How the Norse Became Christian – Christianization of Scandinavia DOCUMENTARY

When you talk about the Vikings, the first
images that come to mind are usually warriors and sailors with particular and well-known
mythology. Gods such as Thor, Odin and Loki have become popular in recent times with films
and other media. The relations between Christendom and the Pagan Norse are remembered as bloody
and cruel. While certainly there is much truth to this, the Christian religion always had
strong relations with the population of Scandinavia during the Dark Age. Welcome to this documentary
on the introduction of the Christian faith to Scandinavia and how the pagan Vikings evolved
into the Christian kingdoms of Scandinavia. Shoutout to Imperator: Rome and Paradox Interactive
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by clicking the link in the description! In the first six centuries of the first millennium,
Denmark and the southern half of Scandinavia were populated by Germanic peoples, who sailed
the Northern Sea and traded with the Romans. These peoples followed a set of pagan beliefs
that would develop into the better-known Old Norse Religion. The religion was polytheistic,
with the most important gods being Odin, especially in places associated with royal power, and
Thor. A great emphasis was put on the worship of ancestral spirits, and rituals comprising
sacrifices and offerings were common. The worship of the gods was mostly personal between
the individual and the gods, without the presence of a priest, and often the ceremonies partook
outside in places of natural beauty. With the expansion of the Frankish Kingdom
towards the Frisians and Saxons and the Christianization of these territories during the seventh and
eighth centuries, modern-day Denmark attracted the attention of the Christian church. Being
the closest region to mainland Europe, Denmark would be the region first in contact with
the Christian faith. The first missionary we know of is Willibrord, who around 710 and
714 traveled from Frisia to Schleswig, that time Danish territory, to convert the locals
with little success, halting further attempts in the area for a century. However, the Christian
religion still had an influence over the culture of the Norse and their practices, which were
often modified or changed over the centuries. For example, some practices we find only in
late Norse Iron age are the rite of carving runestones in memory of the dead or the idea
of Valhalla, which was probably introduced by the concept of the Christian Paradise. In 793 the attack at the monastery of Lindisfarne
was perpetrated by Norwegian Vikings, and this event is considered by historians the
start of the Viking Age. This initiated an age of increased Norse contacts with the rest
of Europe, both through warfare and trade, which brought Christianity to Scandinavia.
In 814, in the midst of a succession crisis in Denmark, a Danish petty king called Harald
came to the court of Louis the Pious, son of Charlemagne, in search of help to retake
his throne. He obtained support from the Franks and managed to be reinstated in parts of Jutland,
ruling with other Danish princes. In 822 the archbishop of Reims, Ebo, obtained
the papal mandate to convert the North and was invited by Harald to his domains, who
also converted with his family to Christianity in 826. Ebo led missionaries to Denmark a
few times with little success during the reign of Harald, which ended in 827. One of the missionaries, Ansgar, was appointed
to stay and lead the mission in Denmark on a permanent basis. After the death of Harold,
Ansgar traveled to the Swedish city of Bilka by invitation of the Swedish King Björn,
where he established a small community of Christians and was remembered as Apostle of
the North. To help with his efforts, Ansgar was appointed to the newly formed archbishopric
of Hamburg, which was established with the goal of converting the Norse. Hamburg, however,
was sacked by Viking raiders in 845, and the seat of the archbishop was moved to Bremen.
This, combined with the general weakness the Emperor experienced up to the coronation of
Otto the First, slowed down the Christianization of the Vikings, though attempts were still
made in Denmark and Sweden by individuals, and some churches were built in mercantile
cities, such as Ribe and Hedeby for foreign merchants. The Germans were not the only ones attempting
to convert Scandinavia. Possibly a more important role was held by British missionaries who
traveled via the North Sea. During the ninth and tenth centuries, Vikings came in contact
with the Anglo-Saxon Christian peoples living there both by raiding and settling the British
Isles. We know that British missionaries came to Scandinavia, but lack of written sources
suggest that it was mostly individual initiatives rather than organized missions by secular
rulers, such as those coming from Germany. Their influence can be seen in many areas,
such as liturgical traditions, church architecture, Christian terminology, and inscribed crosses
on rune stones. It is also possible that slaves and captives taken back to Scandinavia helped
to spread the Christian religion. Things changed under the rule of King of Denmark
Gorm the Old. Historical sources remember him as a prosecutor of Christians, but the
influence of Queen Tyre and threats by the German king halted this prosecution. The Bishop
of Bremen, Unni, traveled to the court of Gorm and received permission to proselytize
in Denmark by his son Harald Bluetooth. Unni then traveled to Sweden where he died in 936. Around 958 Harald Bluetooth succeeded his
father. He is considered the first King of all of Denmark and around 960 he converted
to Christianity with his family, baptized by the cleric Poppo. This event is recorded
on one of the Jelling stones, massive carved stones with depiction of Jesus and a runic
text, which translates to: “King Haraldr ordered this monument made in memory of Gorm,
his father, and in memory of Thyrvé, his mother; that Haraldr who won for himself all
of Denmark and Norway and made the Danes Christian.” While we should not take literally that all
of Denmark was converted, Harald’s conversion is still considered the start of Christian
Denmark and would influence Sweden and Norway to follow. The reason for the conversion was
more political than religious. Historians are uncertain if the conversion was followed
by a defeat to the German King Otto, or instead before an attack as to remove a casus belli
that could prompt a German invasion. In 965 a privilege granted by Otto the first establish
the first three bishoprics in Denmark; in Århus, Ribe and Schleswig. It still took some time for the kings to fully
embrace Christianity, as Harald successor, Svend Forkbeard conflicted with the Christian
Clergy in England during his conquest of the kingdom in the first two decades of the eleventh
century. Also, Svend’s son, Knut the Great, while being considered a champion of the Christian
church, often did not follow the Christian ethic, and for this, he went to Rome to atone
