manuscript (see below version B) stops after miracle 21 and so does the Old Norse Homiliary version from ca. 1200. The vernacular Legendary saga of Olaf from the beginning of the thirteenth century also confines itself to the first 21 miracles, and a fragment from the thirteenth century with Old Norse adaptations of Olaf miracles contain pieces only within this range as well (cf. JØRGENSEN 2000).

The third series, 22-36, is equally dominated by healings at the shrine (mostly in connection with the celebrations on 29 July). Occasional “distance” miracles are also reported where the person(s) favoured through a vow to Olaf present themselves in Trondheim to pay homage to the saint. An authenticating voice is often present – it is a “we” who receives gifts for the church or who have heard the story from so and so. In two miracles (26 & 30) the “we” addresses themselves to a caritati uestre, probably the archbishop. In no. 34 we are informed that a gift was sent “to us while we were in Bergen”; it is most natural to take this as pluralis maiestatis, hence it is possible that the author here is archbishop Eystein, although it could be another senior official. Miracle 35 tells of an opening of the shrine (the miracle is the sweet fragrance) and is also interesting because it begins with a date “some time during the reign of King Eystein ...”; this means that this miracle must have been taken down after Eystein Haraldson’s death in 1157. Some miracles are dated relatively “the same year” or “next winter”. There is no explicit conclusion of this series, but the next one begins with a clear break.

The fourth and last series, 37-49, is opened by the title “Tractatus Augustini Norewagensis episcopi etc” (for Eystein’s opening words about adding to the miracles, see above Date and Place). In miracle 37 Eystein tells vividly of a miraculously healed injury he suffered during inspection of the construction of the new basilica. It is not clear whether “tractatus” is the title for miracle 37 alone or for all the remaining ones, but as they have titles of their own the first alternative is preferable. His voice is not as explicit in other miracles, but can probably be discerned in 38, 39 (“we were held up by ecclesiastical business” ecclesiasticis detinebamur negociis) and 44, as well as in 47 and 49 where the authorial voice suddenly addresses itself to fratres dilectissimi, the canons of the chapter. This might lead to the conclusion that the entire last series is authored by Eystein, but in 42 we suddenly meet the caritas again as addressee as in 26 and 30. Most of the miracles are healings at the shrine – as in the other series. In 49 we get an interesting piece of information on the organisation of healings, namely the mention of a hospital for pilgrims.

One preliminary conclusion to be drawn about version A is that neither Eystein or any other redactor were interested in smoothing over the seams between miracles or groups of miracles in this version – they were meant to stand with their pointers in different directions, perhaps also because they then kept an air of authenticity, but perhaps simply because they reflect an accepted way of accumulating reports with different authorial voices. These voices, in turn, all view things in a cathedral perspective, so the question of authorship can perhaps be resolved by pointing to a collective of senior officials at Olaf’s church.

Version B Passio: In this version the Passio has been telescoped into less than a page. Some scholars have viewed the A version as an elaborated B version whereas others think that B must be an abbreviation of A (see, with further references, EKREM 2000 & ØSTREM 2001). The present author is of the opinion that the issue can be settled by internal textual arguments in favour of B being an abbreviation (argued in MORTENSEN & MUNDAL 2003, 366).

Miracula: The B version includes, in that order, miracles 1-9, 50, 10-21 – no. 50 being the only one not in the A version. It deals with an English knight who (successfully) seeks help in Trondheim on Olaf’s feast day. There are no specificities about time nor does the authorial voice give itself away. Miracles 1,4,5,9 and 10 are missing some passages in comparison with version A, but in nos. 11-21 there are no editorial differences (cf. EKREM 2000, 124). After miracle 21 there is an epilogue formula which is similar to the one introducing miracle 26 in version A.

Version C This alternative Passio was first identified and edited by ØSTREM 2000 & 2001 in a fragment from the National Archives of Sweden (cod. 97). It consists of 9 lessons, of which 1, 4, and most of 5 have been lost. It follows the same basic structure as version A with a depiction of Olaf’s piety, just rule and protection of the poor, his conflict with his adversaries, his exile in Russia and his return to martyrdom. But it is nevertheless a completely different text which does not seem to draw directly on A. The plot and the rhetoric are similar, but other scriptural references and etymologies are employed (Stiklestad as locus pugionum uel sicariorum). The most salient feature, in comparison with A and B, is the more important role allotted to King Canute as leader of Olaf’s enemies and instigator of evil.

Version D This late medieval adaptation follows version A closely for about the first half of the text, but then introduces completely new elements such as Olaf’s rivalry with a pagan brother and the popular story of Olaf sailing through a mountain. Most striking is the description of Olaf’s martyrdom during which he is crucified. On the cross Olaf prays for merchants who call for his help on the dangerous seas.

Version E The other late medieval legend adds a romantic novella about Olaf’s father Harald’s adventures during a pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostella and makes the theme about the pagan brother into a main vehicle for the whole plot.

Composition and style

The only existing investigation of stylistic matters is that done by SKARD 1932 (the A version). Many of his individual observations are still valuable, but his main conclusion – that the A text has a unitary style attributable to Eystein as the sole author/redactor – has been challenged. OEHLER (1970, 63 n. 23) put his finger on the soft spots of SKARD’s procedure: (1) the examples are not drawn systematically from all the parts of the text whose unity he wants to demonstrate. (2) Most of the stylistic idiosyncracies SKARD finds are ordinary medievalisms. In spite of this – and indeed in spite of Eystein’s explicit statement at the beginning of miracle 37 that he wants to add to a text transmitted from antiquity – Eystein’s role as author of the whole legend (in version A) has remained uncontested in Norwegian scholarship until recently (e.g. SKARD 1930-1933, HOLTSMARK 1937, GUNNES 1996; the exception is BULL 1924). For fuller references to the debate and its present status see MORTENSEN 2000, 101-3, EKREM 2000, 138-39, PHELPSTEAD 2001, XXXVI-XXXIX, MORTENSEN & MUNDAL 2003, 363-68.

What is still wanting is a modern stylistic analysis (including probings into the prose rhythm) which characterizes the various parts of the work irrespective of the author issue. This cannot be offered here, but just to illustrate the diversity within the A version, consider the following three passages. The first is about the success of Olaf’s mission from the passio (ed. METCALFE 1881, 70), the next is from miracle 20 (ibid. 93) and the third from miracle 37 (ibid. 104) – one of the pieces certainly written by Eystein (in a few cases METCALFE’s text is adjusted; the translation is by P. Fisher [not yet published]):

Plurimum profecit in breui, et innumerabilem Domino multitudinem adquisiuit. Confluebant ad baptisma certatim populi, et numerus credentium augebatur in dies. Effringebantur statue, succidebantur luci, euertebantur delubra, ordinabantur sacerdotes, et fabricabantur ecclesie. Offerebant donaria populi cum deuocione et alacritate. Erubescebant ydolorum cultores, confundebantur qui confidebant in scultili, et in multis illius regionis partibus infidelium depressa multitudine mutire non audens omnis iniquitas opilabat os suum.

