London Churches: St Olave’s

Posted: August 11, 2016 in Dark ages, History, London, Medieval History, UK
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The site of St Olav's church

The site of St Olave’s church

St Olave’s church no longer exists and today is an open space in Silver St in the city of London. It is uncertain when the church was built. Records exist from 1400 but give little clue of how much earlier it was established. There was some rebuilding carried out around 1600 but the church became a casualty of the Great Fire in 1666 and was totally destroyed. The decision was taken not to rebuild it and a stone memorial reputedly from c 1700 was placed on the site to record the previous presence of the church.

Memorial_Stone,_St_Olave's_Garden,_London_EC1 By Christine Matthews, CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=13791539

Memorial_Stone,_St_Olave’s_Garden,_London_EC1 By Christine Matthews, CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=13791539

 

St Olave (also St Olav or St Olaf) was born Olaf Haraldson, a Norwegian noble in 995. Early in his life he travelled to Britain, where he learnt about Christianity and also fought alongside King Ethelbert II against the Danes (long-time enemies of Norway). He returned to Norway and eventually became King in 1015. Having converted to Christianity himself he encouraged the spread of his faith throughout the country and encouraged many priests from Britain to travel to Norway. In 1028 he was exiled following a rebellion by a group of Norwegian nobles backed by the Danes. After 2 years he returned to reclaim his kingdom and surprisingly, having supported his removal in favour of a more pro-Danish regime, the Danes failed to support the Norwegian rebels, who were defeated in battle. Unfortunately, Olaf did not live to see victory as he was killed in the decisive battle. His son Magnus the Good succeeded him as King. The cult of St Olave was very popular in the Middle Ages and many churches were dedicated to him including a number in England.

olaf-ii-king-of-norway-killed-at-the-battle-of-stiklestad (From http://myfamilyclans.com/p55.htm)

olaf-ii-king-of-norway-killed-at-the-battle-of-stiklestad (From http://myfamilyclans.com/p55.htm)

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