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26 September 2007

Pilgrim Ways to Nidaros - The St. Olav Ways

Scandinavian pilgrimage routes

"[...] Not long after the Saint King, Olav Haraldsson, fell in battle at Stiklestad in 1030, Nidaros became a popular goal for people seeking to redeem their souls at his shrine. Olav became Norway's patron saint, and his reputation shone far beyond the borders of his country.

Along paths and vestigial roads, through wild country and through high mountains people wended their way to Christ's Church in Nidaros, where the shrine of Olav was venerated. A substantial number of people felt the beckoning of the shrine, and pilgrimages continued there until 1537, the time of the reformation, and perhaps even beyond that.

Today we cannot pinpoint with certainty where the medieval pilgrims made their way. The trails they followed were the contemporary highways. The common road - the "people's road" - threaded along the hillsides in the valleys which had been settled first.

The road would be for walking and riding. Single-minded in its intent on reaching its destination, the road would climb up and wind down steep hills, disdaining detours around marshes or other obstacles. In hilly terrain, traffic, weather and precipitation would cause the dissolving earth and clay to seep away, leaving a distinct furrow, a sunken road. On marshy ground the road might be paved with logs, called a kavlebru - a log bridge.

Pilgrims would normally travel in companies. A day's journey might stretch up to 30 kilometres for those hardy souls who could manage to hike that far. Every 8 to 10 kilometres there would be places of rest with grazing for horses. Such pastures were called "Olav's fields". Along the way there would be inns and lodgings. The oldest places for accommodation were the simple sælehus - houses of rest - where lodgers would have to cater for themselves. Tradition also tells us of roadside crosses, pilgrims' chapels and sacred wells along the road. [...]"

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