30 March. He was the son of Harald, King of Norway, and became a Christian at an early age. Exiled from his country after his father’s death by powerful enemies, he spent many years of his life in piratical warfare. Having embraced the Christian Faith himself, he resolved to deliver his country from the usurping power of the Swedes and Danes, and establish the Christian religion, together with his own lawful sovereignty. Success crowned his efforts, and he was enabled to release his people not only from foreign domination but also from the thralls of paganism, many of them embracing Christianity. His enemies, however, proved too strong for him, and he was again exiled and took refuge in Russia. Returning soon after, he raised an army to recover his kingdom, but was slain by his infidel and rebellious subjects in a battle at Drontheim.
A just and brave ruler, zealous for the Christian religion, though not altogether free from grievous offences against its laws, Olaf, by his unswerving faith, his devotion and penance, won the title of saint and martyr. He was buried at Drontheim, and a magnificent cathedral arose over his remains. His body was found incorrupt in 1098, and again in 1541 when the shrine was plundered by the Lutherans. On that occasion the heretics treated the body with respect, and it was afterwards re-interred. Many miracles have attested his sanctity.
Saint Olaf’s efforts for the spread of the Gospel in the Orkneys, which at that time belonged to Norway, were doubtless the cause of the devotion which was shown to him in Scotland. Many traces of its existence are to be found in the dedications to him. In Orkney was anciently Saint Ollow’s parish; it is now comprised in that of Kirkwall. In the latter town is Saint Ollowe’s Bridge. South-west of Girlsta, in Shetland, is Whiteness, where once stood the Church of Saint Olla. He was honoured at Grease in the Island of Lewis. Kirk of Cruden (Aberdeenshire), where Saint Ole’s Fair was held annually, was dedicated to him. The remains of the saint’s ancient chapel, said to have been founded there by Canute, were used for road metal in 1837. Saint Olla’s Fair, at Kirkwall, lasting for fourteen days, is described in Scott’s Pirate. In Saint Salvator’s College, Saint Andrews, was an altar to this saint. Saint Olaf appears in the Martyrology on July 29th, when his feast was kept in Norway and all Scandinavian countries. In Scotland, however, he was honoured on this day.