Magnús Erlendsson

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Magnús' statue on the facade of Nidaros Cathedral in Trondheim

Magnús Erlendsson (* in Egilsay ; † April 16, 1115 ibid) was Jarl of Orkney and a saint. He was related to Olav II and Harald II , the kings of Norway .


Magnús was born and raised on the island of Egilsay as the son of Erlendr Þorfinnsson , Jarl of Orkney. He is described as tall and handsome. His father Erlendr and his brother Páll feuded, which Magnus the Barefoot , King of Norway used to conquer the islands. He made his bastard Sigurd lord of the islands, Páll and Erlendr were banished to Norway, where they soon died.

As Magnus III. went on a campaign to Anglesey , Magnús and his cousin Hákon, the son of Páll, had to accompany him. Magnús, who had good connections in Wales, refused to fight, he stayed on the ship and sang psalms , which angered the King of Norway. Magnús then secretly left the ship on the way back and swam over to the Scottish mainland, where he hid until Magnus III. was killed in a raid near Downpatrick , Ireland in August 1103 . Thereupon Sigurd left the Orkneys to become king in Norway and installed Hákon Pállsson as lord of the islands. Magnús returned to the Orkneys, but Hákon made him co-ruler only after Magnús had sent several petitions to King Sigurd (1108).

After propaganda against Magnús, the common government of the cousins, like that of their fathers, threatened to end in civil war. When Hákon came to Egilsay on Maundy Thursday with four times as many people as agreed for the peace negotiations , Magnús let his people go without a fight and gave himself into Hákon's hands. At the urging of the chiefs of Orkney, he had him executed in 1115, which he soon regretted bitterly. His remains were interred in the St. Magnus Cathedral in Kirkwall, built and consecrated by his nephew . His commitment to peace among his cousins ​​and his piety made him a martyr . He had bequeathed a lot of land to his wet nurse on Egilsay, and she built a stone chapel here, furnished with stone tables, beds and chairs. However, it was destroyed and completely disintegrated in 1529, the area was used as arable land. St Magnus-the-Martyr 's Church in London is also dedicated to him.


On July 11, 1898 Magnús was by Pope Leo XIII. canonized. His feast day is April 16.

The Orcadian poet George Mackay Brown set him a literary monument with his novel "Magnus". Peter Maxwell Davies composed a hymn in honor of the saint and wrote an opera about his martyrdom. Magnús' life is also told in two legends, the Icelandic version of the Orkneyinga saga (saga of the Orkneyjarls) and a prayer written in Gaelic and Latin .


  • Liv Kjørsvik Schei (text), Gunnie Moberg (photos): Magnus Erlendsson. The saint. In: Diess .: The Orkney Story . Hippocrene Books, New York 1985, ISBN 0-87052-150-0 .

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Joseph Ben, Description of the Orkney Islands. In: Belfast Monthly Magazine. 2/9, April 30, 1809, p. 268.
  2. Orkneyinga Saga. Chapter 45.
  3. ^ Joseph Ben, Description of the Orkney Islands. In: Belfast Monthly Magazine. 2/9, April 30, 1809, p. 268.
predecessor Office successor
Hákon Pállsson Jarl of Orkney
(with Hákon Pállsson)
Hákon Pállsson