Norway, comprising the smaller division of the Scandinavian peninsula, is bounded on the east by Lapland and Sweden, and on the west by the Atlantic. The surface is generally a plateau from which rise precipitous mountains, as Snahatten (7566 feet) and Stora Galdhoppigen (about 8399 feet). The west coast is deeply indented by fiords. In eastern and southern Norway the valleys are broader and at times form extensive, fruitful plains. There are several navigable rivers, as the Glommen and Vormen, and lakes, of which the largest is Lake Myosen. The numerous islands along the coast, some wooded and some bare, promote shipping and fishing; in the Lofoten Islands alone twenty million cod are annually caught. The climate is only relatively mild, with rain almost daily. Agriculture consists largely in raising oats and barley, but not enough for home consumption. Rye and wheat are grown only in sheltered spots. Bread is commonly made of oats. The cultivation of the potato is widespread, a fact of much importance. There are in the country only about 160,-000 horses; these are of a hardy breed. Cattle-raising is an important industry, the number of cattle being estimated at a million, that of sheep and goats at over two millions. Of late attention has been paid to the raising of pigs. The Lapps of the north maintain over a hundred thousand reindeer in the grassy pasture land of the higher plateaus. The most important trees are pine, fir, and birch; oak and beech are not so common.
Forestry was long carried on unscientifically; considerable effort has been made to improve conditions, and wood is now exported chiefly as wrought or partly wrought timber. Silver is mined at Kongsberg, and iron at Roraas, but the yield of minerals is moderate. Coal is altogether lacking. The peasants are skillful wood-carvers, and in isolated valleys still make all necessary household articles, besides spinning and weaving their apparel. The Northmen were always famous seamen, and Norwegians are now found on the ships of all nations. The merchant marine of about 8000 vessels is one of the most important of the world. Good roads and railways have greatly increased traffic. A constantly increasing number of strangers are attracted by the natural beauties. Although in this way a great deal of money is brought into the country, the morals and honesty of the people unfortunately suffer in consequence. The area is 123,843 sq. miles; the population numbers 2,250,000 persons.
The great majority belong officially to the Lutheran state Church, but on account of liberal laws there is a rapid development of sects. Catholics did not regain religious liberty until the middle of the nineteenth century. Reports as to their numbers vary from 1500, as given in the Protestant “Tagliche Rundschau”, to 100,000, as given in the Catholic “Germania” (see below). Norway is a constitutional monarchy, its ruler since November 18, 1905, has been King Haakon VII, a Danish prince. The colors of the flag are red, white, and blue. The country is divided into 20 counties and 56 bailiwicks. Justice is administered by district courts (sorenskrifverier). Eccleciastically the country is divided into 6 dioceses, with 83 provosts or deans, and 450 pastors. The largest city and the royal residence is Christiania (230,000 inhabitants), the seat of government, of the Parliament (Storthing), of the chief executive, of the state university, and of other higher schools. The most important commercial city is Bergen (80,000 inhabitants), important even in the Middle Ages and for a long time controlled by the Hanseatic League. Trondhjem, formerly Nidaros, a city of 40,000 inhabitants, was earlier the see of the Catholic archbishops, and the place where the Catholic kings were crowned and buried. Its fine cathedral, now in process of restoration, contains the bones of St. Olaf, the patron saint of Norway. The army is not highly trained; men between twenty-three and thirty-three years of age are liable for military duty. The modest well-manned navy is only used for coast defense.
HISTORY.—Unlike the Swedes and Danes, the Norwegians were not organized even so late as the ninth century. The name of king was borne by the chiefs and heads of separate clans, but their authority was limited and the rights of the subjects very extensive. Only by marauding expeditions were the Vikings able to gain honor and wealth, and at times also to acquire control of extensive districts. Their early history is lost in the fabulous tales of the bards. In 872, Harold Haarfager (Fair-Haired), after a decisive sea-fight near Stavanger, established his authority over all the clans. Those refusing to submit left the country and their possessions were confiscated. When Harold divided his kingdom among several sons, its permanence seemed once more uncertain, but Hakon the Good (q.v.) restored a transient unity and procured an entrance for Christianity. Olaf Trygvesson continued the work of union after Hakon’s death, and promoted the spread of the new faith, but in a sea-fight with the united forces of the Danes and Swedes he was killed about 1000 near Svalder (of uncertain location). The kingdom now fell apart, some portions coming under Cnut the Great of Denmark.
