Viking Ships battling at Øyeren

During the Ribbung rebellion 1219-23 and 1224-27 the people of Fet sided, with others in Romerike, with Sigurd "Ribbung" Erlingssons in opposition to Håkon "Birkebeiner" Håkonsson. The consequences were noticeable, not least at Øyeren.

The Birkebeiners are coming!

The sight of 35 Viking ships of all sizes with two men at each oar on their way out of Nttelva towards Øyeren must have been quite the view. But this wasn't so unusual. Time and again during the 1220s Håkon Håkonsson's men dragged their ships from the Oslo fjord over Gjelleråsen to Nittelva in order to get out to Øyeren and fight the people of Romerike.

Snorre Sturlasson regales us with tales from Håkon Håkonsson's saga:




What was behind all this?

The Baglers and Birkebeiners

During the Bagler period southern and eastern Norway and Oslofjord to Båhuslen had comprised an independent state with its own foreign policy. The Bagler king, Filippus Simonsson, had exchanged letters with the pope and gifts with King John of England.

Men with no honor

When the Birkebeiner king Håkon Håkonsson came to power many powerful men in the east lost their power and influence. Amongst these was Gudolv Blakstad. When Gudolv figured out that he wouldn't achieve an honored position under the new king he sent men to Denmark in the winter of 1219-20 to find King Erling Steinvegg's son. Sigurd Erlingsson was found and men rallied around him. The Ribbung rebellion had begun.

At one with the people in Akershus

Sigurd Ribbung Erlingsson established himself at Frognøya in Tyrifjord, but the Ribbung rebellion consisted of more than just a bunch of disgruntled prominent men. It was said that the Ribbungs could rely on the support of the peasants anywhere in Viken, and in present day Akershus they were in reality at one with the people.

All land west of the Mjøsa

During the spring of 1222 the Ribbungs had gained control of large tracts of the inner eastern part of Norway. We find them in Romerike, around Tyrifjord, in Ringerike, in Land, in Vardal, Toten and Hadeland. Sigurd's men had taken, more or less, everything west of the Mjøsa.

Sigurd Ribbung dies

In 1226 the Ribbungs have also taken Oslo. That same year Sigurd Ribbung Erlingsson died without having won over Oslo. But the Ribbungs choose a new king, Knut Håkonsson from Gotaland and continue the battle.

Yes to money and power

Håkon Håkonsson realizes that he has to compromise. He therefore offers Gudolv of Blakstad, who started the rebellion, and the other notables, official positions and power in order to change sides. The new Ribbung king, Knut Håkonsson meets the Birkebeiners in battle in 1227. Only then does he discover that the notables who had asked him to lead the Ribbungs are now on Håkon Håkonsson's side. Thus ends the last rebellion against a Norwegian monarchy. From 1227 Norway is indisputably a single nation and from this time on the only things making waves on Øyeren are wind and current.


Ribbung can be coupled to the Nordic ribbaldi, meaning wild, violent, bandit (from the latin ribaldus)



Ribbungopprør, riksenhet og enekongedømme. I: Tverrfaglig tidsskrift for middelalderforskning.
lnterdisciplinary Joumal of Medieval Research,Collegium Medievale, Society for Medieval Studies, Oslo 1996. 
Årstad, Knut: Håkon Håkonssons saga i Norges kongesagaer, Snorre Sturlasson

Translated by Steven Mohn, December 1999

Updated January 1st 2000 by The Local History Resource Centre, Fet, NORWAY