Sunday, November 21, 2010

#485 Faroe Islands...Thanks Thorolf!

The 6 DKK stamp on the top right was issued in 2008 featuring Ancient Cross excavated in Faroe Islands.

Straight Talk
”I shall also make you aware that I have changed religion and has become a Christian man. I have orders from King Olaf to convert all inhabitants on the islands to the Christian faith.”

Those were the words of the Viking chieftain Sigmundur Brestisson on the parliamentary assembly in Tórshavn around year 1000 A.D., when he tried to maintain the orders from the Norwegian king Olaf Tryggvason – at least according to Faereyinga Saga. But it did not work as Sigmund planned it. The assembly, lead by the renowned Tróndur of Gøta, rejected the king’s order, and Sigmundur had to go home without having achieved anything.

But when words did not work, Sigmundur used other, more heavy handed methods. He sailed to Gøta one night accompanied by thirty men, surrounded Trónd’s farm, and gave the old chieftain the choice between the new faith or beheading. Facing such an ultimatum, Trónd off course agreed to accept the new faith – he was baptised and: “Sigmundur then travelled all over the Faroes and did not stop before the entire population was Christianized.”

Thus sounds the official explanation about the Christianization of the Faroe Islands, based on the tales from Faereyinga Saga, written more than 200 years after the alleged events took place.

Early Christianity
There are a few traces of evidence from the early Christianity on the Faroe Islands. On the island Skúvoy archaeologists have found several gravestones with Celtic and Roman crosses. Spread around the islands so called “bønhús” (prayer house) ruins, small houses with circular graveyards, appear, which may be interpreted as relics from an Irish inspired tradition. Besides that there are the extensive excavations around the church of Sandur, which unearthed the oldest church and several graves, which date from the first centuries of Christianity on the Faroes.

Because of the lack of written sources regarding early Faroese Christianity, all information has to be used with reservation. In that area we only have the information from Faereyinga Saga to rely on, and the question whether there have been Christian people on the islands before the first century is an open question.

The 4.70 DKK stamp on the top left is from 1988 Kirkjubour Cathedral Ruins issue showing Cruxifixion bas-relief.

Kirkjubøur is the southernmost village on Streymoy, Faroe Islands and the country's most important historical site.

The village was important in the Middle Ages. At that time it was the episcopal residence for the Diocese of the Faroe Islands and as such the spiritual centre of the society. In those days the village is said to have had around 50 houses. The majority of these houses were washed away by a fierce storm in the 16th century.The oldest still inhabited wooden house of the world, Kirkjubøargarður from 11th century.

The sketch on the cover was painted by Ingálvur av Reyni (1920-2005),who was the most celebrated painter of the Faroe Islands during the last years.

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