» Skip to content

Gulatinget, Norway

Gulatinget Millennium Park is a symbolic thing site opened in 2005 to commemorate the annual parliamentary assembly which took place in Gulen from approximately 900-1300 AD. The park features monumental artworks by sculptor Bard Breivik. 

Gulatinget was one of the oldest and largest parliamentary assemblies in Norway, thought to have been established in Gulen by King Harald Fairhair (c 872-932).  Farmers came here to meet the king, discuss political matters, pass legislation and judge cases. 

It was originally an althing, an assembly where ‘all free men fit to bear arms’ had the right to participate.  Later, as its administrative area expanded, it became a lawthing, or super regional assembly. Each region appointed representatives for the assembly; a model which is still in use today.

The earliest thing site was probably in the village of Eivindvik near the only confirmed medieval church in Gulen. Two stone crosses from the same period of early Christianisation are thought to mark the site of the thing. Eivindvik also has a sheltered bay and is close to a good shipping route along the coast.

King Håkon Håkonson’s Saga tells how he moved the thing to Guløy, an area just outside the farm of Flolid where the Millennium Site is now located.  Later, in around 1300, it moved again to Bergen, where the Gulating Court of Appeal is still held today. 

The Rantzau book – Gulating law code The Rantzau book – Gulating law code Zoom The Gulatingslova (Gulating Code of Law) is the oldest known body of laws in the nordic countries. An original manuscript, known as the Rantzau book, is preserved in the Royal Library of Copenhagen.

In 930 Ulvljot used the Gulating laws as a model to set up the Althing in Iceland.  Later, in 1274, Magnus Lawmender combined legislations from the four regional assemblies, Gulatinget, Frostatinget, Eidsivatinget and Borgatinget into one body of laws, called Landslova.  Elements of this legislation, and thereby the Gulatingslova, can still be found in Norway's modern constitution.

The Gulating Law Code

The Gulating Law Code contains 320 articles, divided into 14 main parts, and with a few unnumbered amendments. The laws regulate religion (Christianity), contracts (sale and lease of land), ownership (property), udal rights, matrimonial law, inheritance law and criminal defence.  A particularly significant section also deals with Leidang (coastal defence).

The laws are based on experience and are laid out by describing a particular situation and then stating what rule should apply in such a case. In many cases is it not certain whether the law is supposed to be specific, or if it is being used to illustrate a more general rule. For example, one law concerning the right to beached whales states that the King has the right to half of any whale that drifts ashore. This may relate to a specific situation, but could also be applied to general rights about the sea and shores.

The code is made up of laws and legal practices established over a long period of time. There is evidence for a number of different legal traditions within the Gulating Law, including the laws given to Moses on Mt Sinai (mosaic law). English law had a strong influence on the law code through Håkon the Good who was raised in England by King Athelstan, and who later returned to Norway and introduced several reforms at the thing. The English influence can be seen in the beautifully decorated pages of the Rantzau book. Some of the letters have been illuminated using green ink, a colour normally employed by English document writers, rather than blue and red as was the norm for documents from Norway and Scandinavia from this period.  The Gulating Law Code itself also went on to have a key role in the establishment of the Icelandic Althing at Thingvellir.

Local Things in Sogn og Fjordane

The Gulating Law mentions two levels of things below Gulatinget: fylkesting (county things) and fjordungsting (there were four fjordungstings in one county thing). These things were open to all free men, although we do not have any historical records relating to how they may have functioned. Local things had different functions and names, such as våpenting (weapon thing), manntalstingkongeting (the king’s thing) and skipreideting. There seems to have been a regular spring thing, but the thing could also be summoned when anyone had reason to do so and on five nights notice. Autumn things are also known.

