Feast day: January 26
(also known as Austin, Augustine)
Born in Norway; died at Nidaros (Trondheim), Norway, on January 26, 1188. Saint Eystein, born of a noble family, was educated at Saint-Victor, Paris. When he returned to
Norway, he served as chaplain to King Inge of Norway and, in 1157, was appointed second archbishop of Nidaros (Trondheim). At that time the metropolitan see had been in existence for only five years. In 1152, the Norwegian Church had been reorganized into 10 sees (including Iceland, Greenland, the Orkneys, and the Shetlands) under the archbishopric of Nidaros by an English legate of the Holy See, Cardinal Nicholas Breakspeare, who later became Pope Adrian IV. Eystein's appointment violated the regulations
for canonical appointments established by Breakspeare, but he proved to be the man chosen by God for the work. Upon his appointment as bishop, Eystein went on a pilgrimage to Rome to be consecrated by Pope Alexander III, who gave him the pallium and made him a papal legate a latere. He returned from Rome late in 1161. Eystein labored to strengthen the ties between the Norwegian Church and Rome, implement the Gregorian Reform, and to free the
Church in Norway from interference by the nobles. He brought to the Norwegian Church the practices and customs of the churches of Europe at that time, though celibacy for the clergy was largely unobserved in his country. Perhaps this is the reason he established communities of Augustinian canons regular to set an example for the parochial clergy.
He crowned the eight-year-old child Magnus as king of Norway at Bergen in 1164, and was closely associated with the boy's father, Jarl Erling Skakke, who approved Eystein's code of laws. Most of Eystein's activities as they have come down to us are matters of the general history of Norway and were directed towards the free action of the spiritual
power among a unified people. This set him on a collision course with Magnus's rival for the throne, Sverre. Eystein was forced to flee to England in 1181 when Sverre claimed the throne on the grounds that he was the illegitimate son of King Sigurd and the rightful heir; from England Eystein excommunicated Sverre.
In England he stayed at the abbey of Saint Edmundsbury (a.k.a., Bury St. Edmunds), and it was probably there that he wrote his account of Saint Olaf, The passion and miracles of the Blessed Olaf, of which a manuscript was discovered in England. He helped them to obtain from Henry II the free election of Abbot Samson. It is probable, too, that he visited the shrine of Saint Thomas of Canterbury, to whose memory he was very devoted, which later became common in the Norwegian Church. (Eystein may have met Saint
Thomas during the Englishman's exile and saw in him another who struggled to free the Church from secular control.) Eystein returned to Norway in 1183 and was aboard a ship in Bergen Harbor when Sverre's fleet defeated Magnus, causing the king to flee to Denmark. The following year
Magnus was killed in battle, Sverre became king, and Eystein made peace with him. Eystein enlarged Christ Church cathedral, where Saint Olaf was buried; some of his improvements remain to this day.
After his death, his body was enshrined in Nidaros cathedral. Immediately after his death Eystein was considered a saint, but various papal inquiries were unfinished. Eystein
was proclaimed a saint by a Norwegian synod in 1229. Many miracles occurred at his tomb