Known as St. Olaf or Hellig Olav, Olaf II Haraldson (c. 975-1030), is the patron saint of Norway. Typical of the era in which he lived, Olaf’s reputation and political clout was based upon his prowess as a warrior. One of Olaf’s primary military accomplishments was the overthrow of Danish rule, and establishment of a Norwegian monarchy. It was, however, Olaf’s encouragement of the Christian faith through the introduction of English missionaries, and his religious code of 1024, the first Norwegian legislative act, that secured his legacy.
Olaf was baptized in 1010 in Rouen, France, and this experience determined much of his later actions. Overthrown in 1028 by members of the Norwegian nobility who were sympathetic to the more distant rule of the Danish king Canute, Olaf traveled to Russia in exile. He returned in 1030, seeking to reclaim his throne, but was killed in battle at Stiklestod, Norway on July 29, 1030. At the time of his death and in the year that followed, numerous miracles were attributed to Olaf, and a cult quickly evolved at his burial place in Trondheim, Norway. Olaf was quickly canonized, and Nidaros Cathedral endured as a place of pilgrimage in the Nordic world.
The S:T Olavsleden traces the route of Olaf’s final journey, beginning on the east coast of Sweden at Selågner, and continuing to his final battle at Stiklestod, and burial at Trondheim. It has now been developed as a modern walking route in which one can not only follow the steps of a medieval saint, but also enjoy the unique natural qualities of Sweden and Norway, and learn about that area’s cultural and historical traditions.