for his sins. However, it is undeniable that Christianization paved the way to the formation
of Knut’s North Sea empire, which comprised Denmark, England, Norway and parts of Sweden. The biggest impact on the church under the
rule of Knut was his break from the Archbishopric of Hamburg-Bremen, which had already started
under his father. He invited clergy from England, Ireland, and Scotland to Denmark, over German
members of the Church. This was a political maneuver to lessen the power that the German
kings had in his courts, and some historians believe that Hamburg attempted to create a
sort of “patriarchate of the North”. Norway saw the first introduction to Christianity
during the reign of Håkon the Good, who had been raised and baptized in England, and tried
to peacefully spread Christianity during his reign from 930 to 960. In the following century,
the Christianization of Norway was more or less successful, depending on who was the
leader at the time, with pagan and Christian rulers succeeding each other. Under the reigns
of Olav Tryggvason and Olav Haraldsson, at the start of the ninth century, Norway experienced
violent attempts of forced Christianization, and rebellions by Norse pagans were crushed
to establish control over the country. Also during this period, he sent missionaries to
the Norse settlements in the Faroes, Iceland, Shetland and Orkney islands. Sweden’s conversion was more gradual. The
kingdom was less centralized than Denmark and sources mention a great Temple in Uppsala
which held immense significance. Around 990 the Christian king Olof Skötkonung and heathens
agreed to tolerate each other, creating a society where both religions were practiced
and were peaceful to each other up to the end of the eleventh century. Bishoprics were
generally set up later in the country when compared to both Denmark and Norway. There
is no sign of forced baptism, also because the attempts made were by kings not strong
enough to convert the whole country, meeting with stiff resistance. The perception that
Sweden was heathen lasted in the following century even though most of Sweden converted,
and even the Norwegian King Sigurd Jorsafal launched a crusade in Sweden in the twelfth
century as a pretext for expansion. Some Vikings, spearheaded by those from Sweden,
established communities in the land of the Rus, where they entered into contact with
the Byzantine court. Here some Vikings converted, but archaeological evidence suggests that
Greek influence in the conversion of Scandinavia was negligible. Iceland, which had been colonized by Norwegians
from around 870, had already seen an influx of Christians during the first half of the
tenth century, and in the latter half British missionaries had come to the island. In the
year 1000, the Icelandic council ruled that the island would be Christian. During the
same period, the Faroes adopted Christianity. With the decline of the bishopric of Hamburg,
we find a greater interest by the Pope towards the kingdoms of Scandinavia. The first contacts
between kings and the Pope can probably be traced to Knud the Great’s trip to Rome
in 1026, where he also met the King of Burgundy and the Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire.
The Pope, at the time in conflict with the emperor during the Investiture Controversy,
helped Scandinavia to free itself from the influence of the Germans by establishing new
archbishopric, such as the Archbishopric of Lund in 1104 which was the highest church
in Scandinavia. This meant that Bremen-Hamburg no longer had jurisdiction over the North.
Lund held this position until 1152 when the elevation of the Bishopric of Nidaros to Archbishopric
in Trondheim made the Norwegian church independent from the Danish church, and it was followed
in 1164 by the formation of the Archbishopric of Uppsala in Sweden. As we have seen, Christianization of Scandinavia
was often encouraged and partaken by kings or members of the nobility, and only later
spread to the common folk. The reason for this can be found in the benefits that Christianity
gave the Norse rulers, such as better relations with the stronger powers of Europe, such as
the Pope, Emperor, and Kings of Germany. It was attractive to the Norse rulers to have
a class of educated people among their subjects, from which administrators and counselors could
be drafted from the clergy. The polytheistic and individualistic Norse religion made it
hard for a state to control its population, while a monotheistic religion with communal
worship and a religious elite loyal to the state was a useful tool for the Scandinavian
kings. In fact, we can associate the creations of the Kingdoms of Denmark, Norway, and Sweden
with their conversion to Christianity. The establishment of bishoprics, which happened
during the tenth and eleventh century, was another factor for this Christianization,
as it’s believed that nearly all of Denmark was Christian after the death of Knut the
Great, who had greatly focused on the church hierarchy in his kingdoms, establishing new
bishopric in Denmark. Another drive for the Christianization was the building of churches
undertaken by kings and members of the nobility. For the common folk instead, the adoption
of Christianity was more gradual. The adoption of Christianity often came from the top-down:
when the King adopted Christianity his vassals were often encouraged to follow him, and so
would then people loyal to the noble. However not always was this the case, as the first
Christian in Scandinavia were those converted by the early missionaries before the kings
adopted the new religion. For many decades, however, old folklore and
beliefs were mixed in Scandinavian households. Offerings to the old spirits were still made
to not anger them, and some of the more peripheric regions held on to old beliefs. Sometimes
the cult of saints helped to Christianize Scandinavia more rapidly, especially the cults
of local saints such as Olaf the Saint, King of Norway. Though the minority, not all people accepted
Christianity at first. In a Norse saga, it is recounted that a Swedish King, Inge, was
forced around the year 1080 to flee his kingdom as his heathen subjects did not approve of
his rejections of the old customs, but he managed to return three years later and reintroduce
Christianity in his kingdom. We already mentioned the bloody conversion of pagans in Norway
by Olav Tryggvason and Olaf the Saint, where people were tortured and temples destroyed,
which seem to be the only example of widespread violence during the conversion of Scandinavia. The conversion was helped by integrating Norse
symbology, such as the hammer of Thor which became the cross. Norse paganism was strongly
affiliated with nature spirits, so often missionaries would build chapels in places with significance
for the pagans, such as at the top of hills at beautiful beaches. With the passing of
time, the significance of the place was taken over by the saints of the chapels. We always have more stories to tell, so make
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on the next one.

