Skip to content

The battle of Nesjar in 1016

The background to the Project Nesjar 2016:

To commemorate the millenial anniversary of the Naval Battle of Nesjar in 1016, two local history associations (Brunlanes historielag and Larvik historielag) took the joint initiative to hold a calendar of events.

Looked upon with national recognition, the commemoration included archeological searches, cultural events, and culminated in the erection of the Nesjar Monument overlooking the most probable sight of the battle. The events were carried out in collaboration with local groups and societies.

It is hoped that Nesjar 2016 will increase general knowledge of this significant event in Norwegian history and that it will create a basis for an annual commemoration og the Battle of Nesjar.

The Battle of Nesjar, Palm Sunday the 25th March 1016

This important naval battle most probably took place at Værvågen, by Mølen in Brunlanes, in Larvik Municipality. The Battle of Nesjar is the first dated incident in Norwegian history. Written sources are among others «Heimskringla» by Snorre Sturlason, the famous Icelandic historian, poet and chieftain (1179-1241).

The Battle of Nesjar is considered to be one of the most decisive naval battles in Norwegian history. It is a possibility that up to 5000 men and 75 ships took part in this battle. Te fleet, led by Olav Haraldson (later canonized Saint Olav) defeated many of the most powerful regional chieftains led by Sven jarl (Earl Sweyn).

By his victory here, Olav took control over Norway, as the first king since Harald Hårfagre. This established the foundation for a governing body in Norway and the gradual conversion to a Christian kingdom.

The Cross

To symbolize Olav´s victory in the Battle of Nesjar and the transformation into a Christian society, two 8 meter tall columns carved from the local stone Larvikite have been erected facing each other. These columns depict two struggling forces. The cross and the sword have identical forms, but represent two opposites – good and evil.

The facing columns form a cross that links to the sword, showing the sword´s transformation into the cross after the battle.

The Sword

Because the cross was a result of Olav´s victory in the Battle of Nesjar, it was therefore natural to combine both: the cross with the sword. The 8 meter long, broken sword is lying in front of the «struggling sides». It looks as if the sword has fallen from the monument and is the negative form of the open cross left between the columns. The idea is that the onlooker can replace the missing part in the monument.

The Sculptor

Martin Kuhn is a well-established German sculptor, who has worked and lived in Larvik since 1994. Kuhn has his home and studio based at the Stålaker quarry in Tjølling. Kuhn only works with Larvikite, a stone only found in this area. To work with this stone is, as Kuhn says, «the reason that I moved to Norway».

Photo: © Jarle A. Melby