Olaf Andreas Digre

Olaf A. Digre (1906-1969) was the son of Olaf B. and Beret, maiden name Botten. His father's background was in the artillery, but he later earned a living as an accountant. His mother died when Olaf was 11 years old. He also had a younger brother.
Olaf Digre graduated from upper secondary school, then called "gymnas", in 1925, and then studied theology. After graduating he was employed as a sexton at Nidaros Cathedral in Trondheim from 1931 to 1939. He worked as a vicar in the parish for the deaf from 1937 to 1949, and was also involved in the deaf community in other ways, including serving as the chairperson of Trondheim døveforening [Association for the Deaf] from 1940 to 1942. In January 1944 he was arrested by the Germans, who were then still occupying Norway, under the vague charge "case of espionage". With stops at Falstad and Grini [prison camps in Norway for prisoners of the German occupiers] he was sent to Sachsenhausen in Germany, where he remained until the war came to an end.
It appears that Olaf Digre was somewhat hesitant in getting on with his theological career. This may in part be due to his social-humanist thinking. In 1939 he joined Trondheim Vernelag [Trondheim Probation and Parole Association], where taking care of convicted criminals on parole was the most important duty. Vernelaget then hired him as a manager/inspector and he remained in this capacity until his death.
But history was the field that was closest to this very versatile man’s heart. From 1935 to 1956 he served as the supervisor for most of the Royal Norwegian Society of Sciences and Letters’ excavations in Trondheim. This was a period of hectic construction activity in the city, and it was not always easy to gain acceptance for the care that needed to be exercised to preserve the past buried below the surface. His observations and maps have been of vital importance for the impression later gained of the medieval town. This work has since been developed by professionals and given more muscle through legislation, but archaeologists and historians acknowledge the great importance of Digre's early efforts in this field, which were based entirely on idealism. The Royal Norwegian Society of Sciences and Letters found him a small position at the coin collection, where he also worked with historical material. The history of trøndersk [the region of Trøndelag] cloister and church history was one of his primary interests, and he also undertook archaeological examinations at sites outside the town. He was particularly fond of Nidaros Cathedral, not surprisingly, where his studies of the personal marks made by the Cathedral's stone masons have become a monument to this man of many talents. He was survived by his wife and a son when he passed away relatively young in 1969.
Recommended reading: Øivind Lunde: Trondheims fortid i bygrunnen [Archaeology in Trondheim before 1970]. Adresseavisens forlag 1977.

Author: Einar Rædergård