100 thoughts on “How the Norse Became Christian – Christianization of Scandinavia DOCUMENTARY”

  1. Imperator: Rome is getting better with each free update and you can attest to that and support us in these difficult times by trying it via this link: There will be 3 videos this week!

  2. Fascinating! These kinds of history videos you've been making, imho, are arguably more entertaining and interesting than just the wars and battles, THIS is how we come to understand how life back then was actually like, rather than just how warfare and the politics of the elite!

  3. i was watching the Vikings serie on netflix and started too wonder how and when did scandinavian countries become Cristian. and then i open up Yt the first thing on my screen i see is this on top of list ??

  4. When the scandinavians converted to christianity from Paganism they still did viking raiding however they rebranded the meaning and terminology by calling it a crusade in order to take land in Finland and the Baltics. Since they when christianized can't raid their christians anymore or as much as they used to and definitely can't attack religious centers they started robbing finnish, sami, slavic and baltic shrines instead and did viking on the pagans instead of christians but to justify it to make it look good and not a evil bad needless slaughter they decided to call it crusading.

  5. And then later starting in 16th century, people of England, Iceland and Northern Europe started to repel against Catholic hierarchy and found Protestantism. I wish that today, at least 90% of population of ALL European countries are Christians.

  6. I am a christian viking from Stockholm! Albeit living in the wineland (United States).. The vikings where the first who sailed to america!

    God bless you all and keep you safe in time of Corona.. May Jesse keep you safe! (jesus).

