The Cultural Route of St Olav Ways is a certified cultural route of the council of Europe. ACSOW (Association for the cultural route of st olav ways) is the association founded to manage the status and the route. The route passes through Finland, Denmark, Sweden and Norway, with Nidaros cathedral in Trondheim (Norway) as the pilgrim goal. The association has members in all four countries.
Olav II Haraldsson, later known as St. Olav, was King of Norway from 1015 to 1028. After he fell in the battle of Stiklestad in 1030 he was declared a martyr and a saint, which led to the propagation of his myth. For centuries after his death, pilgrims made their way through Scandinavia, along routes leading to Nidaros Cathedral, in Trondheim, where Saint Olav lies buried.
The oldest surviving painting of Saint Olav, dating from around 1160, is on a column in the Nativity Church in Bethlehem. The number of Olav churches and chapels reminds us that the Saint Olav tradition once flourished all over northern Europe. Prior to the Reformation (before 1540, approximately), we know that at least 340 Olav churches and Olav chapels existed, of which 288 were located outside Norway.
The pilgrim ways, now called the “St. Olav Ways -The Pilgrim Paths to Trondheim”, are a network of routes through Denmark, Sweden, Finland and Norway. There are dozens of different routes to take, from short one-day trips to journeys lasting several weeks. Plenty of information can be found on accommodation possibilities, attractions and re-supply options. Through this pilgrimage, the traveller can experience the joy of simple things and mix with locals from rural communities.
Statement from the Council of Europe:
“The myth of Saint Olav led thousands of pilgrims to travel for centuries across the European continent in search of his burial place. These movements caused intense cultural and religious exchanges, thus serving an important role in the construction of a European identity.”
Photo: Part of the Olavs-antemensalet from 1300. A copy can be seen in the Nidaros Cathedral, while the original is in the cathdral museum right by.