Finally Olaf, son of Harold Grenske and a descendant of Harold Haarfager (1015), reestablished the boundaries of Norway, and aided Christianity to its final victory. At a later date Olaf became the patron saint of Norway. His severity so embittered the great families that they combined with Cnut and forced him to flee the country. Returning with a small army from Sweden, he was defeated and killed in the battle of Stiklestad (July 29, 1030). His heroic death and the marvelous phenomena that occurred in connection with his body completely changed the feeling of his opponents. His son, Magnus the Good, was unanimously chosen his successor (1035), and the Danish intruders were driven away. Magnus died childless in 1047, and the kingdom went to his father’s half-brother Harold, son of Sigurd. Harold had won fame and wealth as a viking, and had been an important personage at the Byzantine Court. On account of his grimness he was called Hardrada (the Stern). Impelled by ambition, he first waged a bloody war with Denmark and then attacked England. On an incursion into Northumberland, he was defeated at the battle of Stamford Bridge (1066). His son, Olaf the Quiet, repaired the injuries caused the country by Harold Hardrada’s policy. Olaf’s successor, Magnus, conquered the Scotch islands, waged successful war with Sweden, and even gained parts of Ireland, where he was finally killed. One of his sons, Sigurd Jorsalafari (the traveler to Jerusalem), went on a crusade to the Holy Land, while another son, Eystein, peacefully acquired Jemtland, a part of Sweden. With Sigurd’s death (1130) the kingdom entered upon a period of disorder caused partly by strife between claimants to the throne, partly by rivalry between the secular and ecclesiastical dignitaries, whose partisans (known as the Birkebeinar and the Baglar) perpetrated unbelievable outrages and cruelty on each other. The power of the king sank steadily, while that of the bishops increased. For a time Sverre (1177-1202) seemed successful, but lasting peace was not attained until the reign of his grandson, Hakon the Old (1217-63). Hakon ruled with wisdom and force and was highly regarded by the rulers of other countries. During his reign Norway reached its greatest extent, including Greenland and Iceland. He died in the Orkney Islands (1263) while returning from an expedition against the Scotch.
His peace-loving son Magnus Lagoboete (the Law-Mender) tried to establish law and order and prepared a book of laws. His efforts to promote commerce and intercourse resulted unfortunately, as the Hanseatic League, to which he granted many privileges, used these to the detriment of the country, and gradually brought it into a state of grievous dependence. With the death (1319) of the vigorous younger son of Magnus, Hakon V, the male line of Harold Harfager became extinct. The crown went to the three year old King Magnus Eriksson of Sweden, son of Hakon’s daughter, Ingeborg; this brought about for the first time a close union between the two kingdoms of northern Scandinavia. When King Magnus assumed the government (1332), it was soon evident that, although possessing many good qualities, he lacked force. He seldom came to Norway, and the Norwegians felt themselves neglected. They forced him, when holding court at Varberg (1343), to send his younger son Hakon as viceroy to Norway, where Hakon soon gathered an independent court, and in 1335 became the actual ruler. Seven years later he was elected King of Sweden by a part of the Swedish nobility, but had to yield to Duke Albert of Mecklenburg, chosen by an opposing faction. In 1363 Hakon married Margaret, daughter of King Waldemar of Denmark, and won with her a claim to the Danish throne. As Waldemar, when he died in 1375, left no male descendants, he was succeeded by their son, Olaf. Olaf also became King of Norway upon the death of his father, and died in 1387. His mother, an able and energetic ruler, entered at once upon the administration of Denmark. In Norway she was not only made ruler for life, but her nephew, Eric of Pomerania, was acknowledged as the lawful heir. Meanwhile, Albert of Mecklenburg, greatly disliked in Sweden and the estates, entered into negotiations with Margaret, whose troops took him prisoner (1389). The same year Eric was acknowledged King of Norway, and in 1395-6 as King of Denmark and Sweden. In 1397 the chief men of the three countries met at Kalmar to arrange a basis for a permanent legal confederation (the Union of Galmar). The plan failed, as no one country was willing to make the sacrifice necessary for the interest of all, but Eric was crowned king of the three united lands.
