|In Trondheim lies the the world´s northermost cathedral. During medieval times it was a principal pilgrimshrine containing the remains of St. Olav. He was Norway´s first martyr and became the country´s patron saint. St. Olav was known and revered well beyond the borders of his native country, out of the 45 Olav churches on the british Isles 16 still survive.|
The Pilgrim traffic lasted for 500 years but ceased after the reformation which reached Norway in 1537. Even so, this is a hidden chapter in Norway's history. Limited archeological findings and written documents can be blamed for this lack of knowledge.
In 1992 the Ministry of Environment decided to retrace and waymark some of the most important pilgrim roads to Trondheim.
Two routes were selected for signposting: Gudbrandsdalen from Oslo and one from Sweden.
The responsibility for restoring the pilgrimroads was given to the Directorate for Cultural Heritage and the Directorate for Natural Heritage. The two directorates had - however -no experience in recreating spiritual routes.
An important part of the ancient pilgrim route between Oslo and Hamar (see map) was not implemented in this project mainly because the landscape had suffered from ugly urbanisation and industrial plants. Parts of this area are called Groruddalen, it is named "Soweto" by the media because of the unattractive suburban surroundings.
Beeing more focused on the traditional aspects of secular hiking and tourism, the Directorate for Cultural Heritage decided to create a pilgrim track by making a big detour from Oslo straight west into areas of more attractive scenery. In addition; the information from the authorities was misleading, giving people the impression that this was a important historical pilgrim route.
To us, this was unacceptable for many reasons. By depriving the people in Groruddalen of their pilegrim history we felt this was a cultural degradation of an urban community counting more than 110 000 people.
Inspired by the ideas of the "Sacred Land Project" we strongly pointed out the neccessity to preserve the history and tradition whatever changes the landscape had gone through. We also stressed the neccesity of preserving what was left of green plots. We managed to create a strong public opinion in our favour with the help of the local newspaper, national TV and the former Minister of Enviroment, who happened to be a native son of Groruddalen.
Eventually, our organization have managed to get an offical acceptance to establish the ancient pilgrim route through Groruddalen and further north to Hamar, (appox. 130 km).
In this way we have saved large portions of the original track and created a process of increasing awareness of cultural values in an area of negative reputation.
Our project had a strong sense of environmental and spiritual consideration, we focused on matters making the pilgrimage relevant in today's modern society.
Our next step is to create a network of pilgrim routes connecting Oslo with some of the neigbour towns.