Post-classical history

Hakon Palsson (d. c. 1123)

Earl of Orkney (1103-c. 1123), who went on a pilgrimage to Jerusalem around 1120, probably in expiation of his sins relating to the murder of his cousin and co-ruler, Magnus I Erlendsson.

Hakon was born around 1170, the son of Earl Paul I, who ruled Orkney jointly with his brother Erlend II until 1098, when King Magnus III Barelegs of Norway took control of the islands and sent the earls to Norway, where they both died soon after. In 1103 Sigurd, the ruler installed by Magnus, was recalled to Norway to be crowned joint king, whereupon Hakon claimed his birthright to Paul’s share of the earldom of Orkney.

A few years later, Erlend’s son Magnus obtained his father’s share, and the two cousins ruled the earldom jointly until Hakon murdered Magnus on the island of Egilsay (1115/1117). Hakon’s pilgrimage took him via Rome to the Holy Land, where he saw the holy places in and around Jerusalem and bathed in the river Jordan, where, as was customary, he brought back a palm frond from the far bank. A round church at Orphir on the mainland of Orkney may have been built by Hakon on his return from the Holy Land in imitation of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem, but its circular shape might also be the result of inspiration from southern Scandinavia or Bohemia.

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