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KING OLAV LOST the battle, but won the war. In 1030 Norway’s Christian monarch, Olav, was killed in a fight with a larger, pagan force. Although defeated, Olav was soon set up as a martyr and a saint. His ascension marked the end of the Viking age.
The cult of St. Olav spread across northern Europe, with up to 340 churches named for him from Britain to Russia. In Trondheim, Norway’s original capital, Olav’s tomb became the site of Nidaros Cathedral, Scandinavia’s largest medieval church. Its oldest bits date to the 12th century.
Pilgrimages to Olav’s grave became the done thing. For earnest Christians, a journey to Trondheim ranked with those to Rome, Jerusalem and Santiago de Compostela.
Traffic declined following the Reformation in 1537, but, says the 6th edition of Lonely Planet Norway, “in 1997 the Pilgrims’ Way—926km in all, counting alternative sections—was inaugurated, reviving the ancient pilgrimage route between Oslo and Trondheim [following,] wherever practicable, ancient documented trails.”
Trondheim’s Nidaros Pilgrim Senter (www.pilegrimsgarden.no) will stamp your pilgrim pass and give you a certificate if you’ve walked at least 100 kilometres of the Way. The centre also has simple accommodations.
The preserved battle site, at Stiklestad, 95 kilometres northeast of Trondheim, “is laid out rather like a theme park,” says the guidebook. There are exhibits on the battle, an outdoor folk village and a 12th-century church.
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