Up to 1408 Margaret was the real ruler. With unwearied activity she journeyed everywhere, watched over the administration of law and government, cut down the great estates of the nobles for the benefit of the crown, and protected the ordinary freeman. Denmark was always her first interest. She placed Danish officials in Sweden and forced the Church of that country to accept Danish bishops; the result was often unfortunate, as in the appointment of the Archbishop of Upsala (1408). Margaret’s efforts to regain former possessions of the three Scandinavian countries were successful only in one case; she purchased the Island of Gotland from the Teutonic Knights. She died suddenly (1412) in the harbor of Flensburg whither she had gone to obtain Schleswig from the Counts of Holstein. Left to himself, the headstrong and hot-tempered Eric made one mistake after another and soon found all the Hanseatic towns on the Baltic against him. Conditions were still worse after the death of his one faithful counselor, his wife Philippa, daughter of Henry IV of England. In Sweden increasing taxes, constant disputes with the clergy, and the appointment of bad officials aroused a universal discontent, which led later to dangerous outbreaks. Vain attempts were made (1436) to restore the tottering union. Disregarding his promises, Eric withdrew to Gotland, where he remained inactive. In 1438 his deposition was declared by Norway and Sweden, and his nephew, Duke Christopher of Bavaria, was elected king. Upon Christopher’s early death (1448) the union was virtually dissolved: the Swedes chose Karl Knutsson as king, and the Danes called Count Christian of Oldenburg to the throne. At first Norway wavered between the two, but Christian was able to retain control.
Of Christian‘s two sons Hans was at first only ruler of Denmark and Norway, but, by an agreement made at Calmar, he was able to gain Sweden also. Yet it was only after defeating Sten Sture that his position in Sweden was secure. King Hans I was succeeded (1513) in Denmark and Norway by his son, Christian II. Christian‘s cruelty to the conquered Swedes prepared the way for the defection of that country to Gustavus Vasa; consequently, he was indirectly responsible for the withdrawal of Sweden from Catholic unity. Christian soon aroused dissatisfaction in his own country. Undue preference granted to the lower classes turned the nobility against him, and his undisguised efforts to open the way for the teachings of Luther repelled loyal Catholics. Serious disorders followed in Jutland, and Christian, losing courage, sought to save himself by flight. With the aid of the Hanseatic League his uncle, Duke Frederick of Schleswig-Holstein, soon acquired possession of his kingdoms. The new king and his son, Christian III, were fanatical adherents of the new doctrine, and by craft and force brought about its victory in Denmark (1539). In Norway Archbishop Olaf of Trondhjem labored in vain for the maintenance of Catholicism and the establishment of national independence. The majority of the peasants were indifferent and the impoverished nobility, who hoped to benefit by the introduction of the “pure Gospel”, urged Christian on. After the departure of the church dignitaries Christian acquired the mastery of the country. (1537). Norway now ceased to be an independent state. While retaining the name of kingdom it was for nearly three hundred years (until 1814) only a Danish province, administered by Danish officials and at times outrageously plundered. Here, as in Sweden and Denmark, people were gradually and systematically turned away from the Catholic Faith, though it was long before Catholicism was completely extinguished. The last Bishop of Holum in Iceland, Jon Arason, died a martyr. The king and the nobility seized the lands of the Church. The chief nobles acquired inordinate influence, and the landed proprietors, once so proud of their independence, fell under the control of foreign tyrants.
