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  The Conversion of Earl Sigurd

Stone Cross: Illustration by Sigurd TowrieAccording to the Orkneyinga Saga, Orkney's conversion to Christianity was achieved in a particularly dramatic fashion.

The tale centres around Olaf Trygvesson, a rich, popular and successful Viking leader, who had been campaigning throughout Britain for several years.

In 995, one year after he had been converted to Christianity himself, Olaf was heading back to Norway with the intention of making a bid for the Norwegian throne.

Leaving Ireland, "Olaf sailed east with five ships and didn't break his journey until he reached Orkney"

In Orkney, he came across Earl Sigurd preparing for a raiding expedition at Osmundwall - the place now known as Kirk Hope, in Walls.

The saga recounts:

"Olaf sent a messenger to him, asking Sigurd to come over to his ship as he wanted a word with him.

'I want you and all your subjects to be baptised,' he said when they met.

'If you refuse, I'll have you killed on the spot, and I swear that I'll ravage every island with fire and steel.'

The Earl could see what kind of situation he was in and surrendered himself into Olaf's hands. He was baptised and Olaf took his son, called Hvelp or Hundi, as a hostage and had him baptised too under the name of Hlodvir. After that, all Orkney embraced the faith. Olaf sailed east to Norway taking Hlodvir with him, but Hlodvir didn't Live long and after his death Sigurd refused to pay homage to King Olaf."
The Orkneyinga Saga Ch 12

The saga does not mention whether Sigurd renounced Christianity after the death of his son, but the accounts of his spectacular later exploits, and death, certainly imply that he remained true to his pagan beliefs.