Saint of the Day – 15 May – Saint Hallvard of Oslo (c 1020-1043) Martyr in defence of innocence. Born in c 1020 and died by being shot with an arrow at Drammen, Norway. Patronages – Oslo, Innocence.
Saint Hallvard was born of noble parents. He grew up on his father’s farm, well-liked by everyone. He loved Christianity, was obedient to his parents, loving his neighbour, chaste and in every way honest and just.
Hallvard became a merchant. An introductory story to the legend tells that he was once on Gotland on a trade trip. “Then one of the inhabitants of the land, a rich man named Borvid, came to the strangers and asked who they were. He stood looking at Hallvard for a while and then said, ‘Who is this young man?’ They explained his name and lineage. When he heard this, he said: ‘You have an unusual face and are different to the others. I know for a fact that a great One, will shine upon you.” After this prophecy, he invited the Saint and his companions to a banquet, bought all of Hallvard’s goods and paid more than the Saint asked for.
The legend continues: “Shortly afterwards, in the spring, Saint Hallvard left home to trade in the neighbourhood. He came to a lake called Drafn, there he found a small boat and went on board. But suddenly a pregnant woman appeared, she tremblingly asked to join him on board. When asked who she was and where she was going, she gave her name and said that when she wanted to cross the sea and saw a boat that was going to set out, she came running as fast as she could because she feared for her life. He said she could sit in the stern and then he rowed away. But suddenly he saw three men running down to the beach. They jumped on board another boat and came after Hallvard and his passenger.
The saint said to the woman, ‘Do you know them?’ She replied, ‘Yes, I know them.’ He said: ‘I see that they are after you. Tell me what you did! ‘ She replied. ‘It’s true that they are persecuting me but I have not done what they accuse me of. They accuse me of theft. ‘ He said, ‘Can you cleanse yourself of the charge by carrying iron burdens?’ She said, ‘Yes, I can,and I’m willing to do it as long as they spare me.
But the men, who were close to catching them again, said: ‘Why do you, Hallvard, an honourable young man protect such a bad woman? Surrender her so she can die. She deserves it. ‘ Hallvard said to them, ‘What has she done?’ They replied, ‘She broke into our brother’s house and stole his belongings.’ He asked them, ‘And how did she get into the house?’ They said, ‘She pulled the ring that held the lock out of the doorpost.’ He said: ‘No woman can do that, only a very strong man! Has anyone seen her do this? Or have you found stolen goods in her house? And if it is not certain that she has stolen, then why should she die? Wouldn’t it be more appropriate to let her clear herself of the accusation if she can? And if she can not, then she will either be judged according to the law, or I will pay her ransom. For you should not kill a pregnant woman and the child she is carrying. Do not do anything hasty now! ‘
Instead, they screamed, furiously. One of them grabbed his bow and tightened it and the arrow, which was fired with full force, drilled into the Martyr’s chest. After he was murdered, they also killed the woman and buried her on the beach. And to the Saint’s neck they bound a stone and lowered him into the deep. But by the grace of God and by the merits of the Martyr, long after his body was found, with the stone, floating on the sea. “ He was buried in the Saint Hallvard Cathedral, Oslo.
The Hallvard legend formed the basis for a local cult of Hallvard in the Middle Ages. His feast day is widely celebrated especially in Eastern Norway, especially in Viken. His connection to Oslo was strengthened by the fact that his image became part of the City’s Coat pf Arms, see below, as early as the 14th century and he has often been referred to as “Oslo’s Patron Saint.”
Oslo Municipality has made Hallvard’s Day 15 May, the City’s official holiday and the municipality’s highest award, the St Hallvard Medal, was named after him in 1950.
St Hallvard Church and Monastery on Enerhaugen was Consecrated as a Franciscan Monastery and Parish Church for the eastern Parish of the Oslo Catholic Diocese.