|When Olav Haraldsson fell at the Battle of Stiklestad on 29 July 1030 during an attempt to win back the kingdom from which he had previously been ousted, loyal Vikings took his body and buried it in a secret place. Some years later the scene changes. The brutal Olav Haraldsson who had tried to Christianise his heathen subjects by means of terror and violence is resurrected as a saint! His remains are retrieved and placed above the altar in a church in Nidaros.
Strange things begin to happen there. Invisible bells ring; altar candles self-ignite; lame, blind and sick people who come to Nidaros return home cured. Soon people are flocking to Nidaros to be cured, to receive absolution and to find peace of mind. In 1070, construction is started on what will become the magnificent Nidaros Cathedral in Trondheim. The cathedral was completed around 1300 and is today one of Norway’s most splendid medieval monuments. Pilgrims came to Nidaros from all over Europe. Pilgrimages had long been a common practice on the Continent, and there was a well-organised network of roads and inns.
The most important destinations were Jerusalem, Rome and Santiago de Compostela. The fact that Nidaros had also become a place of pilgrimage was a sign that the recently Christianised Scandinavia was now part of the European community, a community dominated by the Catholic Church, which was the European supranational authority of that period. The beginning of the 16th century brought the Reformation, and Lutheran state churches were established in the Scandinavian countries. The worship of saints was forbidden, as were pilgrimages to Nidaros.
Knowledge of these pilgrim journeys was gradually lost, but a number of monuments were preserved along the roads used by the pilgrims. Prior to Trondheim’s 1000th anniversary in 1997, steps were taken to mark the old routes. The first pilgrim route – from Oslo to Trondheim (926 km) – was opened in time for the anniversary. In the following years, a further five routes were opened, making a total of more than 2000 km of marked tourist routes. As far as possible the routes still follow the original, historical pilgrim roads.