Cloisters and Culture in Iceland and the North 
in the Middle Ages

Haki Antonsson

The Monastery of Þingeyrar and Early Saga Writing

Thursday February 20, 2014, 16.30
Árnagarður 311

Haki Antonsson
Haki Antonsson

The proposed paper will examine the earliest writings associated with the Benedictine monastery of Þingeyrar. There, around the turn of the twelfth century, the monks Gunnlaugur Leifsson and Oddur Snorrason composed sagas about King Ólafur Tryggvason and various hagiographic writings in honour of the first Icelandic saints, Bishops Þorlákur Þórhallsson and Jón Ögmundarson, while the abbot of Þingeyrar Þingeyrar, Karl Jónsson, wrote a biography of King Sverrir Sigurðsson of Norway. But arguably the most peculiar of the texts attributed to Þingeyrar monks is the so-called Yngvars saga víðförla that recounts two expeditions to the East spear­headed by Swedish Vikings, Yngvar and his son Sveinn. It will be argued that a key theme in this uncategorizable work, which can with some degree of certainty be attributed to Oddur Snorrason, is the problem of salvation and the role of penance, as well as heartfelt contrition in attaining this goal. A similar theme is noticeably present in what survives of the sagas that Oddr Snorrason and Gunnlaugur Leifsson wrote about King Ólafur Tryggvason. Further, it will be argued that this theme, which is central to some of the earliest surviving sagas, relates to broader social and political developments in Iceland around the year 1200.

Haki Antonsson is a historian and senior lecturer in medieval scandinavian studies at University College London. His research focuses on the history and literature of Scandinavia in the 12th and 13th centuries.