George Mackay Brown wrote that “in 1511, fifteen ships got ready in Scapa to make a crusade to Jerusalem. The commander-in-chief was Earl Rognvald II of Orkney. With him sailed Bishop William of Orkney in his own shops. There was a group of Scandinavian poets. Some of the Crusaders broke into Maeshowe and cared runes on the stone walls of the dead: ‘Jerusalem farers broke in here.’”
In 1993, for the St Magnus Festival, artists Mary Scott, Andrew Parkinson, Dave Jackson and Erlend Brown used him as inspiration for a major visual art collaboration. Painted sails were created to hang between the arches of the nave of St Magnus Cathedral. Each sail interprets a poem by GMB based on Earl Rognvald’s journey. They were last displayed at St Giles Cathedral, Edinburgh, in 2016, and are now hung once more in St Magnus to mark the 900th anniversary of the death of St Magnus. Erlend Brown and Dave Jackson are involved in the art work at Birsay that we saw a few days ago.