(In a short time he made excellent progress, procuring a countless host for the Lord. In eager droves they flocked to be baptized, and the number of believers swelled daily. The effigies were shattered, the groves hewn down and the shrines overthrown. Priests were ordained, churches built. The people brought votive offerings piously and promptly. Those who worshipped idols blushed with shame, those who relied firmly on a graven image were thrown into confusion, and in many areas of that region the crowd of unbelievers were quelled, with the result that, not daring to mutter a sound, all iniquity stopped her mouth.)

Waringus quidam in Ruscia seruum emerat, bone indolis iuuenem, set mutum. Qui cum nichil de se ipse profiteri posset, cuius gentis esset ignorabatur. Ars tamen, qua erat instructus, inter waringos eum conuersatum fuisse prodebat: nam arma, quibus illi soli utuntur, fabricare nouerat. Hic, cum diu ex uenditione diuersa probasset dominia, ad mercatorem postmodum deuenit, qui ei pietatis intuitu iugum laxauit seruile.

(A certain Varangian had bought a slave in Russia, a young man of fine natural qualities, but dumb. Consequently he could make no declaration about himself and therefore people were ignorant of his race. However, the craftsmanship he was versed in showed that he had lived among the Varangians, for he knew how to forge the kind of armour that they alone wore. When he had passed by sale from one master to another, he eventually came into the hands of a merchant, who on compassionate grounds loosed him from the yoke of slavery).

Ego itaque Augustinus per uoluntatem dei in ecclesia beati martiris Olaui episcopalem ad tempus sollicitudinem gerens, cum a magistro, qui operariis ecclesie preest, pro quibusdam in opere disponendis super muri fastigium euocarer, pons, in quo lapides trahebantur, multitudinis, que nos sequebatur, molem non ferens confractus cecidit. Peccatis autem exigentibus ut uite et iniuncte sollicitudinis cautior redderer, ceteris ponti et machinis adherentibus solus in precipicium feror.

(And so, when I, Eystein, was at that time, by God’s wish, bearing the responsibility of archbishop in the church of the blessed martyr Olaf, I was called out to the top of the wall by the foreman in charge of those labouring on the church, so that I might settle certain details of the work; but the gangplank along which the stone was being hauled could not bear the weight of all the people following us up, so that it shattered and collapsed. With my sins demanding that I should make myself be rather careful of my life and the responsibility imposed on me, while the rest were clinging to the gangplank and scaffolding I alone fell headlong.)

The first sample is effectively built by one perfect (profecit) followed by a number of emphatically foregrounded imperfects depicting the movement of conversion (confluebant, effringebantur etc.) which, in spite of the lack of concreteness, conjures up images of the process. The language is steeped in biblical phrases referring to conversion and paganism: numerus credentium augebatur could echo Act. 5.14 magis autem augebatur credentium in Domino multitudo virorum ac mulierum, the effigies and the groves no doubt come out of Josias’s uprooting of idolatry in 4. Reg. 23.14 et contrivit statuas et succidit lucos. The pun on confundo and confido is from Is. 42.17 confundantur confusione qui confidunt in sculptili, and finally the recherché phrase about iniquity brought to silence is borrowed from Ps. 106.42: et omnis iniquitas oppilabat os suum.

The second example shows a straightforward novelistic miracle account, paratactic and without any biblical or poetic embellishment. The only exertion in that direction, it seems, is the modest hyperbaton at the end of the quotation, iugum laxauit seruile. This paratactic style is typical of many of the shorter miracles – a sort of reportatio or protocol matter-of-fact style. The third example, in contrast, is extremely hypotactic with a very substantial postponement of the main element pons .... cecidit. The opening absolute ablative of the second clause, peccatis exigentibus, is a twelfth-century favourite in explaining setbacks for the good cause, frequently used in crusading historiography whenever the Christian army loses to the infidel.


The literary and hagiographical background of the Legend – and here the long Passio (version A) is the most relevant object of study – has not been investigated systematically. It is almost certain that one motif (of the cold North heated by the calor fidei) is borrowed from Ælnoth’s legend of Sanctus Kanutus rex (cf. SKÅNLAND 1956) and influences from Hugh of St Victor’s De sacramentis has also been traced in the way Olaf is described as rex justus (GUNNES 1996, 213-14). In general it has been assumed that the author of Passio Olaui used English hagiographical models for describing a martyr king (cf. HOFFMANN 1975, PHELPSTEAD 2001, XLIII); most pertinent here are probably the widespread Abbo’s Life of Edmund (d. 869, Passio written 985-987) and perhaps the anonymous Life of Edward Martyr (d. 978, Passio written ca. 1100), but no striking verbal parallels have so far been demonstrated. The Legend(s) of Thomas Becket (d. 1170) has also been drawn into the picture on account of strong similarities in the motif of premeditated flight and exile as a necessary preparation of martyrdom (ANTONSSON 2004a).

Purpose and audience

The Passio (version A) was composed during the archbishopric of Eystein, probably around 1180, and should be seen as part of the textual and liturgical initiatives to which also Theodoricus’ History and the Office and Sequences of Olaf belong. The Passio provided the the textual backbone for the new liturgy. Most of the miracles were also taken down at the shrine in this same period which was characterized by building activity and organization of pilgrimage on a larger scale. A miracle protocol served a double purpose of divine and human bookkeeping – Olaf’s miraculous deeds had to be inscribed into the book of God as well as to document his powers for pilgrims. It would seem that a protocol had existed in an early version before 1153, but it is certain that it was kept assiduously during the reign of Eystein. After that it does not seem to have been updated anymore. Version B is an example of a contemporary condensed text with basically the same purpose as A; many other such extracts and condensations were made (see below transmission) mainly for liturgical purposes. In addition we possess in C an alternative vita, probably made for a specific Swedish liturgy; again many such variants may have existed.

The particular circumstances around versions D and E have not been studied, but they were hardly written for a Norwegian audience, but rather for Northern German and Danish merchant communities around 1460.

