One of your
Mediaval Ages' ancestor was Jón Loftsson
lawman and the most powerfull chief in Iceland in his time, living at Oddi, the noted seat of learning in the Rangárvalla County in South Iceland. Jón Loftsson fostered the great historiographer Snorri Sturluson (1179-1241) and may have inspired Snorri to write Heimskringla
, the story of the Norwegian kings because Jón Loftsson is our key to the Royal fame and families in Norway. His mother was Ţóra Magnúsdóttir, an illegitime daughter to king Magnús Ólafsson of Norway (Magnus the barefoot). Well, who were not illegitime at that time :)
Jón's father, a priest and a powerful man with the name Loftur Sćmundsson (1090-1163), married Ţóra in Norway. In spite of the two gentlemen's nobility, Loftur's father and Jón's grandfather is probably the best known of them. His name was Sćmundur Sigfússon (1056-1133), called Sćmundur fróđi
(Sćmundur the Learned), a priest and a historical personage, who had learned in France, in some mysterious school called the Black School (actually the school of Sorbonne). He was so wise and clever that people thought he mastered some supernatural powers. Many stories have been told through the centuries, and are still today, of his dealing with the Devil himself where he alway came better off.
The church at Oddi
When Sćmundur and two other icelandic students were about to leave that spooky school, the Black School, where the headmaster was believed to be Old Nick himself, the benefice of Oddi was vacant, and they all applied to the Danish king for it. The king knew full well with whom he was dealing and told them that whoever could get there first would have Oddi.
Sćmundur immediately went to summon Old Nick, saying, "Swim with me on your back out to Iceland, and if you can get me ashore without wetting my coattails, my soul is yours."
Old Nick agreed to this, quickly changed into a seal, and set off with Sćmundur on his back. On the way, Sćmundur continuously read in his Psalter. In a short time they were close to land in Iceland. Then Sćmundur struck the seal over the head with the Psalter so the creature sank; Sćmundur was temporarily submerged but swam ashore.
And that's how the Devil lost his bargain and Sćmundur got the Oddi.
This is how the story goes. But in reality, in Sćmundur's days, Iceland was a commonwealth with no king. In any case, the king would have nothing to do with the granting of church offices until after the Reformation. See about Jón Arason
in last Newsletter.
Ref.: Icelandic Folk and Fairy Tales. Icelandic Review 1987,. Translation by May and Hallberg Hallmundsson.
If you have been to Reykjavík, Iceland, you may have noticed a statue in front of the University of Iceland of a man raising a book high above the head of a seal. That's your ancestor Sćmundur the Learned.