As regards territorial development in the Middle Ages, Norway had a number of tributary provinces—in the north, Finmark, inhabited by heathen Lapps; various groups of islands southwest of Norway as: the Farve Islands, the Orkneys, the Shetlands, and the Isle of Man in the Irish Sea, to which were added later Iceland and Greenland. During the period of the union, Norway also included Bohuslan, Harjedalen, Jemtland, and some smaller districts, all now belonging to Sweden. With these islands and outlying territories the monarchy comprised about 7000 square miles. The Scotch islands were lost towards the end of the fifteenth century, and at a later period the colonies in Greenland were totally neglected. Originally the kingdom had consisted of four provinces, each with its own laws, but when a system of law for the entire country was introduced, it was divided into eleven judicial districts. The most closely settled districts were the fertile lowlands on the inlets of the sea, now Christiania and Trondhjem fiords. The waterway from Trondhjem to Oslo, near the present Christiania, was the most important route for traffic. There was also much intercourse by water between Oslo and Bergen. Through the mountain districts huts for the convenience of travelers (Spalastugor) were erected, and developed later into inns and taverns. The country was unprepared for war. The topography and economic conditions made it difficult to mobilize the land forces. The soldiers were not paid, but only fed. The chief state officials lived in Bohus, Akershus, Tunsberg, and the royal fortified castles on the harbors of Bergen and Trondhjem.
Ecclesiastically, Norway was at first under the direction of the Archbishop of Lund (1103); later (1152) under the Archbishop of Trondhjem, who had jurisdiction over the Bishops of Bergen, Stavanger, Oslo, Hamar, Farve, Kirkwall (Orkney Islands), Skalholt and Holar (Holum) in Iceland, and Gardar (Garde) in Greenland. Jemtland was subject to the Swedish Archdiocese of Upsala. There were a thousand well-endowed churches, thirty monasteries, and various orders of women: Benedictines, Cistercians, Pri monstratensians, Dominicans, Franciscans, Augustinians, and Brigittines. Schools were attached to the cathedrals and to most of the monasteries. For higher education Norwegians went to foreign universities, especially to Paris.
From the reign of Christian III Norway shared the fortunes of Denmark. Christian‘s son, Frederick II (1559-88), paid no attention to Norway, but much was done for the country during the long reign of Christian IV (1588-1648), who endeavored to develop the country by encouraging mining at Konsberg and Roraas, and to protect it from attack by improving the army. Jemtland and Herjudalen, however, had to be ceded to Sweden. Frederick III (1648-70) was also obliged to cede Bohuslan. Frederick V (1746-66) encouraged art, learning, commerce, and manufactures. Prosperity strengthened the self-reliance of the people and their desire for political independence. In 1807 they were granted autonomous administration, and in 1811 a national university was founded at Christiania. Political events enabled Sweden to force Denmark in the Treaty of Kell to relinquish Norway. Many of the Norwegians not being in favor of this, a national diet, held at Eidsvold (May 17, 1814), agreed upon a constitution and chose as king the popular Danish prince, Christian Frederick. But the Powers interfered and ratified the union with Sweden. The Swedish monarchs, Charles John XIV, Oscar I, Charles XV, and Oscar II, had a difficult position to maintain in Norway. Notwithstanding zealous and successful efforts to promote the material and intellectual prosperity of the land, they never attained popularity, nor could they reconcile national dislikes. Friction increased, the Norwegian parliament growing steadily more radical and even becoming the exponent of republican ideas. From 1884 the Storthing, which now possessed the real power, steadfastly urged the dissolution of the union, and on June 7, 1905, declared it to be dissolved. The Swedish Government naturally was unwilling to consent to this revolutionary action. Negotiations were successfully concluded at the Convention of Karlstad, September 23, 1905. The Norwegians elected as king Prince Charles of Denmark, who, under the title of Hakon VII, has since then reigned over the country.
ECCLESIASTICAL HISTORY.—Little is known of the religious ideas of the heathen Norwegians, and this little rests on later sources, chiefly on the Eddas of the thirteenth century. It seems certain that not only animals, but also human beings (even kings), were sacrificed to the gods, of whom first Thor (later Odin) was the most important. The early Norwegians were characterized by reckless courage and a cruelty that alternated with generosity and magnanimity. Hakon the Good and Olaf Tryggoesson labored to introduce Christianity, and during the reign of Olaf Haroldsson Christianity became, nominally at least, the prevailing religion. Olaf Haroldsson was a zealous adherent of the new faith. He built churches, founded schools, and exerted influence by his personal example. After his death he was revered as a saint: the church built at Nidaros (now Trondhjem) over his grave was replaced later by the cathedral of Trondhjem, the finest building in Norway. The Dioceses of Nidaros, Bergen, Oslo, and Stavanger were soon founded, monks and nuns carried on successful missionary work, and in a short time the land was covered with wooden churches (Slovkirken) of singular architecture; the few that remain still arouse admiration. Gradually stone churches with a rich equipment were erected.