Medieval reception and transmission

As is already clear from the above the Legend of St Olaf became a very wide spread text in the Nordic Middle Ages. Many brief versions for liturgical readings surface in the early printed breviaria from Norway, Sweden, Denmark, and northern Germany and thus reflect a steady manuscript transmission from the twelfth to fifteenth centuries. Of these liturgical codices a considerable number of pertinent fragments have been identified (see especially ØSTREM 2001) which corroborates a spread through the Nordic dioceses already from the early thirteenth century. The Latin text – again in various versions – were also translated into Old Norse (ca. 1200, Gamal norsk homiliebok, ed. G. Indrebø, Oslo 1931), Old Swedish (fourteenth cent., ed. ##) and Low German (Lübeck 1492 (1499, 1505): Passionael efte Dat Levent der Hyllighen) and it played an important role for part of the Saga literature on King Olaf in the thirteenth century. It is thus a testimony to the dramatic library history of the Nordic Reformations that the important manuscript textual witnesses to the full legend – as typically copied in legendaries – survive only in foreign codices, namely English (A) and French (B). A large number of similar texts must have been around locally, especially in Norway. The main manuscripts for versions A-E are:

  • (A) Oxford, Corpus Christi College 209, fols. 57r-90r; Fountains Abbey (Cistercian), Yorkshire, last quarter of the twelfth century. Version A: long passio, miracles 1-49, unique witness to miracles 22-49.

Oxford, Bodleian Library, Rawlinson C 440, fols. 187v-194r; English, probably Cistercian from Yorkshire, second quarter of the thirteenth century. Version A: long passio, miracles 1-11, 50 (some now lost due to mutilation). Dresden, Sächsisches Landesbibliothek cod. A 182, fols. 172-177; Liber Laurentii Odonis, Sweden (Linköping?), ca. 1400. Version A: long passio, miracles 1-5 #.

  • (B) Douai, Bibliothèque municipale, 295, fols. 94r-108v; Anchin (Benedictine), Northern France, last quarter of the twelfth century. Version B: short passio, miracles 1-9, 50, 10-21.

Wiener-Neustadt, Neukloster XII. D 21, ##; Bordesholm (Augustinian canons), Holstein, 1512. Version B: short passio, miracles 1-10, 50, 13-14 #].

  • (C) Stockholm, National Archives, Fr. 596/614 (cod. 97#); Swedish, second half of the thirteenth century. Unique (fragmentary) witness to version C.
  • (D) Berlin, Staatsbibliothek - Preussischer Kulturbesitz, Theol. lat. fol. 706, ff. 168r-169v [Köln 1460, by Hermann Greven. Version D].
  • (E) Copenhagen, The Arnamagnæan Collection, AM #### [Ribe 1460-1465, by Petrus Mathe. Version E].


The most important part of a saint’s liturgy such as St. Olaf’s, in addition to the legend, is the approximately 35 chants that were sung during the canonical hours: Vespers, Matins and Lauds. As was customary, they are closely linked to the legend. The antiphons of Vespers are general invocations, but most of the chants for Matins are taken straight from the legend text, with only slight adaptations. The antiphons for Lauds are short summaries of some of the miracles.

The printed Breviarium Nidrosiense (1519) also contains a few chants that stem from the oldest layer of liturgical celebration of St Olaf, the office in the Leofric Collectar from ca. 1060. This office was probably compiled by Grimkell, Olaf’s own missionary bishop and the one who canonized Olaf in 1031 (see BIRKELI 1980, JOHNSEN 1975, and ØSTREM 2001). The melodies of the chants consistently employ a small set of fixed, standardized formulae, and they have been described by one scholar as “rather dull and uninspired” (HUGHES 1993, 409).


Most of the chant texts in the office of St. Olaf are in prose, and not in the style of the rhymed office with metrical and rhymed texts, which was the dominating style for this kind of saint’s office from the eleventh century onwards. Only the hymns, the antiphon for the Magnificat Adest dies letitie, and some of the early antiphons which go back to the Leofric collectar are in verse. The hymns are all trochaic septenarii (3 x [8p + 7pp]), except the asclepiadic O quam glorifica (4 x [6 + 5p]). Adest dies letitie is in iambic dimeters (8pp), and the early antiphons are in hexameters or elegiac couplets.


A full liturgical office such as the feast of St. Olaf consists of six antiphons, a responsory, and a hymn for Vespers; the same for Lauds; ten antiphons, nine responsories, and a hymn for Matins; and one antiphon for Magnificat at the second Vespers, a total of ca. 35 chants. In addition to this come short chapter lessons, prayers, versicles, etc. at each of the hours.

  • Breviarium Nidrosiense, Paris 1519 (Facsimile edition by Børsums forlag, Oslo 1964).
  • • STORM, G. 1880: Monumenta historica Norvegiae, 229–282, Christiania [Oslo].
  • REISS, G. 1912: Musiken ved den middelalderlige Olavsdyrkelse i Norden (Videnskabsselskabets skrifter, II. Hist.-Filos. Klasse, 1911 no. 5), Christiania [Oslo].
  • DESWICK, E.S. & FRERE, W.H. 1914-1921: The Leofric Collectar, London.
  • • ØSTREM, E. 2001: The Office of St Olaf. A Study in Chant Transmission, Uppsala.

Date and place

As with the Legend, which is the textual point of departure for the Office, there is no reason to assume that the Office should have been written anywhere but in Trondheim, and it is equally probable that it stems from the concerted effort of senior clerics during the reign of Eystein or shortly thereafter. The earliest manuscripts (or fragments) that contain the Office can be dated to the decades around 1200. The terminus post quem is more difficult to determine. Several manuscripts have been preserved which lack a proper St. Olaf’s office, but where Olaf’s name is mentioned in the collect prayer for the saints who were previously celebrated on that day (e.g. “Presta quesumus omnipotens deus ut sicut populus christianus martyrum tuorum felicis simplicii faustini beatricis atque olaui temporali sollemnitate congaudet”, from S-Skam Br 250). All the sources of this type are from the middle or the end of the twelfth century, and none of them is younger than the oldest source with the complete Office. This may be taken as an indication that no office existed when these older books were produced, i.e. roughly the third quarter of the twelfth century. All in all this strengthens the hypothesis that the Office was composed during Eystein Erlendsson’s episcopacy (1161-1188), either by him or under his supervision. If the above argument about Theodoricus is accepted (see Legend), this means that the Office in its known form can hardly have been in place before 1180.

Summary of contents

The antiphons of Vespers, which begin the Office, are all invocations of the kind: Sancte martyr domini Olave, pro nobis quesumus apud deum intercede (Holy martyr of the Lord, Olaf, we beg you to intercede for us before God) (first antiphon of Vespers).

