Unveiled in 1983, it celebrates a battle that took place there over a millennium before. There is surely no greater representation of Norway’s proud Viking history than this giant monument.

Huge artwork in Møllebukta 

In 1983, a small delegation of media and public representatives were on hand to help King Olav V in Møllebukta, just west of Norway’s oil capital, Stavanger. The King was part of a delegation to officially unveil Norway’s most visible and striking historical monument, Sverd i fjell (Swords in rock / Swords in the mountain).

Unveiled almost 40 years ago, this monument was the first part of a reawakening and rethinking of Norway’s Viking past and history. Now, thanks to series like Vikings, Viking history and culture are very much a worldwide phenomenon. 

This monument was, perhaps, the first small step in Vikings capturing the world’s attention again.

Unification of Norway

The monument, which consists of three huge 10-meter-high bronze swords firmly planted in the ground, was designed by famed Norwegian artist and sculptor Fritz Røed.

They are, according to Røed, a commemoration of the Battle of Hafrsfjord, which took place in the area in 872 CE. The battle, which was the final struggle for Harald Hårfarge in his mission to conquer all of Norway and unite it under a single crown, forms a central part of Norwegian history and cultural memory. 

Hårfarge’s victory over several smaller petty kings saw the unification of Norway into a kingdom that had been his life’s mission. For the first time in history, Norway was a single and unified kingdom.

The "Sverd i fjell" monument commemorates the battle in Hafrsfjord. Photo: slowowl / Pixabay

Symbolism and deeper meanings of the monument

The commemoration of a historical battle, over a millennium before, was not the only meaning that Røed envisioned his artwork to possess. 

The monument is, of course, a monument to the unification of Norway. The three swords represent the three areas of Norway that Hårfarge unified under a single crown. They also represent the three Kings that, according to legend, took part in the battle: Hårfarge, Kjøtve the Rich (King of Agder), and Sulke (King of Rogaland).

The three swords are all slightly different in width, with the two slightly smaller ones symbolizing the defeated kings whilst the larger one represents both Norway (as a kingdom) and Hårfarge as the sole victor. The larger sword also has a Royal insignia on its handle, symbolizing the rule of Harald Hårfarge.

Aside from the historical commemoration, the monument also has a deeper underlying symbolism. The three swords are very much planted firmly in the ground as Røed intended the monument to also be a monument to peace. The swords, quite literally, can never be used again in war or battle. 

A major tourist attraction

Norway’s beautiful fjord riddled southwestern coast is tourist heaven, drawing hordes of people every year. 

Given that many of these tourists want to visit Norway due to its proud Viking history and heritage, the Sverd i fjell monument has become a major tourist attraction in recent years. 

One only has to look on Instagram to see the thousands of photos and selfies of people who love this huge monument to Norway’s Viking past.

The monument was featured in a 2005 documentary about Norwegian black metal (Metal: A headbanger’s journey) and also featured in Norwegian language lessons on the language app Duolingo.

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