Everybody knows now that America was discovered not by Christopher Columbus in 1492, but by Vikings in the very beginning of XI century. Not all, however, remember the name and origins of their leader – Norwegian Leif Ericson, even less apprehend that he was a Christian, and really the few remember that he was baptized by the Great Konung and Christianizer of Norway – Olaf Tryggvason.
However, what does all of this have to do with Vladimir of Novgorod? The thing is that Olav Tryggvason was a step-son of Vladimir. At those times there were nothing extraordinary for royal relatives of Gardariki (Rus) to help their kin in exile, or vice versa. Vladimir himself flee to Norway during his dispute with his step-brother Jaropolk for the throne of Rus, received a Viking army as a gift from konung Haakon Sigurdsson, and used it to over-throne and kill Jaropolk. The similar way Norway konungs hid their sons and sought themselves an asylum in Gardariki when political storms get turned against them: the mentioned above Olaf Tryggvason adopted by Vladimir, or Olaf Haraldsson, Magnus Olafsson and Harald Sigurdsson in the court of Jaroslav the Wise (Jarislev the Lame in Scandinavian sagas). More on that, the Old Norse was a royal family language until the Jaroslav’s and his Sweden wife Ingigerd’s times.
If Vladimir haven’t saved the Olaf’s life, and haven’t raised him as his own son, Norway would never see its Great Konung, and the very adoption of Christianity in Scandinavia may have gone in a different path. Leif Ericson wouldn’t become a devoted Christian, wouldn’t Christianize Greenland, and wouldn’t bring a Roman bishop there and wouldn’t establish a Roman Episcopal mission, which functioned half a millennium until the end of the Greenland colony.
However, what a difference would make the very circumstance of Christianisation of the Greenland, if the discovery of colonists haven’t change the course of History? Or did it?
The difference is really tremendous – the Vatican should have _known_ about Vikings’ discoveries, and probably even had maps, like that famous Yale pre-Columbian map, which states that one of the Greenland bishops crossed the Atlantic and traveled to Vineland. Although debates about authenticity of the map rage for decades, the very fact of the permanent Catholic Episcopate in Greenland substantiate the suggestion that Rome was informed about the Greenlanders’ discoveries.
However, from XI to the middle of XV centuries Rome was preoccupied with its push to the East through Jerusalem and Constantinople. But, with the fall of Byzantium and Crusader Kingdoms under the thrust of Ottomans and Arabs, that door for expansion was finally and decisively sealed.
And then, suddenly, Crusades have become “winged with sails”, and caravels coast to the West and South, with the same emblems of Crusaders. Crowds of Italian adventurists, among which Christopher Columbus, Giovanni Caboto (John Cabot), and Amerigo Vespucci became the most famous, team the Europe, rushing to offer promises to European Monarchs to bring riches of the New World to their Crowns. They discover Americas almost effortlessly, like unearthing the buried swag. Except may be Columbus, who almost had a mutiny on his hands, when on the distance sufficient to reach the America on higher altitudes there were no land yet…
What would happen if Rome didn’t know about America? Would the fleet of Montezuma N-th sail into Portuguese ports? Or captain Cook would encounter a much more serious resistance form the Inca, Aztec and Maya civilizations, which would have couple spare centuries for their development?
Thanks to Vladimir of Novgorod, we, fortunately (or unfortunately), shell never know…