Faroe Islands History

By | December 14, 2021

Christianization and Norwegian government

After the baptism of King Olaf I of Norway in 994 by Etereldo II, Norwegian missionaries came to the islands, invited by the important Faroese chief Sigmundur Brestisson to convert the Faroese from the Althing (now Løgting). The reluctance of the native Vikings under Tróndur í Gøtu led in 1005 to the assassination of Sigmundur Brestisson. His tombstone in Skúvoy is one of the most important monuments in the archipelago. The next Olaf, Olaf II the Saint of Norway, carried out the Christianization of Norway, the Faroe Islands and Iceland. Today the anniversary of his death is celebrated, the Ólavsøka. Faroe Islands comprehensive information can be found on itypejob.

From 1035 the archipelago belonged to the fiefdom of Leivur Øssursson, Norway, which ended the Viking era. The Faroese had a high independence due to the remoteness of their lord. A proof of international trade at this time is the Sandur Treasury, which must have been buried between 1070 and 1080.

In 1100 the Catholic bishopric of Kirkjubøur, seat of the diocese of the Faroe Islands, was established. In 1110 the Faroese opened the first school for priests. In 1250 the Church of St. Olaf was built, which is preserved today. In this time lived Erlendur, the most illustrious clergyman of the Catholic era.

The 1280 Herefold Map is the oldest world map of the Faroese. In it they name the archipelago as farei. According to many linguists it is a Celtic name that means distant islands. However, the name Feroe (Føroyar) comes from fær-øer, where far means cattle or sheep in Old Norse and øer means islands in Danish. Given the prevalence of this interpretation, it can be said that the name means islands of sheep, and hence a ram appears in the coat of arms of the Faroe Islands.

In 1294 Erico II forbade the Hanseatic League to trade with the Faroe Islands, to be carried out exclusively in Bergen. In 1302 the prohibition was renewed and in 1361 it was revoked.

In 1298 the Faroe Islands obtained from the Norwegian king their “constitution”, the Seyðabrævið, which would be modified for the first time in 1637. The Seyðabrævið not only regulated livestock, but also whaling, spending on entertainment, and many other things.

The Black Death ravaged the Faroe Islands in 1349/50 and wiped out over 30% of the population. In the fourteenth century there was also a hardening of the climate. General poverty exacerbated the consequences. Many farmers had to cede their land to the church, which ended up owning 40% of the territory. Commercial activity on the islands suffered severely.

Straddling the Nordic states

The fourteenth century was the beginning of the absolute dependence of the Nordic states, sometimes Norway and other Denmark. From 1397 the sovereignty was of the Union of Kalmar, union of the Norwegian, Danish and Swedish kingdoms, personal union around the figure of the monarch. The small country was cut off its wings, when Norwegian legislation forced all commercial movement of the islands to pass through the port of Bergen and to be able to collect the corresponding taxes. The strengthening of the Hanseatic League as a great commercial power and the plague that ravaged Norway brought a halt to commercial activity and the development of Norway and the Faroe Islands.

The sixteenth century was quite a shock to the local population, caused by British adventurers and pirates. From that time is the figure, still remembered in songs and poems, of Magnus Heinesson, who under the orders of King Frederick II of Denmark, successfully faced the rioters. In 1535 Cristián III granted all the rights over the commercial activity of the islands to the German merchant Thomas Köppen. This monarch also introduced Lutheranism as the religion of the islands, destroying even the cathedral of the Catholic bishopric of Kirkjubour, the remains of which are still visible.

After Köppen, others assumed the commercial monopoly, although the economy had suffered as a result of the war between Denmark and Sweden. During this monopoly period most of Faroese goods (wool products, fish, meat) were exported to the Netherlands where they were sold at predetermined prices. However, the guidelines of the trade agreement were often not followed. This resulted in a drop in quality and the emergence of activities controlled by smugglers and pirates.

Denmark tried to solve the problem by giving the archipelago to Christoffer von Gabel (and later to his son, Frederick) as a feudal personal estate. However, von Gabel was harsh and repressive, creating much resentment from the islanders. Finally, on January 1, 1856, the commercial monopoly was abolished.

Previously Denmark retained possession of the Faroes in the Treaty of Kiel in 1815. In 1816 the Logting (the Faroese parliament) was officially abolished and replaced by a Danish judiciary. Danish was introduced as the main language, while Faroese was almost abolished from any official circle. In 1849 a new constitution was promulgated in Denmark. This new constitution was announced in the Faroe Islands in 1850, giving the archipelago two seats in the Rigsdag (Danish parliament). However, the Faroese managed to reestablish the Løgting as a distinguished council with an advisory role in 1952, with many people hoping to eventually achieve independence. The late 1800s saw growing support for the autonomy or independence movement, although not all people supported it. In the meantime, the Faroese economy grew with the introduction of large-scale fishing. They allowed the Faroese access to Danish waters in the North Atlantic. The standard of living subsequently improved and a demographic increase was generated. Faroese became the standard written language in 1890.

Faroe Islands History