St. Olav’s Way
Oslo – Gjøvik/Hamar – Trondheim, Norway
End: Nidaros Cathedral, Trondheim
Distance: 401 miles (645 km)
Time: 32 days
Type: Overland Trails
In 1030 the exiled king of Norway, Olav II Haraldsson, was killed at the Battle of Stiklestad after returning to his beloved country from near Kiev in present-day Ukraine. He had fought in more than twenty battles and was just thirty-five years old when he died, a legend in his own time and a martyr in the making. The day after he was slain, his body was laid to rest in a simple wooden coffin and taken to the town of Nidaros (present-day Trondheim) and buried on the banks of the Nidelven River. When “signs and miracles” began to be reported there, he was made the country’s patron saint, and a small chapel was erected on the site. In 1070, construction of a new church, Nidaros Cathedral, commenced-by that time the so-called Cult of St. Olav had spread throughout the Nordic countries and into Europe, and so it became one of the most popular pilgrimage destinations in the Western world.
Today a variety of pilgrimage routes that trace various aspects of King Olav’s life can still be walked across the length and breadth of Norway, one of which is the demanding St. Olav’s Way. Mostly flat but quite strenuous, it begins in one of the oldest neighborhoods of Oslo. From there, the route passes by Lake Mimosa and up the Gudbrandsdalen Valley, across the Dovrehell Mountains and through the Oppdal and Gauldalen valleys into Trondheim and to the steps of its magnificent Nidaros Cathedral. Running mostly over old tracks and pathways, it is a trail that has been followed with little variation for more than 500 years. Today it continues to raise awareness of Norway’s origins and helps to ensure that the legacy of St. Olav never dies.