Cultural History Encyclopedia

More information about this article

More information about this article

Published 07. July 1999

Last update 04. June 2019

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The Celtic stone cross at Eivindvik



Two stone crosses at Eivindvik have probably experienced "Gulatinget" (a judicial and legislative assembly) and the introduction of Christianity. One of the crosses has straight, simple forms and stands at the gate to the churchyard.

The vicarage "Herresalen" by the sea in the centre of the picture and the church. To the right of the outhouse above the open field we can see part of the big stonewall surrounding the infield of the vicarage. The Celtic stone cross stands close to the churchyard gate to the left of the church; the Anglian cross is located in the slope below the outhouse. According to legend, there were three stone crosses at Eivindvik, one for each arrow shot by Saint Olaf from the court site. In 1936, the vicar for Gulen from 1927 to 1937, Øysten Hovden, accompanied by the members of the "Gulen study circle" tried to find the remnants of this third cross. The 70-year-old shoemaker Ole Ellingsen maintained that he had seen this cross the last time in 1899, and pointed out the place where it had been standing. Bernt Austgulen, aged 100, also remembered the cross. In spite of this information, the remnants were not found. In 1983, the psychic Anna Elisabeth Westerlund described the cross, which was said to have been smaller than the two others, and she also pointed out a staircase at Eivindvik where a remnant of this cross allegedly had been used as building material.

The vicarage "Herresalen" by the sea in the centre of the picture and the church. To the right of the outhouse above the open field we can see part of the big stonewall surrounding the infield of the vicarage. The Celtic stone cross stands close to the churchyard gate to the left of the church; the Anglian cross is located in the slope below the outhouse. According to legend, there were three stone crosses at Eivindvik, one for each arrow shot by Saint Olaf from the court site. In 1936, the vicar for Gulen from 1927 to 1937, Øysten Hovden, accompanied by the members of the "Gulen study circle" tried to find the remnants of this third cross. The 70-year-old shoemaker Ole Ellingsen maintained that he had seen this cross the last time in 1899, and pointed out the place where it had been standing. Bernt Austgulen, aged 100, also remembered the cross. In spite of this information, the remnants were not found. In 1983, the psychic Anna Elisabeth Westerlund described the cross, which was said to have been smaller than the two others, and she also pointed out a staircase at Eivindvik where a remnant of this cross allegedly had been used as building material.

Owner: Fylkesarkivet.

Date: 1916.

Photographer: G. Einan.

From the British Isles

The cross is 2.85 metres high, 1.15 metres wide, and 6 - 15 centimetres thick. It is made of so-called Hyllestad rock, a mica schist interspersed with garnet. It has a smooth surface without any decoration, straight sides on the cross arms and rounded armpits.
Of the 60 stone crosses found in Norway, 54 are located in western Norway, and among these the simple cross at the churchyard gate at Eivindvik belongs to a small group called "Norwegian-Celtic". The tradition of erecting stone crosses stems from the British Isles. The Celtic cross form may indicate that there was a church or missionary connection to the Celtic areas of the British Isles, such as Wales, the Isle of Man, and Ireland.

Linked to Olaf

The crosses at Eivindvik were probably erected in connection with the christening of Norway. According to one legend, Olaf raised the crosses to consecrate the ground for services. Another legend has it that Olaf shot three arrows in various directions from the court site and put up a cross where the arrows landed. The stone cross expert Fridtjov Birkeli (1906-1983) thinks that it is likely that it was Olaf Tryggvason who raised the crosses before the Eivindvik church was built.

"Gulatinget"

The christening of the country took for example place through resolutions at court assemblies, and both crosses may have been erected in connection with such a decision. Stone crosses elsewhere are also raised close to court sites, for example at Tinghaug and Krosshaug in Fosen in Trøndelag and Thingvellir on Iceland. In this way the crosses have been used throughout the years in the discussion of the location of the "Gulating". Several places have been suggested, such as Eivindvik, Midtunvågen, Flolid and Stemnebø. The crosses have been used as evidence to support that "Gulatinget" was located at Eivindvik, at least for a period.

Instead of a church?

The earliest written description of the crosses dates from 1626, and it describes the crosses just about the way we see them today. According to a legend, the Celtic cross was originally located down by the seaside, probably together with a font made of the same rock. One hypothesis has it that the font and the cross were made for a mass baptism ceremony carried out by Olaf Tryggvason. However, there are no written sources that can corroborate that the cross has been located at other places than by the churchyard gate. The famous dean at Eivindvik, Niels Griis Alstrup Dahl (1778 - 1852), took a keen interest in the crosses and was of the opinion that the cross was erected as a Christian meeting-point before the church was built.

The cross today

A situation report from 1994 points out that the cross is very much weathered and cracks have opened up. The report also mentions that the cross is close to the road and is likely to be hit by cars parking. A memorial that was erected at Flolid in connection with the choice of "Gulatinget" as the millennium site of the county of Sogn og Fjordane bears a strong resemblance to the crosses. The two crosses are also depicted on the municipal coat of arms for Gulen.

See geometric position on detailed map at Fylkesatlas or on a 3D-map at Google Maps by clicking on the 3D-button down to the right at the Google-map.

resources:

Midtun, Magnor: Eivindvik før og no. Eivindvik 2001. Birkeli, Fridtjov: Norske steinkors i tidlig middelalder: et bidrag til belysning av overgangen fra norrøn religion til kristendom. Oslo 1973.

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