The nine antiphons of Matins are all taken from the beginning of the Legend. The first two antiphons briefly summarize the first section of the Passio which can be described as the “cosmic view” of the state of affairs at the time of Olaf – how God looked upon the people of the North and in his mercy “founded his city in the eagle’s quarters” (in lateribus aquilonis fundavit civitatem suam) during Olaf’s reign. The rest of the antiphons together with the first responsory contain, sentence by sentence, the entire text of the following section of the Passio (from “Hic evangelice veritatis” to the passage ending “ad agnitionem et reverentiam sui creatoris reduxit”, which in the last antiphon is changed to “ad veri dei culturam revocabat”). In this text passage, the perspective is narrowed down, beginning with Olaf’s baptism, then enumerating his deeds as a Christian ruler: although he was a pagan, he was benign and honest at heart, always meditating on heavenly things, even when he was involved in the affairs of the kingdom, and, not being content with his own salvation, he desired to convert his subjects also.

The purpose of responsories in the office was originally to function as commentaries to the lessons that preceded them, often in such a way that taken together they would tell the whole story of the saint. In the Office of St. Olaf, however, this is hardly the case. The texts for the responsories show no attempt to present a continuous narrative, as in the antiphons. Rather, they are compilations of passages from different places in the Passio, in some cases combined with foreign material. The selections seem to have been made so as to present a condensed version of the main contents of the Passio text, where each chant text presents a separate theme. The first three responsories, which were sung during the first Nocturn, are a characterization of the king and his good nature – a pious ruler who despised all earthly glory (R1), who was filled with burning fervour in the face of resistance (R2), and who courageously faced danger, even in the prospect of death (R3). The responsories of the second Nocturn recount his acts and the fruits they bore: how he wandered among the people like an apostle (R4), turning them away from their heathen gods and baptizing them (R5), until eventually the word took root and churches were built everywhere (R6). The third Nocturn presents Olaf’s passio in three glimpses: how he met his enemies (R7), how he saw Jesus in a dream (R8), and how he could finally “exchange his earthly kingdom for the heavenly” (R9).

The antiphons of Lauds are taken in their entirety from the legend; they are very condensed summaries of five of the miracles. The antiphon for the Magnificat in the second Vespers again returns to the “cosmic perspective” of the introduction: Hodie preciosus martyr olavus ab inimicis veritatis occisus (Today Olaf was slain by enemies of truth).

The hymns (or hymn) that run(s) through the Office as it is preserved in the Breviarium Nidrosiense follow(s) more or less the same pattern as the antiphons: a short version of the most important parts of the legend, followed by a few miracles.

Literary and musical models

A common way of compiling new offices was to adapt chants from already existing offices. This is the case also for the chants on the Office of St Olaf, where ca. half of the antiphons have known models of this kind (owing to the lack of a comprehensive reference material for Responsories in medieval offices, these have not been studied with any consistency). The gospel antiphons for Vespers, Lauds, and Second Vespers, and the antiphon for the Invitatory of Matins, are based upon corresponding antiphons in the early-twelfth-century Office of St. Augustine; the rest of the chants for Vespers can be found in various offices for St. Martin of Tours, which suggests that they all stem from a single St. Martin’s Office, even though no such office is known today; and several of the remaining antiphons in the office have models in the office of St. Vincentius. R9 Rex inclytus is based upon a text found in the commune sanctorum of York and Durham. The same text is used in offices for several other martyrs, e.g. Dionysius (cf. BERGSAGEL 1976).

In most of these chants, the borrowing also extends to the chant texts, ranging from the Vespers antiphons, where the entire text except the name of the saint have been taken over, through the incorporation of an incipit or a key-phrase, as in the chants taken from the Office of St. Augustine, to antiphons where only the melody has been used.

The sources from which the chants have been taken are not insignificant: the Augustine reform movement was a driving force in the early period of the Archbishopric of Nidaros; Eystein himself introduced the feast of St. Augustine in Nidaros and latinized his name “Augustinus”. Likewise, St. Martin had attributes like “apostle of France”, “proto-bishop”, patron saint of monasticism and of the Merovingian kingdom, all of which are close to the position that Olaf had (or was attempted to be given) in the early Norwegian church.

For the remaining chants, no direct sources have been found. These chants are all written in a highly formulaic musical language, where each melody consists of a series of repetitions of small melodic cells, completely in conformance with the style of the late twelfth century. Some attention seems to have been given to the syntactical structure of the texts in the ordering of the melodic cells, which may be an indication that they were indeed assembled in Nidaros, but there may also have been models which have not yet been disclosed.

Medieval reception and transmission

The Office of St. Olaf was used for the celebration of the feast of St. Olaf (29 July) in the Nordic countries and throughout the period from the early thirteenth century up to the Reformation. St. Olaf was celebrated with a feast of one of the highest ranks throughout most of the Nordic countries (summum, totum duplex or duplex; the exception is Uppsala, where, mainly for ecclesio-political reasons, it only had the rank of novem lectiones). Every church in the region can therefore be assumed to have had at least one copy of the Office in their liturgical books. This probably makes it the most widely spread text in this handbook.

During the first decades of the sixteenth century the Scandinavian liturgies were revised and codified in printed breviaries. These contain the legend and the chant texts, but they are all without musical notation. Thus, for the music and for the transmission prior to 1500 we have to rely on parchment fragments, mainly from liturgical books, which were used as wrappers around account books in the growing administrations of the sixteenth century, and which have been collected in the National Archives. Due to differences in archival praxis, the extant collections from the Danish area (including Norway and Iceland) are rather small, whereas in the National Archives of Sweden (Riksarkivet) there are ca. 20 000 such fragments, mainly bifolia from liturgical books (see BRUNIUS 1993 & 2005 (ed.), ABUKHANFUSA 2004, OMMUNDSEN 2006). This gives a total of a little more than 100 fragments from the Scandinavian countries that contain parts or all of the Office, with a great predominance of Swedish material.

The transmission is remarkably stable in this material as a whole. A few variants, probably connected to specific dioceses, are discernible, e.g. a few texts from the dioceses of Linköping in Sweden have a special responsory for Vespers (Sancte Olave Christi martyr), and a proper hymn, O quam glorifica lux hodierna, seems to have been used only in Västerås, also in Sweden. The extant material from Norway is too small to draw any conclusions concerning local practices.

In addition to the office based on Passio Olavi, there is evidence of a second office, based on a different legend (see ØSTREM 2000). Even this office can be dated to ca. 1200 or earlier. Of the three textual witnesses to this legend, one has the different legend text, combined with chants from the office based on Passio Olavi, one has the legend text from Passio Olavi combined with chants based on the different legend, and the third has a legend that switches from Passio Olavi to the other legend after the sixth lesson.



Missa in natalicio beati Olavi regis et martyris (constructed on the basis of the rubric of the Nidaros ordinal), or Missa in solennitate sancti Olavi regis et martyris (on basis of the rubric of Missale Nidrosiense). The mass could also be referred to with the incipit from the Oratio collecta in the first part of the mass; “Deus regum corona” (the Red Book of Darley, Cambridge, Corpus Christi College, 422), or “Deus qui es regum omnium corona” (Missale Nidrosiense) (GJERLØW 1968, 124).


