Avaldsnes, the seat of Norway's kings
Avaldsnes, a small town outside Haugesund on the island of Karmøy, is home to Norway’s oldest royal seat.
Harald Fairhair, the king who united Norway under one kingdom, made Avaldsnes his base. His actual estate was only discovered (archaeologically speaking) in 2017 and is now open to the public as a part of the Nordvegen historical centre.
Avaldsnes has been a centre of power for around 3,500 years. What has helped make Avaldsnes so attractive is that its position offers protection from the wild North Sea for an important shipping and transport route. It’s for this reason that some suggest Avaldsnes was the first Hanseatic member in Norway, before Bergen.
The Norse gods also thought the area was a good spot, with legends telling of Thor and Odin and their presence in Haugesund and Avaldsnes. This about Thor from the Grimnismal poem:
“Kormt and Ormt and two large rivers; these shall Thor wade every day when he walks to deem at the Yggdrasil Ash; Thus the bridge of heaven can burn; warm is holy water.”
Kormt is the name for ‘shelter’ in old Norse, and is the origin of the names Karmøy and Karmsund. Thor would wade the waters of Karmsund everyday on his way to Yggdrasil, the holy Ash tree, where the gods would meet.
Odin also came to Karmøy to tell Olaf Tryggvason (later St Olaf) stories about the old ways, but I guess those tales fell on deaf ears, as Olaf was instrumental in converting Norway to the Christianity.
Sources say that Avaldsnes was named after king Augvald, famous for his sacred cow. Legend has it that the cow provided him with good luck and fortune in his many endeavours. The mound found next to the king’s buildings at Avaldsnes is called the ‘Cellar Mound’. It’s here that some believe the holy cow and Augvald were buried. When Olaf found this out, he set about trying to locate and dig up their remains.
In mythology and ancient texts the mother goddess is often represented as a holy cow, especially in her capacity as a provider of life and sustenance (often meaning knowledge and wisdom that makes the mind and spirit eternal).