King Harald Hardrade died at the Battle of Stamford Bridge in 1066. Illustration by Matthew Paris from "The Life of King Edward the Confessor", 13th century.

Are the remains of the Viking king Harald Hardrade under the pavement in Trondheim?

Archeologists have located what appears to be a burial chamber underneath the pavement in a residential area of Trondheim, Norway. They will now examine if this could be the last resting place of the Viking king Harald Hardrade.

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This summer archeologists from The Norwegian Institute of Cultural Heritage (NIKU) have carried out  excavations over the remains of the Elgeseter Priory.

Is this a part of the burial chamber? The stone construction that could be a part of King Harald Hardrade's burial chamber.

Above: 3D model of the excavation site. 

Chris McLees
Chris McLeesArcheologist and project manager of the Elgeseter Priory excavations.

Kings remains moved to the Priory

According to written sources, the Viking king Harald Hardrade was buried in the priory church. The king died in the Battle of Stamford Bridge at York in 1066, an event which by many is seen as the end of the Viking Age. He was first buried in St Mary’s Church in Trondheim, and later his remains were moved to Elgeseter Priory. The priory burned in 1564 and there are no visible ruins of the buildings.

Archeologists have now found a stone construction underneath the pavement that appears to be a burial chamber, close to the altar of the church.

Granted permission to examine the possible burial chamber

The excavations were originally carried out in a limited area, as they are a part of an ongoing project updating technical infrastructure in Trondheim. The Norwegian Directorate for Cultural Heritage has now granted the archeologists permission to further examination this mysterious stone construction.

– If the stone construction is a part of a burial chamber, the placement close to the church altar indicates that it is the resting place of someone important. Knowing that Elgeseter Priory is the burial place of King Harald Hardrade, there is a chance that we can find his remains, says archeologist and project manager Chris McLees

If it turns out to be a burial chamber, the Directorate for Cultural Heritage will decide the next steps, and how to safeguard what could be the remains of one of the most prominent figures in early Norwegian history.