Sigurd the Crusader

Alex Rover | November 8, 2022


Sigurd I of Norway or Sigurd Magnusson or Sigurd the Crusader (Sigur? r Jorsalafari, c. 1090 – 26 March 1130), King of Norway (1103 – 1130), was one of three illegitimate sons of Magnus III of Norway with unknown mothers; his other two half-brothers were Austen I of Norway and Olaf Magnusson of Norway. His era is described as the golden age of Norwegian medieval history, he earned the nickname Crusader because he was the first European king to personally participate in a Crusade. The three half-brothers to avoid civil wars between them made a pact with each other, Sigurd remained the sole king after the untimely deaths of Olaf (1115) and Aystein (1123). Before Sigurd was proclaimed king of Norway he was king of the islands and earl of the Orcadians, he handed over the title of earl of the Orcadians to Haakon Paulson son of Paul Thorfinson.

Most historians see the periods during which Sigurd and Austen reigned as the golden age of Norwegian history; the country had acquired enormous wealth and had expanded to its greatest point. Sigurd”s personal participation in the Crusades was cause for great recognition and prestige. Sigurd accompanied his father Magnus the Gryffindor in his expedition to the Isles, the Orcas, the Hebrides and the Irish Sea, becoming Earl of the Orcas in the same year after the deposition of the Orcadian comets Paul and Erled Thorfinson. In the same year he was sworn in as king of the islands after the previous kings were overthrown by his father Magnus who conquered them after their deaths, it was the first time they had been ruled by a Norse king. It is not certain whether Sigurd returned with his father in the 1098 campaign, but it is certain that Sigurd was in the Orcas when Magnus returned from his new campaign (1102). A marriage alliance then took place between Magnus”s father and Muirchertagh for Sigurd to marry the Irish princess Bzadmunzo, daughter of Muirchertagh. When King Magnus was ambushed and killed at Ulaid by the Irish army (1103), Sigurd and the remnants of the Norwegian army returned to Denmark, leaving his wife behind. After his return to Norway he and his two half-brothers Austen and Olaf were proclaimed kings of Norway, they contracted in Norway together at the same time. Magnus”s campaigns with his sons brought great gains to the kingdom of Norway in wealth and military supplies, but after King Magnus”s death the Hebrides and the Isle of Man demanded independence.

In 1107 Sigurd was the leader of the Norwegian Crusade to support the newly established kingdom of Jerusalem after the First Crusade, the first time a European king was a Crusader leader, hence the nickname Crusader. The Sagas describe that Sigurd assembled a large force of 5000 men and 60 ships. Sigurd and his brother Aidan had disagreements at first about the leadership of the Crusade and the administration of the kingdom but eventually Sigurd was chosen because he had more experience due to his participation in various campaigns in Scotland and Ireland alongside his father.

Sigurd the Crusader with his loyal men fought in many battles in Lisbon, the Mediterranean islands and Palestine which were all victorious, the spoils of his plunder were innumerable but he carried none back to Norway and left them all in Constantinople. On his way to Jerusalem he visited Roger II of Sicily in his castle at Palermo. On his arrival in the Holy Land he greeted Baldwin I of Jerusalem who welcomed him, the two kings went to the Jordan River where Sigurd was baptized. Baldwin I asked Sigurd and the Doge of Venice, Ordelafo Faliero, to support him in the reconquest of Sidon, which had been occupied by the Caliphate of the Fatimids (1098). The siege of Sidon was the greatest success for the Crusaders, its recapture took place on 5 December 1110, the administration of the city was given to Eustace Grenier. By order of Baldwin I and the patriarch of Constantinople, Ghibelline of Arles, Sigurd was given a piece of the Holy Cross as a gift for his participation in the Crusades and for his immense services. Sigurd prepared to depart for Norway, his first stop on his way back was Cyprus where he spent some time. He then proceeded to Constantinople, he entered the city through the Golden Gate with himself on horseback in front of his army, in Constantinople he spent much time with the Emperor Alexios I Komnenos.