It is likely that the local things met in a fixed place, although in certain cases they met at a specific location, such as a murder site, or in the location being discussed in the case of rental agreements.  The locations of many of these thing sites are still unknown. There are at least 40 place names in Sogn og Fjordane which contain the element ting, and these may have been created over a long period of time.  The name Tinghaug (thing mound) is quite common, and indicates an outdoor thing site. From 1500-1600 the things were held indoors, and from this period we have a number of Tingstove (thing cottage) names. 

Reed in Breim, Nordfjord is an example of a local thing site with long traditions. There is a natural mound known as the Tinghaug, and up until 1800 the site also had a tingstove. The nearby boathouse was also known as Tiendebua (tithe barn) and was where the taxes were collected.

What's nearby

Eivindvik
Gulatinget Millennium Park is just 2 km from the centre of Eivindvik. From here you can catch the express boat to Bergen (http://www.fjord1.no). Or why not stay in the local hotel (www.eivindvik-fjordhotell.no) and explore the region. Visit Eivindvik’s historic church, go fishing or canoeing in Prestesundet.  The surrounding area has a number of well-maintained footpaths offering hiking opportunities for all abilities.

Tour operator for the express boats - www.norled.no

Gulen Dive Resort
Norway’s leading dive destination is located at the entrance of Sognefjord.  The centre runs courses at all levels and offers the opportunity to view an amazing range of marine life or dive on the largest range of wreck sites in Norway. (www.gulendykkesenter.no) 

FjordKysten: The Coast of Fjords
The coast of the region of Sogn og Fjordane, extending from Gulen on Sognefjord in the south to Bremanger on Nordefjord in the north, features dramatic coastal scenery, abundant wildlife and a wealth of history just waiting to be discovered.  Go island hopping, surf on the North Sea waves or take a high speed ocean rafting trip (www.fjordguiding.com). Hike in the surrounding mountains, or pick a spot on one of our sandy beaches to fish, or even just relax. Whatever you prefer we’re sure to have something to satisfy.

Sognefjord
Norway’s longest and deepest fjord, Sognefjord, lies in the heart of the Norwegian fjord country and extends 200 km inland to the Jotunheimen and Jostedalsbreen National Parks.  The Jotunheimen National Park is characterised by high mountains, glaciers and deep lakes and is perfect for walking, hiking and skiing.  Almost half of the Jostedalsbreen National Park is covered by the Jostedalsbreen glacier, the largest glacier in mainland Europe.  Sognefjord is home to unique museums, art galleries, heritage sites and stave churches – Urnes Stave Church in Luster features on the World Heritage List.

Kvernsteinsparken, Hyllestad ( Millstone Park) In Kvernsteinsparken (Millstone Park), Hyllestad © Frank Bradford In Kvernsteinsparken (Millstone Park), Hyllestad © Frank Bradford Zoom
Quarrying at Hyllestad began on a small scale around 700 AD, but increased to industrial levels with products being transported across large parts of Europe towards the end of the Viking Age.  Many of the crosses along the coast, including those at Eivindvik, are made from Hyllestad millstone. Trails through the park allow you to see the remains of this ancient industry - marks where the stones were cut are clearly visible, and in many places stones still lie where they were originally cut. 

Local school children learn skills from the Viking period and act as guides for visitors as part of a programme which aims to convey the history and knowledge of the millstone operations through participation and experience.  At the end of your tour, watch them at work and sample Viking food cooked on an open fire. (www.kvernstein.no)

 

Visitor information

Gulatinget Millennium Site is open all year round.

Guided tours of the Millennium Site and Eivindvik are available. To book call 00 47 57 7820 06/10 or email gulatinget@gulen.kommune.no

Boat tours leaving from Bergen are also available, for more information visit www.fjordkysten.no

Email stiftinga@jensbua.no 

Tel: 00 47 57 73 90 20 / 57782006

Location

Contact Info

Gulen kommune,
5966 Eivindvik 
Tel: 00 47 57782006 
Fax: 00 47 57782099
Email: gulatinget@gulen.kommune.no

Origin / Explanation of Name

Old Norse Gulaþing: parliament

Downloads

Project Funder