    Må kristi blod hålla er säkra från all pest och mörker, må ljuset lysa över er och vara er nådig.

    /kristi lärljunge, Andreas

  7. Fun fact, Norway has had the same king for 1015 years now. The other later monarchs is just his regency until he returns to earth. – "Olof Haraldsson – Norway's Eternal King" (Rex Perpetuus Norvegiae)

  8. Sad to see the Norse gave up their Aryan gods for a Semitic one, they chose Yahweh over Odin, his sons Jesus over Thor?? They chose the desert over the forest, Semite over Aryan??

  9. Damn I must say the visual quality of your video's is really great lately.They're styleised but still manage to capture a historical and ancient feel.

  10. Pretty good video, but I really feel you didn't cover Iceland in enough detail. It also sounded like you were implying that the Iceland turned christian because of british missionaries which is just wrong.
    It was a pretty complex moment in history that had much more to do with the king of Norway.

  11. Norse myths about the god Baldr rising from the dead after Ragnorak and bringing about a thousand years of peace and harmony to mankind, had to have been influenced by contact with Christians.

  12. Still he heard from somewhere in the woods

    Old crow of wisdom say

    …people of Asa land, it's only just begun…

  13. Unlike all other continents only europe has no pagan or religious diversity. It's christianity and only Christianity with different Christian sects.
    I wonder why?

  14. Basically the Scandinavian kingdoms allowed themselves to be Christianized by the Pope, simply to avoid being both Christianized and politically dominated by the Holy Roman Empire. They needed the Pope’s support against the Germans so they converted

  15. Sadly, Rome is weak nowadays but hopefully one day its glory will bring the Christian faith to the heretical Scandinavians.

  16. There are several depictions of men wearing big Thor's hammers. This is a modern misconceptions because most of the hammers are found in female graves.

  17. Do you plan to make videos about battles of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, or about the PLC itself in the future?

  18. Cannot speak about the Norse Culture without a good folk metal song in the end !! Glad to see you didn't forget that.

  19. Hey I am Norwegian. “Olav the fat” left his country for power and became a agent for Rome. They killed the best blood-lines and forced Scandinavians to bow down to a king who were not chosen by the people. Christianity at this time was EVIL and they never got to destroy our culture like they tried to. The real hero’s of Norway is “Tore Hunder” – long live Scandinavia and our culture not this nasty desert religions who claims power and blood.

  20. Thank you for posting a video on the christianization of the Norseman! I have been trying to find a video to explain how this happened.

  21. The art at 10:27 is absolutely wonderful, reminds me of the Norway chapels when I was fortunate enough to come across when I visited this beautiful country back in summer 1990 as a teen.
    And I still don't believe in any kind of god.
    Incredible one guys. Take care in these trouble times. Cheers!

  22. Really good video, this made me wonder how these religions would fare if the roman empire didnt existed and christianity wasnt widespread around europe.

  23. They should do "How Armenia became the first Christian nation of the world" It's a crazy story with a saint saving the king's life.

  24. 1. No such thing as a Pagan convert to Christianity. It was all intimidation, bribery, & infiltrative dialogue that evolved into the continued conflict that we see today between Christian & Pagan. WE STILL HAVE PAGANISM FOLKS.
    2. Valholl or Valhalla existed without Christian Inspiration. THIS VIDEO IS CHRISTIAN PROPAGANDA.
    3. The Vikings were avenging the death of their Germanic brothers in Verden where 6000 pagans were executed for their faith by Charlamagne.
    4. Living in the North was difficult, so they had fewer resources to actually go about waging War against Christians. The Pagans thought they could keep their religion even in the face of Christianity solely because they felt that Norse/Germanic Mythos…was actually simply Ancestor Worship [remembering tradition & honor] & not necessarily a religion of "Promise" where people are freely reward by an unnatural narrative.

    Christianity is demonstrably false. Northern, Eastern, & Western European Paganism were simply Ancestor Worship & Language with a respect for Honor & Dialogue.

    Christianity did not introduce "Democracy" either. It was already engrained in the Tribal cultures which believed in compartmentalization & rite-of-passage to serve as a challenge for people who sought to prove their worth. Votes may not have been cast per-se…but if Honor was not upheld, they often would kill pretender-kings that unjustly took the throne.

