March 20, 2012

Escaping Christian persecution: Norway's Pagan temple buried before the religious fanatics could destroy it. Now urban developers may flatten it

Artist rendering (credit: Credit: Preben Rønne, Science Museum/NTNU)
I seldom write on Iron Age, never mind the Middle Ages, but this finding has really touched me: a Pagan temple was unearthed in Ranheim, not far from Trondheim (Norway). Its last community run away from Christian intolerance, as is attested by the sagas, but first buried their holy precinct so the theists could not destroy and profane it with their crosses and exotic rituals.

The temple which may have been built c. 400 CE, was used for many centuries and consisted of:
... a stone-set "sacrificial altar" and also traces of a "pole building" that probably housed idols in the form of sticks with carved faces of Thor, Odin, Frey and Freya. Deceased relatives of high rank were also portrayed in this way and attended. Nearby, the archaeologists also uncovered a procession route.
At first researchers thought it could be some sort of burial mound but they eventually recognized it as a temple.

The members of this community, as attested by historical sources, were probably among the many to flee to Iceland, where there was initially more tolerance. It was in Iceland in fact where many of these sagas were written.

The temple was probably buried under the reign of the first recorded King of Norway, Harald Fairhair (872-930).

The temple may now be destroyed by urban development if something does not stop it quick. Archaeologist Prebben Rønne said:

The location of the [planned] housing could easily be adapted to this unique cultural heritage [site], without anyone losing their residential lots. It could be an attraction for new residents, telling them much about the history of the facility over 1000 years ago. Unfortunately, housing construction is now underway.

It would be indeed a pity and a crime against heritage if the construction is not stopped immediately. 

Sources and further reading: The Archaeology News Network, Yahoo! News.


  1. What is happening to the site now is sad. What happened there in the 9th century was even sadder. But the true tragedy is global, the crime against the heritage of all humanity, the replacement of every form of spirituality, tradition, and reverence with the greed of consumerism and the fear of the temporal power of the world superstate.

    As for the so called great religions of the present day, they are little more than corporate franchise businesses. Even in lovely Thailand, the Baht is much more sought after than the Buddha. There are many Ways, and we have already lost too many, and are quickly losing the rest. It is good when sacred architecture is preserved or restored. But, restoring sanctity to the human spirit in the context of a commercial culture which seeks to commodify all of human experience is much more difficult.

  2. I can agree with some of what you say but I see it mostly from two viewpoints: (1) historical heritage, which should be preserved as much as possible and (2) a matter of dignity: those people bothered hiding their temple underground and managed to leave it for us to find, after Christianity has been mostly downgraded and is not anymore the menace it was back then... only to be destroyed by the excavators?

    1. Being a Pagan myself, I really don't see how Christianity has been down graded a lot. They're not burning ppl at the stake anymore that I know of, but there are still millions of people dying in the name of religion. They all stem from the same ancient writings, Sumerian, and heartless, senseless killing in the name of god still goes on today.This sight being bulldozed under proves they are still trying to abolish anything but what they want us to believe and have killed for for 2000 years.Governments still hide our trues history from us as well as spirit away anything that proves anything but what they want us to know. This is criminal!! Millions of people are going back to their Pagan roots, as have I. Thank Odin.

  3. I disagree about what the author has suggested that, Harald Fairhair was the king responsible for the aggression towards the indigenous religion of Scandinavia. Most likely, from the book, "Heimskringla" it was one of the two Olafs, Trygvasen or Olaf the Saint that brought about the ruthless Conversion in Norway to Christianity.


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