Celebrating Einar at St Magnus Cathedral

Einar, or Torf-Einar as he is sometimes known, is celebrated in this wonderful stained glass window at St Magnus Cathedral in Kirkwall.

Celebrating Einar at St Magnus Cathedral - photograph (c) 2016 David Bailey (not the)

In the 9th Century the ownership of Orkney and Shetland was given as a compensation payment by Viking King Harald Fairhair to Rognvald Eysteinsson, after Rognvald’s son Ivarr was killed in battle. Einar was Rognvald’s ugly one-eyed bastard son of a slave. Einar volunteered to win the Orkney Islands back after they were lost to invading Danes. He did so and later killed the Dane Halfdan Longleg after a naval battle off North Ronaldsay. As the Orkneyinga Saga says:

“Einar had his ribs cut from the spine with a sword and the lungs pulled out through the slits in his back. He dedicated the victim to Odin as a victory offering.”

A gory human sacrifice of ‘the blood-eagle’ to a Heathen Norse God. Maybe he doesn’t seems like the sort of man you would want to celebrate in a Cathedral.

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