*REISS, G. 1912: Musiken ved den middelalderlige Olavsdyrkelse i Norden, Kristiania, 104-5 (reprint of the text in Missale Nidrosiense. No musical notation apart from Alleluia with verse printed on p. 67).

  • EGGEN, E. 1922: Nyfunnen Olavsmusikk, Serprent or Norsk aarbok (presentation of the liturgical elements with dubious musical notation for the chants).
  • GJERLØW, L 1968, Ordo Nidrosiensis Ecclesiae, Oslo, 372-73 (edition of the entries in the Nidaros ordinal. Incipits only).

Most of the chants for St. Olaf’s mass can be found in editions of the Missale or Graduale Romanum, like Graduale Romanum (Solesmes 1974) or Graduale Triplex (Solesmes 1979) in the liturgy for the commons (Communia sanctorum elementa).

Date and place

St. Olaf’s mass was probably celebrated already from the mid eleventh century, both in Norway and England. The earliest testimony is the Red Book of Darley, from the early 1060s. One may suspect that the person responsible for putting these liturgical elements together in a mass was Olaf’s English bishop Grimkell (d. 1047), who seems to have been active in propagating the cult of Olaf immediately after his death in 1030 (see for instance ØSTREM 2001, 28-33).

Summary of contents

The mass contains few elements proper to the saint. Still, it is carefully assembled to fit the celebration of a martyr king. The text “Posuisti domine super caput eius coronam de lapide pretioso” (Ps. 20, 4: thou settest a crown of pure gold on his head) is sung twice, first as the gradual between the two readings, then as the offertory. The liturgical elements are as follows:

Introitus: Gaudeamus omnes in Domino. Ps. Misericordias domini [Ps. 88]. Coll. Deus qui es regnum omnium corona. Ep. Justum deduxit [Sap. 10, 10-14]. Gr. Posuisti domine. V. Desiderium. Alleluia. Sancte Olave qui in celis vel Alleluia. Letabitur iustus. Seq. Lux illuxit. Ev. Si quis vult post me venire [Matth. 16, 24-28]. Offert. Posuisti domine. Secr. Inscrutabilem secreti tui. Com. Magna est gloria. Postcom. Vitalis hostie verbi carofacti.

The Missale Nidrosiense gives an alternative to the psalm verse for the introit (Domine in virtute, Ps. 20) and an alternative to the Postcommunion; Agni celestis.


The sources for St. Olaf’s mass are the common elements for the saints, mainly the martyrs. The introit Gaudeamus omnes is in the Graduale Romanum also used for Agatha, Benedict, Mary (the Annunciation and the Assumption) and All saints. The gradual Posuisti with the verse Desiderium is from the Commune martyrum in the Graduale Romanum. So is the Alleluia with the verse Letabitur. The Alleluia with verse Sancte Olave qui in celis letaris is in Missale Nidrosiense found in the Commune unius confessoris (Sancte N. qui in celis letaris). The offertorium Posuisti also belongs to the Commune martyrum, while the communion Magna est gloria is in the Commune apostolorum.

Purpose and audience

The rubric in Missale Nidrosiense reads In solennitate sancti Olavi Regis et martyris, referring to the feast celebrated on St. Olaf’s nativitas 29 July. The mass was also celebrated at the date of the translatio, 3 August. In addition there was a service every Wednesday, possibly limited to Lent (omni quarta feria, see sequence Predicasti dei care below) (GJERLØW 1968, 127).

Medieval reception and transmission

St. Olaf’s mass was celebrated in the Nordic countries and, as it seems, parts of England, and possibly also in other places in Northern Europe. The mass remained virtually unchanged for five hundred years, from its earliest transmitted appearence in the English service book from the early 1060’s to the printed Missale Nidrosiense (1519). The most important textual witnesses are:

  • Cambridge, Corpus Christi College 422 [a Sherbourne service book known as “The Red book of Darley”, penned in the early 1060s; Olaf is on fol. 162].
  • Copenhagen, The Arnamagnæan Collection, AM 241 b I.
  • Copenhagen, The Arnamagnæan Collection, AM 98 8º II.
  • Oslo, National Archives, Lat. fragm. 932 [thirteenth century; Alleluia with verse and a few lines of the sequence Lux illuxit].
  • Reykjavík, Thodminjasafn Íslands, No. 3411 v. [the introit with verse, Alleluia with verse and first part of the sequence Lux illuxit].

Printed books:

  • Graduale Suecanum, Lübeck ca. 1490.
  • Missale Lincopense, ##
  • Missale Nidrosiense, Copenhagen 1519 (without notation).

For a survey of the British material on St. Olaf, see DICKINS 1940; for the early Swedish texts, see SCHMID 1945.


Four sequences for St. Olaf are transmitted. The most important and the earliest sequence is Lux illuxit, from the late twelfth century. The remaining sequences, Predicasti dei care, Postquam calix babylonis and Veneremur sanctum istum are later and were probably never as widely spread. The latter is only known from Sweden and Finland.

A. Lux illuxit


Lux illuxit letabunda, lux illustris lux iocunda.../...tua salvet dextera. Amen.


Eight strophes.

  • BYSTRØM, O. 1903: Ur medeltidens kyrkosång i Sverige, Norge och Finland, II, Stockholm.
  • • REISS, G. 1912, 12-44. Ugivere: Analecta Hymnica 42, 302.
  • • EGGEN, E. 1968, I, 213-21.

Sølvguttene (dir. T. Grythe): Kormusikk fra Norge i Middelalder og Renessanse, samt fra vår tid. Choeur Gregorien de Paris, Lux illuxit laetabunda, 1989. Schola Sanctae Sunnivae: Rex Olavus, 2000. Schola Canto Gregoriano Sola: Aquas plenas, 2001.

  • (Norwegian, nynorsk) EGGEN, E. in undated newspaper article.
  • (Norwegian, nynorsk) STØYLEN, B. 1923, in Norsk Salmebok 1985, no. 741 (adjusted to the melody of Predicasti dei care).
  • (Norwegian, nynorsk) FOSS, R. 1938, 95-98 & FOSS, R. 1949, 111-15.
  • (Norwegian, bokmål) REISS 1912, 14 (n. 4).
  • (English) LITTLEWOOD, A. 2001 (CD-leaflets, Scholae Sanctae Sunnivae, Schola Canto Gregoriano Sola) [English].
  • (Norwegian, bokmål) KRAGGERUD 2002, 106-8.