The Norwegian bishops were under the jurisdiction of the Metropolitan of Lund until 1152, when the papal legate, Nicholas of Albano, transferred the jurisdiction over the Norwegian Church to the Bishop of Trondhjem and his successors. The suffragans of the new archbishopric were: Hamar, Farve, and Kirkwall in the Orkneys, Skalholt, and Holar in Iceland, and Gardar in Greenland. The tithes, legally established before 1130 in the reign of Sigurd Jonsalafari, made possible the foundation of a large number of new parishes and strengthened those already existing. The Diocese of Oslo contained the largest number, namely 300 parishes; Nidaros had 280. There was a chapter for each see. Not much is known of the morals and religious spirit of the people; it is certain that in the Catholic period much more in proportion was given for purposes of religion than after the Reformation. There are few details of the pastoral labors of bishops and clergy, but the works of Christian charity, hospices, lazarettos, inns for pilgrims, bear ready testimony to their efforts for the advancement of civilization. Nor was learning neglected. As early as the twelfth century the monk Dietrich of Trondhjem wrote a Latin chronicle of the country, and in 1250 a Franciscan wrote an account of his journey to the Holy Land. Norwegian students who desired degrees went to the Universities of Paris and Bologna, or, at a later period, attended a university nearer home, that of Rostock in Mecklenburg. With the abandonment of the old Faith and its institutions was associated the loss of national independence in 1537. As early as 1519 Christian II had begun to suppress the monasteries, and Christian III abetted the cause of Lutheranism. Archbishop Olaf Engelloechtssen and other dignitaries of the Church were forced to flee; Mogens Lawridtzen, Bishop of Hamar, died in prison in 1642, and Jon Arason of Holar was executed on November 7, 1550.
The large landed possessions of the Church went to the king and his favorites. Many churches were destroyed, others fell into decay, and the number of parishes was greatly reduced. The salaries of the preachers, among whom were very objectionable persons, were generally a mere pittance. Fanatics of the new belief thundered from the pulpit against idolatry and the cruelty of the “Roman Antichrist“; whatever might preserve the memory of earlier ages was doomed to destruction; the pictures of the Virgin were cut to pieces, burned, or thrown into the water; veneration of saints was threatened with severe punishment. Notwithstanding this, it was only slowly and by the aid of deception that the people were seduced from the ancestral faith. Catholicism did not die out in Norway until the beginning of the seventeenth century. The pope entrusted the spiritual care of Norway, first to the Nunciature of Cologne, and then to Brussels, but the Draconian laws of Denmark made Catholic ministration almost impossible. Whether the Jesuits appointed to Norway ever went there is unknown. A Dominican who reached the country was expelled after a few weeks. The Norwegian convert Rhugius was permitted to remain, but was not allowed to exercise his office. Conditions remained the same later, when the supervision was transferred from Brussels to Cologne, from Cologne to Hildersheim, and thence to Osnabruck.
There was no change until the nineteenth century when the laws of 1845 and succeeding years released all dissenters, including Catholics who had come into the country, from the control of the Lutheran state Church. From the time of its foundation the Lutheran Church had wavered between orthodoxy and rationalism, and was finally much affected by the Pietistic movement, led by Haugue. In 1843 a small Catholic parish was formed in Christiania, and from this center efforts were made to found new stations. In 1869 Pius IX created an independent prefecture Apostolic for Norway. The first prefect was a Frenchman, Bernard, formerly prefect of the North Pole mission. He was followed by the Luxemburg priest Fallize, later Bishop of Alusa, under whom the mission has steadily developed, although not yet large. Especially noteworthy among the men who of late years have been reconciled to the Church are the former gymnasial rector Sverenson, and the author Kroogh-Tonning, doctor of theology, originally a Lutheran pastor at Christiania. All monastic orders, Jesuits excepted, are allowed, but there are no monasteries for men. On the other hand the missionaries of the female congregations, Sisters of St. Elizabeth, Sisters of St. Francis, and Sisters of St. Joseph of Chambery, numbering about thirty, have gained useful and active fellow-workers. There are a few thousands of Catholics, for whom there are churches in Christiania (St. Olaf and Halyard), in Bergen, Trondhjem, Fredrikshald, Tromso. Fredrikstad, Altengaard, Hamerfest. Catholic hospitals exist in Christiania, Bergen, Drammen, and Christiansand, and there is a number of Catholic schools towards which the Protestant population has shown itself friendly. In 1897, for the first time in three hundred years, the feast of St. Olaf was celebrated at Trondhjem.
