‘I’ve found hidden king’s tomb’: hobby historian

A hobby historian believes he may have found the tomb of a 13th century Norwegian king concealed in the walls of Bergen Cathedral.

'I've found hidden king's tomb': hobby historian
Photo: Marit Hommedal/Scanpix (File), Morten Dreier

History buff Gunnar Rosenlund enlisted the help of independent research group SINTEF to aid in his search for King Magnus VI's long lost sarcophagus.

Using georadar, the researchers said they were 90 to 95 percent certain that the church’s 900-year-old walls contained metal objects of some kind.

In their report, the researchers said: "Although one cannot be sure what's inside the wall, the measurements are consistent with a sarcophagus containing the metal from, for example, a suit of armour."

Rosenlund believes the mystery find lends credence to his theory that Magnus VI's heavily decorated royal coffin has been hidden for centuries in the thick cathedral walls.

”They have found the sarcophagus of Magnus the Law-mender. It can’t be anything else,” he told broadcaster NRK.

As the cathedral is a listed building, Rosenlund must now await the opinion of the Directorate for Cultural Heritage before deciding how to proceed.

With the directorate’s permission, he hopes researchers will be able to drill a hole in the wall to see what lies within.

”It’s a miracle that this coffin has survived all this time. The church has burned down three or four times, along with the town, and has been subjected to numerous pirate raids,” said Rosenlund.

Born in 1238, Magnus VI ruled as king of Norway from 1263 to 1280. Known also as Magnus the Law-mender for his efforts to improve the legal code,  the regent died in Bergen after a short illness in 1280.

Although Magnus VI is known to have been buried at Bergen Cathedral, his tomb has never been found.     

But not everybody shares Rosenlund’s conviction that the tomb is now close to being uncovered.

Øystein Ekroll, an archaeologist and royal expert, said the practice of burying royals in the walls of churches remained common a century earlier but had lost its appeal by the time of Magnus VI’s death.

“There could be a lot of things inside the wall, but I don’t believe it’s a king’s grave,” he told NRK.

According to Ekroll, the king’s tomb likely disappeared during one the many renovations carried out on the church over the centuries.

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1,000-year-old ship found underneath ground on Norwegian island

A ship likely to have built by the Vikings has been found by Norwegian researchers using georadar.

1,000-year-old ship found underneath ground on Norwegian island
Edøy Old Church. Photo: Photo: kjelljoran/Creative Commons

The vessel, which could also date from the pre-Viking era, was discovered in the western Møre and Romsdal county, NRK reports.

Climate minister Ola Elvestuen told the broadcaster that the discovery was of “both national and international significance”.

Archaeologists from the Norwegian Institute for Cultural Heritage Research (NIKU) uncovered traces of the ship on the island of Edøy.

A high-resolution georadar “detected traces of a ship burial and a settlement that probably dates to the Merovingian or Viking Period at Edøy,” NIKU writes on its website.

Edøy is located on the shipping lane to Trondheim, close to where early king Harald Fairhair is said to have fought two sea battles, winning royal power in Norway in the late 800s.

“This is incredibly exciting. And again, it’s the technology that helps us find yet another ship. As the technology is making leaps forward, we are learning more and more about our past,” Knut Paasche, head of the Department of Digital Archaeology at NIKU and an expert on Viking ships, said via the institute’s website.

“It is too early to say something certain about the date of the ship, but we know that it is more than 1,000 years old,” Paasche told NRK.

Tove-Lise Torve, head of the Møre and Romsdal county administration, expressed her excitement about the discovery, which she did not happen by “chance”.

“This is not a chance discovery, but a result of systematic work,” Torve said via press release, in reference to a county-funded research and development project.

“Edøy is one of the key sites along the coastal pilgrimage trail, and we have planned to establish a regional coastal pilgrimage centre here for our county and (neighbouring county) Trøndelag. This discovery tells us that we have chosen the right place,” she added.

The remains of the ship are located just below the topsoil in an area where there was previously a burial mound, the institute writes on its website.

“The length of the keel indicates that the ship may have been a total of 16-17 meters long,” Paasche said.

In addition to the ship, the archaeologists also noted traces of settlements in the data, but are so-far yet to date these.

The georadar surveys at Edøy were conducted as a collaboration between Møre and Romsdal County, the local municipality Smøla, and NIKU.

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