Already for a thousand years people were searching along the St. Olav trail towards the Nidaros Cathedral in Trondheim. In the 16th century, the Gustavus banned the Vasa pilgrimage. Now hiking is hotter than in a long time and more and more people are walking along the world’s northernmost pilgrim route. The given starting point: the newly built pilgrimage center in Selånger outside Sundsvall.
It looks like a big barn and that’s what it is too.
The pilgrim center’s ground floor with serving, conference rooms, information and shop was inaugurated in 2018, but the upper floor with interactive exhibitions, auditoriums and meeting rooms is still being completed.
Selanger’s congregation cares about history but also builds on receiving growing crowds of pilgrim hikers.
– There are not as many as
walking today, but this will be the biggest visitor destination in the area in the long run, I am convinced, says Helene Westerlind, head of the pilgrim center in Selånger.
For a long time, the Nidaros Cathedral was one of the most important pilgrimage of the Christian world – fully comparable to Jerusalem, Rome and Santiago de Compostela.
When pilgrim walked man was mainly for two reasons: to be healed from illness, or as honeymoon for the son a crime.
Who are pilgrim migrants today?
– There are many different kinds of hikers, of course, but many that I have met are in some form of break time. They may have gone through a divorce, lost a close relative or maybe retired and are entering a new stage in life. They want to get closer to themselves and I really believe that hiking can be a good way to do it. Something happens when you go in silence, and something happens in the meeting with others who are out walking.
The Pilgrimage Center in Selånger is open every day all summer. Here you can do everything from taking a coffee break to buying maps and pilgrim passes before the hike.
The hiking trail itself is a 58 mile long historical walk in beautiful and varied nature and can be felled on foot by bike or horse. At the end of the journey, Nidarosdomen waits and, for the one who has gone at least 10 of the last miles towards Trondheim, a diploma.
But on the way you might have found something even bigger – yourself.
S: t Olavsleden is named after the Norwegian Vikings and King Olav Haraldsson who in the 11th century united Norway and introduced Christianity. Olav was driven from the country in 1028 and fled to today’s Russia. In 1030 he landed in Selånger – which then lay by the sea – and began the march against the capital of that time Trondheim in order to regain the crown. He fell at the battle in Norwegian Stiklestad and was declared Saint a year later as St. Olav. His body was moved to Trondheim and over his burial site, Nidaros Cathedral was built, which soon became one of the most important pilgrimage of the Christian world – on par with Jerusalem, Rome and Santiago de Compostela.
Pilgrim walk along S: t Olofsleden
Historical background, personal stories and information on route stretching, accommodation and other things can be found at www.stolavsleden.com. Also look in the open Facebook group Hiking along St. Olavsleden which serves as an open forum with inspiration, greetings and tips. Here it usually also works well to ask practical questions about the walk.
Try pimgrimswander this summer
Try it out 1: 750 meter loop. A walk in the landscape around the pilgrim center that you can walk on your own or together. Nice loop with information and some challenges along the way.
Try it out 2: 5 Sunday pilgrimage. Four congregations invite to day hikes during five Sundays in July for those who want to try out some longer distances. Selånger – Tuna, 15 km (Sunday 30 June), Tuna – Support, 13 km (Sunday 7 July), Stöde – Torpshammar, 10 km (Sunday July 14), Fränsta – Ljungaverk, 10 km (Sunday July 21), Ljungaverk – Borgsjö, 10 km (Sunday July 28). More info will be available at www.svenskakyrkan / selanger