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The birth, childhood and adolescence of the early icelandic bishops

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Chapter Summary

Iceland converted to Christianity in AD 999. For the next half-century the country was served by missionary bishops from England and Germany. The first known native Icelandic priest—and also the first native bishop—was Ísleifr Gizurarson. He founded a school at Skálholt, which became the seat of the southern diocese. In 1106, a separate see was established at Hólar to serve the northern part of the country, with Jón Ögmundarson as its first bishop. Ambrosius saga was certainly known to the author of Guðmundar saga. In three specific places—at birth, in childhood, in young adulthood—there are echoes of incidents in the Life of St Ambrose. Last bishop is Laurentius Kalfsson. Laurentius saga was written in the fourteenth century and is clearly influenced by hagiographic conventions, especially in the part dealing with Laurentius's birth and childhood. The life of Þorlákr, Iceland’s first saint, owes very little to the European hagiographical tradition.

Keywords: European hagiographic tradition; Guðmundr’s childhood; Icelandic Bishops; Jón Ögmundarson; Laurentius' birth



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