The Vágabok

In the year 1282, an outcry is heard in Vágar. Baron Bjarne Erlingsson of Giske has just stood at the thing (court) at Brurberget and said that the Vágabok must be taken out of use. Now it is the National Law that applies.

gammel bok
Magnus Lagabøtes Landslov fra 1274

In the Middle Ages, Vágar is the place to be, especially during Lofoten fishing. Then the population multiplies and there is a bustling life out in the ocean. The cod lays the foundation for the fishing village town of Vágar. Every winter, the cod comes from the Barents Sea to spawn along the coast. With it, fishermen from all over the country come to pull up this valuable food and export commodity. Just jump in the boat, pull out the net and pull the fish up. There is money to be made here.

No wonder then, that there is chaos when changes are announced.

Gammelt brev

Diploma NRA AM fasc. 6 No. 1. Date: 1291 March 9, retrieved from archive RA/EA-5965 The National Archives’ diploma collection, series F05 – Arnamagnæan diplomas in RA

The letter from Archbishop Gjørund from 1291 tells of the incident at the Vágar thing in 1282, where the Vágabok is taken out of use, in favor of the National Law. The original letter is in the Norwegian National Archives.

We do not know what is written in the Vágabok. Perhaps there is a local code of laws that provides rules for the Lofoten fishery? We do not get any wiser from the National Law because it does not say much about fisheries. In the year 1313, on the other hand, an addition (rettarbot) is added to the new law and it says that there shall be legal peace during fishing. This means that fighting and arguing must be done outside the fishing season. Because if the fishermen are busy with thing cases when they are actually going to fish, they are not going to make money. In other words, the king and the church are not going to make money.

Tørrfisk henger under taket
Stockfish. Photo: Kjell Ove Storvik

Read more about the Middle Ages

The National Law Anniversary

This year we celebrate the 750th anniversary of Magnus Lagabøte’s national law. Together with a professor and historian from Nord University and UiT The Arctic University of Norway, we are working on developing fines exhibitions at several of our museums.

Magnus Lagabøte

King Magnus 6. Håkonsson, later Lagabøte, was king of Norway in the Middle Ages, and was the king behind the Land Act of 1274.

The wedding in Lofoten in the Middle Ages

The wedding in Lofoten in the Middle Ages – Read about the dowry Ingebjørg brought with her into her marriage to Torleiv in 1335