Before leaving Constantinople, Sigurd handed over all the treasures and spoils he had won to the Byzantine emperor, who in return gave him many powerful horses for himself and all his soldiers. Most of his soldiers refused to follow him to Norway; they remained in Constantinople in the Emperor”s service as members of the Varangian garrison. His journey back to Norway took several years probably three, during which time he passed through Serbia, Bulgaria, Hungary, Pannonia, Swabia and Bavaria in which he met with the Emperor Lothar. When he arrived in Denmark he was also greeted by Nils of Denmark who gave him another powerful ship to return to Norway. On his return to Norway (1111) Sigurd found a strong and rich kingdom thanks to his brother Aiden, the church was in a great position. During Sigurd”s reign the tithe tax was introduced, 10% of the profits went to the church greatly increasing its power, he also founded the diocese of Stavanger. The Bishop of Bergen refused to grant him a divorce so Sigmund was forced to found another diocese further south in order to gain the much coveted divorce. Sigurd moved the capital of his kingdom to Kongel in what is now the Swedish district of Cygelves, built a strong castle in which he placed the piece of the Holy Cross he received as a gift from King Baldwin. In 1123 a new Crusade for Sweden was launched in the name of the church in the town of Salland in which the inhabitants refused the Christian faith and once again worshipped the ancient Norse gods.

Sigurd died (1130) and was buried in Halvard Cathedral in Oslo. Sigurd the Crusader and his wife Malmfred daughter of Mstislav I of Kiev and granddaughter of Inge I of Sweden had a daughter Christina Sigurdstadter without having legitimate sons, the illegitimate son of Magnus IV of Norway became King of Norway. Magnus shared the throne with the other pretender to the throne Harald Gille, this brought civil strife over the possession of the throne and devastating civil wars that lasted through the 12th and early 13th centuries. During this war there were many conflicts on different scales, the background of these conflicts was always the Swedish laws of succession, social rules and the hostility between the king and the church. The end result was that in the final phase of the civil war two warring social groups were created, the Bagler and the Bickebeiner, in which a prince claimed the throne from the legitimate king.


  1. Σίγκουρντ ο Σταυροφόρος
  2. Sigurd the Crusader
  3. ^ “Sigurd 1 Magnusson Jorsalfare”. Norsk Biografisk Leksikon (in Norwegian). 30 June 2022.
  4. ^ Literally “Jerusalem-farer”, but commonly translated into English as “the Crusader”.
  5. ^ Riley-Smith, Jonathan (1996). The First Crusade and the Idea of Crusading. University of Pennsylvania Press. p. 132. ISBN 0812213637.
  6. ^ Per G. Norseng. “Sigurd Jorsalfare”. Store norske leksikon. Retrieved 1 April 2016.
  7. ^ Claus Krag. “Sigurd 1 Magnusson Jorsalfare, Konge”. Norsk biografisk leksikon. Retrieved 1 April 2016.
  8. 1,0 1,1
  9. 2,0 2,1 2,2
  10. Literally “Jerusalem-farer”, but informally translated into English as “the Crusader”.
  11. Riley-Smith, Jonathan (1996). The First Crusade and the Idea of Crusading. University of Pennsylvania Press. p. 132.
  12. The viking Age (2010), ed. A.A. Sommerville / R.A. McDonald, University of Toronto Press, ISBN 978-1-44260-148-2 p. 423 – 431.
  13. Ben Waggoner, The Hrafnista Sagas,, 2012, ISBN 0557729416 p. 197. nota 96.
  14. (la) Annales Islandaise p. 51
  15. (de) Europäische Stammtafeln Vittorio Klostermann, Gmbh, Francfort-sur-le-Main, 2004 (ISBN 3465032926), Die Nachkommen von König Harald Schönhaar von Norwegen VI Volume III Tafel 110
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