Inside the Stave Church Gallery, the Vikings Conquerors of the Seas exhibit shares the history of the Vikings in museum caliber exhibits. The exhibit presents the story of three leaders: Olaf II, Erik the Red, and Rognvald. In addition to the information on the three leaders, the exhibit includes artifacts like knives, arrows and other weapons. A map also shows Viking Exploration Routes around Europe.
Signage outside the Stave Church reads:
The Norwegians built the first Stave Churches or Stavkirke around the year 1050. When St. Olaf brought Christianity to Norway, the Norwegians turned to the craft they knew best, woodworking, to build their new churches.
They blended Chrisitian symbols with Viking images to create this impressive buildings. Note the wooden dragon heads decorating the eaves.
Other European countries built wooden churches, but only Norway’s are still standing. Of the 1,000 Norwegian Stave Churches built in the Middle Ages, 28 survive today.
Signs inside the Gallery inform guests of the following:
Conquerors of the Seas
From 791 until 1066, seafaring warriors from Scandinavia set sail in longboats and raided, plundered, and traded their way across Europe. The influence of these “Vikings” stretched from the Caspian Sea and the Mediterranean to Northern Europe, England, and all the way to North America.
In addition to their skills as warriors, Vikings also were master ship builders, shrewd businessmen, and daring explorers. They implemented social and political systems that changed the face of Europe and began new societies that survive to this day.
This special exhibit focuses on Viking culture and three Norwegian leaders whose actions reshaped an era and the world.
A True Look
At The Vikings
The Vikings: Conquerors of the Seas presents a historically accurate look at the appearance and lifestyle of three Viking leaders. Their depiction is the result of painstaking research aided by international Viking scholars using the latest archaeological evidence, historic documents, and accounts from medieval sagas.
The fabric and clothing styles are based on samples unearthed by archaeologists in Scandinavia. The weapons are typical of those used during the era depicted in each scene. Viking-age jewelry motifs and carvings provided the basis for the decorated pieces, while the colors are based on naturally occurring pigments from the area.
The three leaders are as follows:
King Patron Saint of Norway
As a young royal, Olaf Haraldsson took part in Viking raids throughout Europe. During his travels he converted to Christianity and then returned to Norway where he subdued his rivals and proclaimed himself king in 1015.
By 1025, he wielded more power than and prior king. He unified the country and forcefully completed Norway’s conversion from paganism to Christianity. In 1028, angry Norwegian noblemen rallied around Knut the Great (King of Denmark and England) to force Olaf II from the throne and exile him. Two years later, Olaf II was killed in battle while attempting to regain Norway’s throne.
Today “Saint Olaf” is regarded as the Patron Saint of Norway and a symbol of national independence.
Erik the Red
In 982 A.D., Norwegian-born Viking Erik Thorvaldsson, known as “Erik the Red” (a name derived from his red hair), spent three years exploring the coast of Greenland, a land that no European had ever visited.
When he returned to Iceland, he told wonderful stories about this new land that he called “Greenland” (even though most of the island was covered in ice!). Erik established the first European settlements on Greenland.
As a Viking, Erik the Red subscribed to pagan beliefs and worshipped Norse gods. As Christianity expanded in Scandinavia, the era of the Vikings ended; even though the Viking spirit of exploration continued. The proof? Erik’s son, Leif Eriksson, went on to discover North America around 1000 A.D.
Late 800s-ca. 926
In 919, a massive army of Norwegian Vikings led by Rognvald attacked and conquered the city of Nantes (now part of France). Rognvald then pushed onward until all of Brittany was under his control. Some of the local population fled to safety. Those who remained were murdered or enslaved.
Rognvald then joined forces with Danish Vikings and raided deep into central France, leaving a path of death and destruction. It wasn’t until 925 that a combined Frankish army was finally able to turn them back. Rognvald agreed not to resume his raids in exchange for a sizeable payment of silver.
Although Rognvald died soon after returning to his capital in Nantes, his colony survived another 10 years as one of the greatest Viking centers for piracy and raiding in Northern Europe.
A sign regarding Viking ships reads as follows:
Dragon of the Sea
Designed for both rowing and sailing, the Oseberg had 15 oar holes on each side, allowing the ship to accommodate 60 rowers. It also featured a large square sail that would allow it to reach speeds up to 10 knots – a stunning speed for the day.
Since there was no lower deck, all hands literally worked, ate, and slept on the main deck, regardless of weather.
One of the ship’s most remarkable features is its meticulously carved curving prow. The mere sight of a Viking prow struck fear in the hearts of medieval European villagers, who called the ships “dragons of the sea,” and associated them with violence, pillage and plunder.
TIMES GUIDE - OPENING/CLOSING
This location typically opens at 11 AM with the rest of World Showcase.