|Artist rendering (credit: Credit: Preben Rønne, Science Museum/NTNU)
I seldom write on Iron Age, never mind the Middle Ages, but this finding has really touched me: a Pagan temple was unearthed in Ranheim, not far from Trondheim (Norway). Its last community run away from Christian intolerance, as is attested by the sagas, but first buried their holy precinct so the theists could not destroy and profane it with their crosses and exotic rituals.
The temple which may have been built c. 400 CE, was used for many centuries and consisted of:
… a stone-set “sacrificial altar” and also traces of a “pole building” that probably housed idols in the form of sticks with carved faces of Thor, Odin, Frey and Freya. Deceased relatives of high rank were also portrayed in this way and attended. Nearby, the archaeologists also uncovered a procession route.
At first researchers thought it could be some sort of burial mound but they eventually recognized it as a temple.
The members of this community, as attested by historical sources, were probably among the many to flee to Iceland, where there was initially more tolerance. It was in Iceland in fact where many of these sagas were written.
The temple was probably buried under the reign of the first recorded King of Norway, Harald Fairhair (872-930).
The temple may now be destroyed by urban development if something does not stop it quick. Archaeologist Prebben Rønne said:
The location of the [planned] housing could easily be adapted to this unique cultural heritage [site], without anyone losing their residential lots. It could be an attraction for new residents, telling them much about the history of the facility over 1000 years ago. Unfortunately, housing construction is now underway.
It would be indeed a pity and a crime against heritage if the construction is not stopped immediately.
Sources and further reading: The Archaeology News Network, Yahoo! News.