Nobilis humilis. From the Magnus hymn manuscript.

The second largest medieval church built in Norway, was the St. Magnus church in the Orkneys. The church was inaugurated in 1137, and then the Magnus hymn may have been sung for the first time - although the oldest known manuscript dates from 1280.

The Magnus hymn is radically different from European church music at that time. It is written in two parts which follow each other in parallel thirds. The major third was regarded as a dissonant interval at that time in Europe (probably as a consequence of the then prevailing Pythagorean tuning, which gives pure fifths, but very nasty thirds).Obiously this was not the case among the Northern peoples.


The Magnus hymn in modern transcription.

The English writer Giraldus Cambrensis who lived at that time, also tells us that two part singing was common in the areas that had been settlede or influenced by the Vikings, but unknown elsewhere, so that he regarded this custom as a legacy of the Vikings.