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The Consecration of King Olav V

King Olav V was consecrated in Nidaros Cathedral on 22 June 1958, exactly 52 years following the coronation of his parents in the same cathedral.

The Article relating to coronation in the Constitution of 1814 established that the King of Norway was to be crowned in Nidaros Cathedral. As time passed, views on coronation changed, and the ritual came to be seen as undemocratic. In 1908 the Storting repealed the Article by a large majority.

As a consequence, when King Haakon died in 1957, there was no ceremony in place for the inauguration of the new King, except for the swearing of the oath of allegiance in the Storting. However, there was no prohibition against arranging a special ceremony should the King so desire.

New tradition with historical roots

King Olav V possessed great knowledge of Norwegian history and was keenly interested in maintaining traditions. Therefore, he expressed a personal desire to be consecrated in Nidaros Cathedral to receive God's blessing upon his royal office.

The King played an active role in shaping the ceremony. In his decision to be consecrated, King Olav V laid the foundation for the continuation of a tradition with roots going back to the hailing by the Øreting assembly and the coronations of the Norwegian kings from 1163 to 1906.

Opposition

The Government of Prime Minister Einar Gerhardsen showed little enthusiasm for the religious ceremony and attempted to downplay the occasion. King Olav persisted in pursuing his plans, however, notwithstanding his otherwise loyal support for the Government’s decisions. The King was motivated by his deep religious commitment and belief that he had been called to his royal office. He sought the blessing of the church on the performance of his royal duties and insisted on holding a national ceremony that would mark the solemn bond between the King and his people.

Many in attendance

The Government had decided that only three persons from the Storting’s presidium, three from the Government and the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court should attend the church ceremony as representatives of the central authorities. A local event in Trondheim was planned as well.

However, Bishop Arne Fjellbu, certain of King Olav’s support, sent a letter to the Storting informing the representatives that seating would be reserved for all those who wished to attend. Within a short time, most of the representatives had accepted the invitation, and the consecration ceremony became a major national event that was broadcast directly over radio.

The ceremony

The ceremony was performed jointly by Bishop Arne Fjellbu of Nidaros and Bishop Johannes Smemo of Oslo. King Olav seated himself on the coronation throne, which dates back to 1818. Following the sermon, the King knelt before the high altar, and Bishop Fjellbu recited the consecration prayer in which he asked for God’s blessing on the King and his royal office.

King Olav always recalled the consecration as the highlight of his life - the occasion when he entered into a solemn covenant with the Norwegian people that could be broken only by his death.

19.12.2007

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Kong Olav ble signet i Nidarosdomen 22. juni 1958 (NRK, Arkiv)