History

Harald Fairhair and Gyda in Nordvegen History Centre. (Photo Marit Synnøve Vea)

Harald Fairhair and Gyda in Nordvegen History Centre. (Photo Marit Synnøve Vea)

AVALDSNES – NORWAYS OLDEST THRONE
Most people know Avaldsnes as a royal residence of Harald Fairhair and other kings we know from the sagas, but Avaldsnes  was a royal seat long before the time of  Harald Fairhair. Some of the kings who lived here, we know from the old heroic sagas, others from archeology.

When Harald Fairhair had unified Norway into one kingdom around 870 AD, he made Avaldsnes his main residence.  He lived here, he died here and he was buried close to the strait Karmsund.

Harald Fairhair died around 930, but Avaldsnes continued to be a royal residence for Harald’s descendents who followed him as kings.  Among these kings were Eric Blodaxe, Håkon the Good, Olav Tryggvason, St.  Olav and Haakon Haakonson.

THE FOUNDER OF A KINGDOM – THE FOUNDER OF A DYNASTY
Harald Fairhair wasn’t only the founder of a kingdom, he was also the founder of a dynasty.  Those who reigned after him had to prove legitimate family ties with Harald before assuming their right to the throne. It was also important for them to affirm their royal power precisely at Avaldsnes.

One obvious reason for this was Avaldsnes’ strategic location by the strait Karmsundet – The North Way.  Another reason was that Avaldsnes had gained the mythical position as THE SACRED PLACE –   the site where the kings could prove that they were decedents of the Gods. A divine origin was necessary for anyone who wanted to be a king.

NORDVEGEN – THE WAY TO THE NORTH
Most countries are named after their land areas or after ethnic groups who live in the countries. Norway, however, has been named after the shipping lane that runs along the coast. People who sail across the open sea from Lista and along the coast of Jæren,  will meet the strait Karmsundet as a protected  ocean road at the entrance to the fairway northwards. For those who lived before us, this was the North Way – the way to the north.

Avaldsnes is located in the middle of the strait Karmsundet – Nordvegen – “the way to the North”. Whoever controlled the strait of Karmsundet could control all shipping trafic along the Norwegian coast and thereby the trading route to Europe. (Photo Gunnar Strøm)

Avaldsnes is located in the middle of the strait Karmsundet – Nordvegen – “the way to the North”. Whoever controlled the strait of Karmsundet could control all shipping trafic along the Norwegian coast and thereby the trading route to Europe. (Photo Gunnar Strøm)

Avaldsnes is strategically located where Karmsundet is at its narrowest. The place is named after the legendary king Augvald – “The Ruler of the Coast” – who probably lived sometime in the migration period.

AVALDSNES – A ROYAL SEAT WITH INTERNATIONAL CONTACT
For 3000 years Avaldsnes was inhabited by chieftains and kings who controlled the shipping traffic through the narrow Karmsundet. These rulers have given us great burial mounds, tall monoliths and rich finds.

The strait Karmsundet wasn’t only the way north, it was also the way to the world. Common to the rulers at Avaldsnes, was  that they had close contact with other people and other countries. This international contact gave them cultural impulses, new ideas, knowledge, allies and great wealth.

Archaeological evidence also shows that Avaldsnes had its peak as a centre of power when the international contact was at its strongest.

KORMT  – THE HOLY WATER
The name Karmøy originates from the Old Norse word “Kormt” which means shelter. This long and narrow island protects the mainland from the North Sea and forms the fairway “Karmsundet”.

The ancient poems Grimnismal and Gylfaginning tell that Tor, the God of Thunder wades the strait  Karmsund every day, until he reaches  Yggdrasil, the tree of life,  where the Norse gods meet at their place of justice.  Thus; the rainbow bridge Bifrost can burn and the holy water glow.

Kormt and Ormt
and two large rivers;
these shall Thor wade
every day when
he walks to deem
at the Yggdrasil Ash;
Thus the bridge of heaven
can burn; warm is holy water.

(Grímnismál)

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