  25. "Valhalla – concept introduced by Christian Paradise"
    I can hear from here the overheated pops of viking fans' butts

  26. in my area we have a play each year about olav Trygvason when he did the Christianization of norway 🙂

  27. Great video, and great explanation of the relationship between Christianity and centralization.

    I would argue that the persecution stories of St Olaf are rather overplayed, since his primary conflict was with Canute, and while pagans may have been disenfranchized by his policies, it is telling that they were still willing attach themselves to Christian political factions, like the court of Canute. Especially when one considers that more demographically pagan areas such as Sweden, Finland, Lapland and the Baltic existed for settlement.

    Awesome work.

  28. My girlfriend always making fun of me and tells me 'Good night' when I start a K&G video after 11pm. I always fall asleep because of K&G narrator's voice.
    I need to finish the video when I wake up in the morning.
    Thank you. Thanks to you I improve my English (vocab & pronunciation) and my history knowledge.

  29. As Scandinavians were Christianized, the Baltics (Curonians, Livonians and other Eastlanders) started raiding Scandinavian coasts and burned Stockholm in Sweden around 12th century. Scandinavians were not the only vikings in the baltic sea.

  30. If Vikings past above below country n civilization note n myths n movies or identity for n if heaven answers prob be the change off the 1 crucified after built n identity n print for n Norse or scan the declared no the king's valley n above answers all logic capital n ? n hammer or Thor no before for n den no mark is n wats orig only history evolve is???✨?✍️

  31. Norse nativist religion (pagan is a useful catch-all term but it's misleading) is experiencing a revival in modernity. A new temple in Iceland and tens of thousands seeking something more than can be provided from Abrahamic faith. And while obviously no-one knows what for sure what the practices of this faith were truly like it's enough to see people willing to rediscover what was lost. It is a historical tragedy to me, just how many interesting and unique faiths and religions were absorbed, suppressed or destroyed by Christianity and Islam. To be clear i think all religion is mythology, so if its all made up why not pick something that's fun and interesting.
    Awesome video, keep up the good work!

  32. Håkon the Good attempt to christianize Norway ended at the blot of Mære when the chiefs of Trøndelag forced him to participate in the cult activity as the other half of the chiefs burned his churches in western Norway.

  33. Scandinavia was not Germanic. Some of the oldest tribes are Celtic and Cimbri and Vends and later we see Goths and Danes in history.

  34. Hey,
    Can you please inform me about what books or papers did you use for the video? Thanks a lot, keep up the good work!

  35. Considering Christianity controlled the Historical Narrative, of course you are only going to get their side of the story. Anything that contradicted this was utterly destroyed.

  36. Figured I'd check out other kinds of virus's while I'm here since that's all that's being advocated these days.

  37. dat CK2 music… I'm watching this video just after closing down CK2, where I played a Viking, no less, and founded Normandy.

  38. Same way everyone else (outside the Middle East) became Cuckstians: Lies, oppression, bribery, terrorism,. genocide, bullshit, destruction, obfuscation, falsification.
    's how Abrahamism works, yo.

  39. "Religions of the pagan north are remembered for being bloody and cruel".00:25
    Christianity: HOLD MY BEER.

  40. "One man rode the way through the woods
    Down to Asa Bay
    Where dragon ships had sailed to sea
    More times than one could say

    To see with own eyes the wonder
    People told, from man to man
    The God of all almightiness
    Had arrived from a foreign land…"

  41. @Kings and Generals Could you guys please let me know what the name of the song which starts from 1:45 is?
    Much appreciated.

  42. The story goes that our spiritual leader on Alþingi pondered for ten days. On that morning he stepped out of his tent and declared that Iceland would be Christian. Although the pagans got several days where they could practice their religion, a middle ground of sorts. This decision is one of the reason paganism is still practiced today I believe.

  43. Lame content. What's interesting point on history about Christianization ? Arent we all knew it because of Crusades and Colonialism ? Better find some other historical events that are more interesting.

  44. A lot of the so called Christianization was just peripheral, people called themselves Christians but like in Ireland you still had all sorts of pagan professionals until my fifty seven year old dad's youth in rural Ireland. Prophecies told by wise women, bone setters and herb specialists plus tons of farmers who have specific folk rituals about how to appease the Aos Sidh. Not to mention that in the early 1800s people were still spilling mares blood over crops to make them grow after planting. Then in the early 1700s in really far out parts of Ireland and Scotland people were sacrificing livestock still at small loch's to the aos sidh. If that was our early modern era in northwestern Europe I wonder how "Christian" things were during the early middle ages especially in Scandinavia.

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