Skule Bårdssons donation letter from 1225 – a unique and interesting source

Skule Bårdsson is one of the most controversial individuals in Norwegian medieval history. Skule's struggle with his son-in-law Håkon Håkonsson for the Norwegian throne ended with the assassination of Skule in 1240. In 1225, Skule sealed a donation letter in favor of Nidaros Cathedral and the clergy attached to it. He gave up landed property in return for the canons celebrating his anniversarium after his death. The diploma is both typical and unique, the latter mostly because relatively few Norwegian documents from this early age are preserved with the seals intact. In this article, various aspects of the diploma are treated, physical as well as diplomatic and paleographic features. The language reveals that it was penned by a local writer from Trøndelag. Skule's seal, which is in poor condition, is an object of special interest. It turns out that Nicholas of Husaby used the same stamp when he sealed a diploma in 1301. This imprint is better preserved and enables a reconstruction of the legend on the back side of Skule's seal, which has a standing lion in its centre. The article also touches upon the Norwegian tenure system and how it worked. As in a modern corporation, shares were sold. The individual owners could only claim a proportional part of the landskyld (annual rent), and could not point to a specific piece of land and say that that part was theirs.