HIS4133 – The Cult of Saints in Norway and Iceland, c. 950-1250

Schedule, syllabus and examination date

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Course content

The cult of saints was a central part of the Christian faith in the Middle Ages. It became an important part of conversion and arguably the single most important aspect of Christianity for common people, with saints able to intercede and protect people through miracles in a way that the Norse gods could not. By dying the saints were thought to reach a place of vicinity to God and were therefore in a favourable position for interceding with God on behalf of the living. Thus one thought that the saints were functioning as intermediary links between God and the humans, and that they especially could be turned to in suffering and need.

The saints and their relics were to be treated in a respectful manner. If one failed to do so the wrath of the saints could be cast upon you. On the other hand, the saints had to prove to be worthy of being invoked. If some saints seemed to be less powerful than others, one would stop praying to the former. The saints therefore had to constantly prove their powerfulness or risking that their cult disappeared. As a result the cult of saints was constantly changing.

These are amongst the aspects of the cult of saints in Norway and Iceland that this course will address. In addition we will also compare the development of the cult of saints in Norway and Iceland to other parts of Western Europe.

Learning outcome

By taking this course you will learn to:

  • Acquire knowledge of the cult of saints and different academic opinions on this subject
  • See the cult of saints in relation to the medieval state formation, theology and culture
  • Gain insight in the perspectives and methodology of cultural history
  • Enhance your ability of reception historical understanding and methodology
  • Have a critical and non-passive way of relating to academic literature and develop your ability to work academically through writing and oral presentation
  • To develop your ability to evaluate and discuss the use of different types of source material


Students who are admitted to study programmes at UiO must each semester register which courses and exams they wish to sign up for in Studentweb.

If you are not already enrolled as a student at UiO, please see our information about admission requirements and procedures.


Recommended previous knowledge

A good ability to read and understand English is required for this course.

Overlapping courses

10 credits overlap with HIS2133 – The Cult of Saints in Norway and Iceland c.950-1250

This course has also been taught in Norwegian and we stress that the English version overlaps with the Norwegian version.


The teaching of this course will take form as both lectures and seminars (24 hours in total). It is expected that students attend all seminars and lectures, read the obligatory literature, and participate actively in seminar discussions and other activities.


The course will be assessed by a 3-days take-home examination.

The take-home examination assignment will be published here: Assignments

3-days take-home examination: 

  • The students have 3 working days available for them to complete the assignment.
  • The length of the assignment should be 6-10 standard pages (2300 characters without spacing).
  • The assignment should be complete with a front page containing the following information:
    • candidate number (not name)
    • subject code
    • the title of the assignment
    • name of department (IAKH)
    • semester

Submission of assignment:

  • The home exam is to be submitted electronically via Canvas, not in paper format.
  • The file must be submitted in the format of a pdf.
  • If you need assistance in converting your file into a pdf, we recommend that you follow these instructions.
  • The students are responsible to make sure that the documents are complete upon submitting them in Canvas. The submissions will be assessed in the form by which they are uploaded by the students. Unreadable or incomplete documents are assessed as they are. 

The examination of this course is integrated in the teaching of the course and it is therefore not possible to sit for the examination other than by being admitted to the course.

Previously given exam questions (in Norwegian)

Use of sources and citation

You should familiarize yourself with the rules that apply to the use of sources and citations. If you violate the rules, you may be suspected of cheating/attempted cheating.

Language of examination

Your can answer the exam in English or one of the Scandinavian languages

Grading scale

Grades are awarded on a scale from A to F, where A is the best grade and F is a fail. Read more about the grading system.

Explanations and appeals

Resit an examination

Withdrawal from an examination

It is possible to take the exam up to 3 times. If you withdraw from the exam after the deadline or during the exam, this will be counted as an examination attempt.

Special examination arrangements

Application form, deadline and requirements for special examination arrangements.


The course is subject to continuous evaluation. At regular intervals we also ask students to participate in a more comprehensive evaluation.

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Facts about this course






This course is offered on an irregular basis.

Teaching language