Date and place

Lux illuxit was composed between ca. 1150 and 1215. The terminus ante quem applied by REISS, namely the presence of the sequence’s incipit on a manuscript fragment in the National Archives dated ca. 1200, should be disregarded since the fragment in the hand of the scribe generally referred to as the “St. Olaf scribe”, should be dated closer to 1300 (see GJERLØW 1968, 35-36). The earliest manuscript fragment with evidence of Lux illuxit is a sequentiary from the first half of the thirteenth century (Oslo, National Archives, Lat. fragm. 418).

Lux illuxit is a testimony to the “transitional style” often connected with the period 1050-1150 (and beyond) and characterized by a variation in the structure and metre of the verses combined with a certain use of rhythm and rhyme. This transitional style, however, existed alongside the rhymed sequence of the late style (KRUCKENBERG 1997, 145). A few passages in the sequence seems to owe their wording to the Passio Olavi (or the office “In regali fastigio” based on the Passio), which could indicate a date after ca. 1180 (see Legend above).

The sequence was in all probability composed by a Norwegian, as can be inferred by the reference to St. Olaf as “our special protector” (tutor noster specialis) (REISS 1912, 17). REISS presents Eirik Ivarsson (archbishop 1188-1206) as a likely candidate for the composer. VANDVIK points out that there are four possible composers, who had their education from St. Victor, namely the archbishops Eystein, Eirik and Tore (archbishop 1206-1214) or Tore, bishop of Hamar (1189-1196) (VANDVIK 1941). Both Eystein and Eirik were committed to the moulding of a uniform Nidaros rite. It would be natural to see the sequence in connection to the other activity in Nidaros during the second half of the twelfth century.

Summary of contents

The strophes 1-3 encourage the people to sing and celebrate on the feast day of St. Olaf. The strophes 4-7 tell of Olaf as a king who longs for eternal life, and is devoted to Christ, suffering many troubles to save his people and accepting hatred, punishments and exile with an unwavering mind. The night before the battle he had a vision, and got a foretaste of what he loved, which he finally won through his illustrious martyrdom. The final strophe is directed to Olaf, asking for his protection.

Composition and style

Lux illuxit has eight strophes. The melody changes from strophe to strophe in the typical manner of the sequence, with the two versicles or hemi-strophes in each strophe sharing the same melodic line. The only exception is the first strophe, which has two different melodies for each versicle. While the strophes 1, 2, 4, 5, 7 and 8 are predominantly trochaic (although not equal in structure), the third and sixth strophes are dactylic. The structure is as follows (sung twice in each strophe):

1. 8p + 8p + 7pp

2. 7pp + 7pp + 7pp

3. 6pp + 6pp + 6pp + 6pp

4. 8p + 8p + 7pp

5. 8p + 8p + 8p + 8p + 7pp

6. 6pp + 6pp + 6pp + 6pp + 6pp

7. 8p + 8p + 8p + 7pp

8. 8p + 8p + 8p + 8p + 7pp

The sequence is rhymed in different patterns. For verse 1, 2 and 4 the rhyme is aabccb, v. 3 has aaaa, v. 5, 6 and 8 have aaaabaaaab, and v. 7 aaabcccb. The use of rhythm and rhyme gained increasing popularity in the history of the sequence, culminating in what is called the late style, or “second epoch” sequences, connected with the Abbey of St. Victor in Paris, and its cantor Adam of St. Victor (d. 1146) (regarding the recent identification of Adam of St. Victor as Adam Precentor, d. 1146, as opposed to another twelfth century figure d. 1192, see, for instance, FASSLER 1993, 206-7). In the case of Lux illuxit, however, given the lack of uniformity of structure between the strophes, one may see it as a sequence of the transitional style rather than the late style (for the transitional style, see KRUCKENBERG 1997).

The composer is fond of alliteration, anaphor, and other repetitions: “lux illuxit letabunda, lux illustris, lux iocunda, lux digna preconio.” Str. 3a: “Insignis martiris insignis gloria, dulcis est gaudii dulcis materia.” The repetition in versicle 3a is with seemingly similar words, but as they are different cases, they actually form the rhetorical figure polyptoton, with insignis first in the genitive case, then in nominative. Dulcis comes first in nominative, then in the genitive case. At the same time the words martiris/materia and gloria/gaudii form chiastic alliterations. Other examples of polyptoton are found in the following versicles: Str. 3b: “celesti iubilo tange celestia,” Str. 6b: “felix felicia migrans ad gaudia,” Str. 7b: “Quod amabat pregustavit, pregustatum plus optavit, plus optatum vendicavit illustri martirio.” The composer evidently strove for repetition more than variation. A similar joy in word-repetion is found in the sequence Lux iocunda (most likely by Adam of St. Victor, FASSLER 1993, 272), a sequence which was possibly an inspiration for our composer: Str. 1a: “Lux iocunda, lux insignis.” Str. 1b:”Corda replet linquas didat ad concordes nos invitat cordis lingue modulos.” Str. 8b: “Nil iocundum nil amenum nil salubre nil serenum nichil dulce nichil plenum”. It is also tempting to compare with the last part of the final verse of the night office in St. Olaf’s office “In regali fastigio”, where a similar fondness for repetition and polyptoton is evident: “regem rex videt in decore suo et in salutari regis magna gloria regis.”

The melody builds a climax towards the centre of the sequence, as so often in the sequences. As in the text there are also melodic quotations of Parisian/Victorine sequences, see below.

Sources and literary models

Even though Lux illuxit is not a late style sequence, the text seems inspired by sequences by Adam of St Victor, particularly the Easter sequence Lux illuxit dominica (“Lux illuxit Dominica, lux insignis lux unica, lux lucis et laetitiae, lux immortalis gloriae”), the sequence for Pentecost Lux iocunda, lux insignis, and possibly also the sequence for St. Vincentius: Triumphalis lux illuxit. The rhymes “triumphalis, specialis, malis” as used in v. 8 in Lux illuxit letabunda is found in Adam of St. Victor’s sequence for the relics of St. Victor, Ex radice caritatis, and similarly “spiritalis, specialis, malis” in Adam’s sequence Virgo mater Salvatoris (REISS 1912, 16). The link to the sequence for Thomas Becket Gaude Sion et letare also mentioned by REISS suggested on the basis of the expression felicio commercio seems less important, as Lux illuxit here follows more closely the final verse of the night office in St. Olaf’s office “In regali fastigio'”: Felici commercio pro celesti regnum commutans terrenum; As we compare with our sequence v. 2b, we see that also the choice of the verb is the same as in the night office: Pro eternis brevia commutavit gaudia felici commercio. It is therefore more likely that the Passio or the Office is the source of this particular choice of words. Also in verse 4a – rex Olavus constitutus in regni fastigio – we can sense a link to the Passio and the Office: In regali fastigio constitutus spiritu pauper erat rex Olavus (from the first responsory of the night office). The regali fastigio is altered to regni fastigio, presumably to fit the verse better.

