First Church of Norway?

The story of the conversion of Norway's Vikings has long focused on how the country's kings converted to Christianity, then ordered their subjects to, as King Olaf Trygvesson put it in A.D. 996, "Be Christian or die." (See Issue 63: Conversion of the Vikings.)

But new radiological dating of a stave church site, first unearthed in 2001, may change that story significantly. Archaeologists say the church in Skien (the birthplace of playwright Henrik Ibsen, about 70 miles southwest of Oslo) was built between A.D. 1010 and 1040, after the deaths of Christian kings Olaf Trygvesson (d. 1000) and the canonized Olaf Haraldsson (d. 1030). But two Christian graves at the site date between 885 and 990, which (along with some other findings) University of Oslo medievalist Jon Vidar Sigurdsson says would push the date of Norway's conversion to the 800s, not the turn of the millennium. Jan Brendalsmo, archaeologist for the Foundation for Cultural Heritage Research agrees. "It is fun to see confirmation of what we have long believed, that there was a Christianization of Norway long before the two Olavs came," he told the newspaper Aftenposten.

CSI: Christ Scene Investigation

At last: a Da Vinci mystery that has nothing to do with Dan Brown. Art historians agree that the Tondo (round) painting of the Adoration of the Christ Child, on display at Rome's Galleria Borghese, is one of the finest Renaissance oil paintings of its kind. What they haven't agreed on is its artist. Since the 1790s, historians have attributed it to Raphael, Ghirlandaio, Lorenzo di Credi, and others. Since 1926, Fra Bartolomeo's name has been on the adjoining plaque. Others, however, have speculated that Leonardo da Vinci may have had a hand. A hand ...

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