The Frostating brings us back to the Middle Age, mainly the period 1000 -1600 A.D, or the period of the Vikings. The thing is the oldest known collective institution in Europe – an important place for social interaction and negotiation.
The Frostating is the name of the place where the thing was situated – just here in our municipality of Frosta. At Logtu, a memorial monument was erected in 1914 surrounded by a stone from each of the 12 counties covered by the Frostating.
The Frostating was an assembly or judicial gathering. The parliament of this time. Today the name of the Norwegian parliament – Stortinget – brings the name “thing” also important in our lives.
Regional law things
In the Middle Age the thing was important for the king and the church. The king needed a place to assembly the farmers and to negotiate with them. The answer got to be the thing, just as the Frostating. In a period of almost 1000 years the Frostating was active from 600 (maybe earlier) towards 1600.
The Frostating was one of the 4 regional law things in Norway. The Frostating was the thing for this region, the counties in the middle of Norway, in Trøndelag. The county’s name is made by trønder, that means well-being people, and lov that means law.
The old king Harald Hårfagre (Harald Fairhair) has got the honour of gathering Norway into one nation in 872 after a battle in the western part of Norway. He considered Trøndelag to be the most important district in Norway at that time. After he had united the country he settled here in Trøndelag and made it home.
Why was the regional law thing situated exactly here at Frosta?
- Because of the fjord, the site, early spring, farmers, various growth, the harbour, richdom, many chieftains and big farms.
- A peninsula in the fjord – the representatives came mainly here by boat, and Frosta was tightly connected to Trondheim by the sea.
- Just as the name of our country Norway – the way to the north!
- Frosta is known from the Stone Age – rock carvings, grave mounds, monastery at Tautra from 1207 and big farms.
- Year 1000: 250-300 inhabitants, today – approx. 2650
Most likely it was a total of 400 farmers that came together from the mainland counties and 85 men from the coastland counties. In addition to these 485 men, all official representatives, regional commissioners and “ombudsmen” assigned to the king and the church had to meet at the Lagting.
And of course – the free time was also important! Together with the elected representatives came musicians, dancers, shoppers, slaves, whores, thieves, boatmen, shoppers, butchers, cooks, jugglers, brewers amongst many more. Quite a rumour and a huge feast! Every year at Bottolfsmass, the 16th of June.
Probably the delegates lived in their boats, in tents or in wooden houses. We can’t find any tracks of this life today, but we know that people has lived here for generations and hundreds of years. Archeological work and surveys shows this. They made food and beer and has grown grass, herbs and vegetables and feeded animals.
Organisation of the Frostating
Trøndelag or the landscape of Frostating was a well-organized state, divided into 8 counties, 4 inland and 4 coastal counties. All together 485 men met at the Frostating some weeks in June every year. Each county had its chieftain, its pagan temple and judicial court, and its own government. But, of course, quite different from what we think about the democracy and parliament today.
The Frostating was in the beginning an Allting – where all men that had a property – a farm, land or some wood could attend the gathering – the thing! They were not allowed to choose no! No thralls, women or children – of course!
After some years the Frostating, the Lagting became a parliament of elected representatives and delegates from the wisest men in this part of the country. The chieftains led the farmers and the representatives were elected from their home counties.
The jury of the Frostating, 400 farmers, were selected or appointed by the county representatives at the local parliament.
The first time they were chosen, each one would have to swear: “In each man´s case I promise to cast my vote before God for what is right and true for God according to the law and my conscience, toward foe as well as friend. I will always act as such as long as I am juror.” When a man was elected to the jury and swore the oath, he remained juror the rest of his life.
A typical day at the Frostating:
The day started early – at sunrise :
- The bell of Logtun church rings. The Lagting jury seats itself in a semicircle, facing toward east – towards the sunrise – and towards the presiding judge (leading chieftain). The 7 other chieftains are seated foremost in the semi-circle.
- The priest arrives from the church with the Frostating law and seal under his arm, and seats himself beside the chairman.
- The Frostating is set – under shelter from the church. The rest of the parliament is surrounding the court. In rainy weather, the parliament was inside the church. The church was important and close connected to the Frostating.
- The Frostating is risen.
The court met each year at the day of the Bottolf mass, June 16th, from about year 940 until after the reformation. Here they established the law of the land.
Cases at the Frostating
The Frostating was a higher court for a region and many municipalities. People came far away to tell their issues and to get justice. The Frostating made laws and performed as both court and judges.
The assembly at the Frostating had a lot of issues to negotiate. Typical incidents could be:
- Theft – of people, animals, boats, hey, growth, personal belongings, property
- Violence – people and animals
- Sexual abuse
- Boarders between neighbours – quite usual
- Economic compensation
The very detailed rules of behavior and punishment were all written in the Frostating law. The punishment could be:
- Lose one or both ears or nose
- Not allowed to live with your family
Tradition says that a little island in the fjord between Frosta and Tautra was the place of execution – Øksningen – The Axe Islet!
THE FROSTATING LAW
The Frostating Law is the oldest known law from the Middle Ages.
Traditionally the old law book were situated in a chest in the church, and it still is! We like to think that this coffin is about 500-600 years old.
The Law itself tells about 3 locks at this coffin – that tells us how important this document was. Every morning at 6 a.m the bells rang and the priest, the chieftain and one farmer brought the law to the Frostating. And the assembly was maybe in that direction – or in that … We’re not quite sure!
The Frostating law that we know today was written down 1260 A.D Before this the law was orally, and the chieftain had to remember it from one year to another. He had much power! And a good memory!
The Frostating Law was translated from the ancient language to Norwegian in 1994, and parts of the Frostating Law has become part of Norway’s heritage of old documents in 2014. Unluckily the original of the Frostating law was destroyed in a big fire in the Royal Library in København many years ago.
The best known quote from the Frostating law is
“Med lov skal landet bygges, og ikke med ulov ødes.”
“Our land shall be built by the law, and it shall not be laid waste in unlawfulness.
In the Year of 1274 the Frostating Law and the similar regional laws from the other regional things were replaced by one law for the whole country, made by the king Magnus Lagabøter – or Magnus The Lawmaker. Magnus came to Frostatinget in June 1274 and gave his own law to the chieftain.
The law that king Magnus made for the whole country was the constitution of Norway in more than 400 years.