"Who were the first Norwegian crusaders?"

"Several thousand Norwegians answered the call of the Pope to undertake the perilous journey to Jerusalem. What do we know about them? 
 The Crusades were originally seen as pilgrimages. In the centuries before the Crusades there was a religious resurgence in Europe. Pilgrimages were an important part of religious life. Initially these journeys were both short and local, but during the 11th century they became more extensive and lengthy. One important goal was the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem. (...) Jerusalem became increasingly important over the course of the 11th century.

Although there are very few sources that shed light on the number of Scandinavian pilgrims and where they were going, about 750 Scandinavian names were recorded in the register of a German monastery in the 11th and 12th centuries, which noted these visitors were pilgrims passing through. “Norwegian participation in the Crusades should be seen as a continuation of the tradition of making a pilgrimage,” Pål Berg Svenungsen (a PhD candidate in history at the University of Bergen, who has tried to collect what we know about Norway and the Crusades from 1050 and 1350) said, with one important difference: These pilgrims had weapons. (...)

The most famous Norwegian crusader is King Sigurd I Magnusson. He was also called Jorsalfare, in recognition of the fact that he had travelled to Jerusalem. But the first Norwegian credited with making the journey was Skofte Ogmundsson, a rich magnate from Giske in western Norway who was said to have gone to Jerusalem in 1101, two years after the city had been conquered by the first Crusaders.

Exactly why Skofte decided to take this trip is unclear, and the only source is Snorri Sturluson’s Old Norsk saga, Heimskringla, Svenungsen said. (...) Skofte never made it to Jerusalem, because he died in the Mediterranean on the journey there. But some of the people who travelled in the five ships he was said to have brought with him returned with news about the religious city, which in turn spurred the well-known journey of King Sigurd in 1108.

“Part of what is so interesting about Sigurd is that we have multiple, concurrent sources about his journey to Jerusalem,” Svenungsen said. Sigurd, who shared the throne with two half-brothers, launched a much larger expedition than Skofte, with a total of 60 ships that sailed from Norway in 1108. Various historians have estimated that anywhere from 2,000 to 10,000 men were on the ships, Svenungsen said.

Sigurd helped Baldwin I, King of Jerusalem, to consolidate his position in the Middle East, and he participated in the siege of Sidon in 1110. Sidon is located in today’s Lebanon, and the city was besieged by Sigurd from the sea and by Baldwin from the land. But this was also a pilgrimage, and Sigurd visited all the holy places while he was there. He returned to Norway in 1111. Sigurd donated all his ships to the emperor Alexeios I of Constantinople, today's Istanbul, and then travelled along country roads through Europe to return home.

Subsequently, the Earl of Orkney, Ragnvald Kale Kollsson, embarked for the Holy Lands in 1153. The magnate Erling Skakke travelled there between 1153 and 1155. (...) “Many of those who went from both Norway and Europe were not poor, they were among Europe's most powerful and richest men. They had much more to lose than to win,” Svenungsen said. But seen in the larger context of religious movements across Europe, the Crusades make sense, he said. “A crusade became a kind of alternative to entering a monastery, and knights could thus serve God in other ways,” he said."

Text quotes from sciencenordic.com; Illustration: Sigurd I Magnusson riding with King Baldwin I of Jerusalem around 1110. by By Gerhard Munthe - Book: Snorre Sturlaśon - Heimskringla, J.M. Stenersen & Co, 1899., Public Domain, Link 

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