The melody of the first strophe of Lux illuxit appears to be a quotation of the transitional sequence Letabundus exultet (EGGEN 1968, 219). The second strophe goes on to quote what is regarded as the melodic cornerstone of the Victorine sequences, namely Laudes crucis. The strophes five and eight are also founded on melodic lines from Laudes crucis, as well as the first part of strophe four. These quotations may very well be an expansion of the textual associations to Lux iocunda (see above), since Lux iocunda was set to the melody of Laudes crucis, at least in the Abbey of St. Victor (FASSLER 1993, 179).

Purpose and audience

Lux illuxit was made to be sung in St. Olaf’s mass on 29 July. It was also sung for the octave, and for the translation (3 Aug).

Medieval reception and transmission

The sequence Lux illuxit was probably quite widely spread. In Norway and the other areas belonging to the Trondheim archsee it would have been “everywhere”, and it also spread to Sweden and Finland, and probably Denmark, and perhaps other areas in the Northern parts of Europe. In the Norwegian National Archives four fragments are found with the sequence Lux illuxit. In the Swedish National Archives as many as 38 fragments exist containing the sequence (according to information from G. Björkvall). Apart from these the sequence or parts of it is transmitted in the following manuscripts:

  • Copenhagen, The Arnamagnæan Collection, AM 98 8° II, fols. 5-8.
  • Oslo, National Archives, Lat. fragm. 418 [str. 8], thirteenth century.
  • Oslo, National Archives, Lat. fragm. 932 [str. 4-5], thirteenth century.
  • Oslo, National Archives, Lat. fragm. 1030 [incipit only], thirteenth century.
  • Oslo, National Archives, Lat. fragm. 986 [str. 1-6], fifteenth century.
  • Reykjavik, Thodminjasafn Íslands, No. 3411 [str. 1-2], fourteenth-fifteenth century
  • Skara, Stifts- och Landsbibliotek, musik handskrift 1; paper codex written in Sweden ca. 1550 (Lux illuxit on fol. 245)]
  • Stockholm, Royal Library, Brocm. 196; “Brocman’s Antiphonarium”, paper codex, sixteenth century (Lux illuxit on fols. 18-19).
  • Uppsala, University Library, C 513; paper codex written in Sweden (Vesterås) ca. 1500 (Lux illuxit on fol. 74-76).

Printed books:

Graduale Suecanum, Lübeck ca. 1490, only copy, in Stockholm, Royal Library.

Missale Nidrosiense, Copenhagen 1519 (without musical notation).

Missale Uppsalense ##

Missale Hafniense ##

Missale Aboense ##

B. Postquam calix Babylonis


Postquam calix Babylonis.../...cunctis et a sordibus. Amen.


Five strophes

  • • REISS, G. 1912, 57-66. [REISS interpreted Predicasti dei care as the last part of Postquam calix Babylonis in a more original version of the sequence, preceding the one in Missale Nidrosiense].
  • Analecta Hymnica 55, 272.
  • • EGGEN, E. 1968, 222-27. [EGGEN saw Postquam calix Babylonis as a later rewriting of Predicasti, where the first verse has been replaced by three new verses. They are edited as two sequences, one composed on the basis of the other].
  • (Norwegian, bokmål) DAAE 1879, 115.
  • (Norwegian, nynorsk) EGGEN, E. in undated newspaper article.
  • (Norwegian, nynorsk) FOSS 1949, 115-17.
  • (Norwegian, bokmål) KRAGGERUD 2002, 110-15.

Date and place

REISS (1912, 64) suggests that the first three verses of Postquam calix Babylonis are the product of a fourteenth century composer, while the versicle Predicasti dei care and the two last verses are from the late twelfth or the thirteenth century.

Summary of contents

The first strophe contrasts the chalice of Babylon spewing out snake’s poison with the pot (olla) of the North boiling with the oil (oleo) of devotion thanks to Olaf. The second strophe compares the rescue of Noah and his ark to Olaf and that of the Norwegian people: “The bird brings the flower of the olive (olive), and Noah finds rest on the mountains of Armania. With Olaf comes a weak breeze of wonderful scent and the key to heaven finds the shores of Norway.” The third strophe elaborates on the name of Olaf resembling the name of ointment (oleum), and his name as the oil effused from the sting of his passion. The two last strophes are the same as those of the sequence Predicasti dei care (see below).

Composition and style

The sequence Postquam calix Babylonis has five verses as transmitted in the Missale Nidrosiense, the two final verses corresponding to those of Predicasti dei care. The three first verses share the same stylistic approach, and was probably written at the same time, while the two last verses are of an earlier date. Postquam calix begins with the image of Babylon without the usual introduction encouraging people to sing and celebrate a particular feast, which is so common in sequences.

The metre is trochaic, of the kind characteristic of the late style (8p + 8p +7pp). The third verse line of the third strophe, however, ends somewhat abruptly (8p + 8p + 4p) in both versicles. The rhyme of the three first strophes is consistently following a pattern of aabaab, while the two last strophes have aabccb.

The theme of the sequence is spinning around the name of Olaf, playing with similar sounding words like olla, the boiling pot, oleum, the oil of devotion, oliva, the “flower” bringing the news of salvation. In this way it further unfolds the “likeness”-approach to Olaf’s name already mentioned in the Passio (olla, see above) and known from a number of other saints’ lives (e.g. Sanctus Kanutus rex). According to the third strophe King Olaf bears the name of ointment, and his name is the oil effused through the sting of his passion. The style of this sequence has not impressed many modern scholars. According to REISS “the bombastic expressions and somewhat far-fetched metaphors in the first three verses appear a little strange” (REISS 1912, 59, here quoted in English translation from EGGEN), a view supported by EGGEN (1968 I, 225). By GJERLØW the first three verses are described as a “turgid effort with a tiresome wordplay” (GJERLØW 1988, 10). KRAGGERUD has spoken out in defence of the sequence, claiming that it displays a rather refined use of biblical references: Babylon is presented as the golden chalice in Jeremiah (51, 7) leading the world astray with its poison (Apoc. 18, 23), here described as the snake’s poison (fel draconis) of the enemies of God referred to in the Deuteronomy (32,33). The vision of the boiling pot from Jeremiah (1, 13) is also found in the initial parts of the Legend, along with the references to the North, also from Jeremiah (50, 3). Olaf is then identified with Noah from the Old Testament in strophe 2, and with Christ (“the anointed”) from the New Testament in strophe 3, who effused blood and water through the wound from the spear at his passion (John. 19, 34) (KRAGGERUD 2002, 108-115).

