How did a pure Norwegian come to have a Gaelic name? To answer this question, we have to refute the official Norwegian legend that Christianity was brought to Norway by St. Olaf in 1000 A.D. from respectable European sources. In fact, it had to have been seeping in for centuries via Ireland, Scotland and Man through the agency of the Irish monks, and those Vikings who brought back with them stories and ideas they had learned in the provinces - as well as their newly acquired Christian Irish slaves!
St. Olaf began his attempt at the forcible conversion of all of Norway in 1016 A.D., at the age of 21, following his own conversion. He had a lot of support, which furthers the notion that Christian ideas were not new to the Vikings; but the majority still preferred Thor, and he failed. He ran away to Sweden, returned to try a second time, and was defeated once again and finally killed in 1030 A.D. In spite of that, in 1164 A.D. he was canonized, so Christianity must have ultimately taken hold. Legend has it that the battlecry of his armies was "Men of Christ!", which is the translation of our surname. Two of his closest friends and advisors were men named Lief and Gilli. Gilli is an example of our surname prefix (meaning "servant", or "follower") existing in Norway at the end of the first millenium.
As further proof of the infusion of Christianity from Ireland into Norway, just before 1000 A.D. the Norwegian Bishop of the Hebrides, named Patrek (after the patron saint of Ireland), became a foster-father to a Viking named Orlyguy. This man built the first church in Iceland, and on his way there he stopped in a fjord which he named "Patreksfjord" in honor of his foster-father. Interestingly enough, Patrek insisted that Orlyguy should commemorate St. Columba and the shrine at Iona when he built his new church. Iona is on the southern tip of the Hebrides, right in the middle of Norwegian territory at the time, and it is where you will find the Gilchrist cross.
Given this sort of wholesale transfusion of
culture, it is not difficult to imagine that people named Gilchrist,
were already present at Iona three centuries earlier, would by now be
within the Norwegian church and aristocracy. (This is a future research
direction.) And there was, in fact, one very significant personage that
It will come as less of a surprise by now to note
there are Gilchrists yet today in the Norwegian telephone book who
their name precisely as we do, and who may well be descendants of
Jean Gilchrist lives in Oslo, and Borghild Gilchrist lives in Bergen, a
village in Hellevik - at least, they still did when I originally
researched this material in 1992.
|Next page: The Surname Emerges||Back to Gilchrist name history title page|