HISTORY OF ART.—During the Middle Ages art was closely connected with religion, and its chief task was the building and embellishment of churches. Some twenty old wooden churches (Stavkirker), still in existence, show with what skill Norwegians made use of the wood furnished by their forests. At a comparatively early date, stone was used, first in the Romanesque, then in the Gothic buildings. Some of the work thus produced has a singular and characteristic charm. Besides primitive churches of one aisle with rude towers and belfries, as at Vossevanger, there are in existence churches of three aisles with pleasing, and at times relatively rich ornamentation. The facades of some of these are flanked by two towers, as at Akers, Bergen, and Stavanger. The most striking achievements of Norwegian architecture are the cathedral of St. Magnus at Kirkwall in the Orkneys, and, what is even finer, the cathedral at Trondhjem. The latter has had a chequered history. Built originally in 1077 by Olaf the Quiet (Kyrre) as a “Christ Church” of one aisle over the bones of St. Olaf, it served at first as the burial place of the kings. When in 1152 Trondhjem (Nidaros) was made an archdiocese, it became a place of pilgrimage for the entire kingdom, and the gifts of the faithful made possible the necessary enlargement of the cathedral. In 1161 Archbishop Eystein Erlandson began its restoration in the Romanesque style. Obliged to flee from King Sverri, he became acquainted during his stay in England with Gothic architecture and made use of this style on his return. This is especially evident in the unique octagon erected over St. Olaf’s grave, evidently an imitation of “Becket’s Crown” in Canterbury cathedral. Eystein’s successors completed the building according to his plans. The cathedral was twice damaged by fire but each time was repaired (in 1328 and in 1432). It fell into almost complete ruin after the great fire of May 5, 1531, and for several hundred years no attention was paid to it. A change came with the awakening of national pride, and the restoration of the cathedral is now nearing completion. Its most valuable treasures, the body of the great Apostle of Norway St. Olaf and the costly shrine that enclosed it, have disappeared. In 1537 the shrine was taken to Copenhagen, robbed of its jewels, and melted, while the bones of the saint were buried by fanatics in some unknown place to put an end forever to the veneration of them. The wood-carvings, paintings, and other objects of art, which formerly adorned Norwegian churches, have been either carried off or destroyed.
This was not so frequently the case in the northern part of the country, and in other districts some few objects escaped. Among the works of art especially interesting may be mentioned: (in wood-carving) the altar of the Virgin in the Church of Our Lady at Her-gen, and the altar in the Ringsacker church on Lake Nysen; (in painting) the antependium at Gal; (in relief work) the doorways of the churches at Hyllestad and Hemsedal; the baptismal font at Stavanger, reliquaries, as at Hedal; censers, as at Hadsel; crucifixes and vestments. The finest medieval secular building is King Haakon’s Hall, a part of the former royal palace at Bergen. Beautifully carved chairs, rich tapestries and fine chased work are further proof of the degree oil culture attained by Catholic Norway.
HISTORY OF LITERATURE.—Norway can hardly be said to have an indigenous literature. As regards material and arrangement, the chronicles and narratives are very much the same both in the north and the south (for Icelandic Sagas see Iceland Literature). We here treat specifically Protestant literature only so far as individual writers, such as the brothers Munch, refer in poetry or prose to the Catholic era in Norway, and thus indirectly further the interests of the Church. The historical investigations and writings of Bang, Dietrichson, Daae, and Bugge have overthrown many historical misstatements and judgments prejudicial to Catholicism. These works have influenced even Protestant theology in Norway, so that its position towards Rome is relatively more friendly than in other countries. If heretofore no Norwegian Catholic has made a great contribution to the national literature the reason is obvious. Of late years, however, various books have been published of an edifying, apologetic, or of a polemical nature. There is a Catholic weekly, the “St. Olav”.