Sources and literary models

The composition is charged with biblical allusions. It also seems to continue along the path of Passio Olavi in its reference to Jeremiah and the vision of the boiling pot, along with the new role of the North. The source for the two final verses seems to be an older sequence, now beginning imperfectly Predicasti dei care (see below).

Purpose and audience

As Postquam calix has adopted the two final strophes of Predicasti dei care containing the reference to “every Wednesday” (omni quarta feria), it seems that the sequence was intended to be sung at the weekly celebration of St. Olaf at Wednesdays (which was the weekday he suffered his martyrdom), possibly restricted to Lent (GJERLØW 1968, 127). KRAGGERUD (2002, 109) suggests that the sequence probably was primarily adressed to a more theologically learned audience than the average pilgrim, since the contents is not immediately accessible.

Medieval reception and transmission

  • Missale Nidrosiense, København 1519.
  • Copenhagen, The Arnamagnæan Collection, AM 670 e 4° [apparently copied from Missale Nidrosiense, corrected by Arne Magnusson, cf. REISS 1912, 57-58].

C. Predicasti dei care


Incipit lost (v. 1b: Predicasti dei care...)/...iunge celi civibus. Amen.


The sequence originally had three strophes, of which two and a half are preserved. In his edition REISS (1912, 62-63) has kept the two final strophes as strophe four and five, assuming that the two initial verses are missing. GJERLØW, however, has pointed out that one hemistrophe (and probably not more) is lost due to the loss of the three lower lines of the manuscript fragment (GJERLØW 1988, unpublished, 9-10).

  • • REISS, G. 1912, 57-66.
  • • EGGEN, E. 1968 I, 222-27.
  • Norsk Salmebok 1985, no. 741 [presents the music, with the translated lyrics of Lux illuxit.]

Sølvguttene (dir. T. Grythe): Kormusikk fra Norge i Middelalder og Renessanse, samt fra vår tid.

Schola Sanctae Sunnivae: Rex Olavus, 2000.

  • (Norwegian, nynorsk) EGGEN, E. in undated newspaper article.
  • (English) LITTLEWOOD, A. 2001 (CD-leaflets, Scholae Sanctae Sunnivae, Schola Canto Gregoriano Sola).
  • (Norwegian, bokmål) KRAGGERUD 2002, 115-16.

Date and place

REISS (1912, 64) suggests that the preserved versicle Predicasti dei care and the two following verses are from the late twelfth or the thirteenth century.

Summary of contents

The preserved last half of the first strophe reads “You, God’s beloved, announced the age of salvation, the age which is the age of mercy.” The second strophe refers to the celebration every Wednesday (omni quarta feria) “in worship of the memory of your agony and blessed passion.” The final strophe is a prayer to Christ’s martyr to cleanse us from sins with his prayer, and unite us with the citizens of heaven.

Composition and style

The three strophes have the characteristics of the late style sequence, with consistent rhythm and rhyme. The metre is trochaic (8p + 8p +7pp). The rhyme is following the pattern aabccb. As a sequence it is a relatively short one – they usually contain a larger number of strophes. The style of this sequence has enjoyed a better reputation than that of Postquam calix. REISS (1912, 64) finds it reasonable to assume that the verses were composed in the “classical” time of sequence composition, i.e. the late twelfth or the thirteenth century and according to EGGEN, this is a worthy counterpart to Lux illuxit (EGGEN in undated newspaper article).

As pointed out by REISS (1912, 64) the melody is taken from the late style sequence Hodierne lux diei from the late eleventh century, a sequence which became popular throughout northern Europe in the twelfth century (see FASSLER 1993, 333). Strophe 1 in Predicasti corresponds with strophe 1 in Hodierne. The following strophes share melody with strophe 3 and 5 respectively in Hodierne.

Sources and literary models

The “assistentes tue laudi” in strophe two of Predicasti gives an association to the Office of the Holy Blood (Susceptio sanguinis), where the verse of the responsory at matins reads “assistentes ergo tue laudi” (who minister to your praise) (ATTINGER & HAUG 2004, 36).

Purpose and audience

The reference to “every Wednesday” (omni quarta feria) indicates that the sequence was intended to be sung at the weekly celebration of St Olaf at Wednesdays (which was the weekday he suffered his martyrdom), possibly restricted to Lent (GJERLØW 1968, 127).

Medieval reception and transmission

The two last strophes are also transmitted in the Missale Nidrosiense (1519) as the last strophes of Postquam calix Babylonis. Only one manuscript fragment survives for the earlier sequence: Oslo, National Archives, Lat. fragm. 986 [str. 1-6], fifteenth century.

D. Veneremur sanctum istum


Veneremur sanctum istum.../... tua salvet dextera (the explicit is the same as for the sequence Lux illuxit (see A. above).


Four original strophes with the two final strophes of Lux illuxit added, forming a total of six strophes.

  • MALIN, A. 1922, 18.
  • KRAGGERUD 2001, 67-69.

(Norwegian, bokmål) KRAGGERUD 2002, 117-18.

Date and place

The structure of the strophes and the melody are those of Veneremur crucis lignum, a sequence generally believed to originate in Sweden (ref. Eggen? Gjerløw? Nid?)#. It may therefore be reasonable also to connect Veneremur sanctum istum to Sweden.

Summary of contents

The sequence opens with an encouragement to worship the saint. The second strophe presents Olaf as God’s holy man, to whom his sinful servants run weeping. The third and fourth strophes ask for governance and mercy for those who visit his holy altar. The sequence ends with two strophes quoted from Lux illuxit, with a prayer for Olaf’s protection from the dangers of this world.

Composition and style

The metre is trochaic, in the form so common for sequences during and after the 12th century; 8p + 8p + 7pp.

Sources and literary models

The incipit of the sequence gives associations to the sequence for the cross Veneremur crucis lignum. The melody and structure are the same, and the Olaf’s sequence is likely modelled on the sequence for the cross. The two final strophes are direct quotations of the final strophes in the most famous Olaf’s sequence Lux illuxit.

Purpose and audience

The contents of Veneremur sanctum istum point more directly to the practice of pilgrimage than the other sequences for St. Olaf. Medieval reception and transmission Veneremur sanctum istum is transmitted through one Finnish and one Swedish fragment. It is not known from Norwegian manuscripts, but it could very well have been in use also in Norway and Trondheim. It was first made known by MALINIEMI in his edition of Sequences in Finnish fragments (1922). Veneremur sanctum istum is found with notation in a fragment of a 15th century gradual from Åbo diocese (and now part of the fragmenta membranea collection in Helsinki University Library). The Swedish fragment comes from a fourteenth century gradual also containing sequences for Erik and Helena of Skövde: Stockholm, National Archives, Fr. 1748.


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