St Olav Waterway – it’s official!

The St Olav Waterway was officially opened yesterday! And, as the milestone waymarker reminds us, its only 1200km from Turku Cathedral to the shrine of St Olav at Nidaros Cathedral, Trondheim. In the Middle Ages this was Northern Europe’s most popular pilgrimage destination … and now the St Olav Waterway, linking to the St Olav Way in Sweden, means it’s possible to walk there as a pilgrim once again!

Yesterday was a day of celebration and thanks. So many people – at so many levels – have been involved in making the dream of the St Olav Waterway pilgrim route a reality. There was a fantastic seminar held right next to Turku Cathedral yesterday, and it was a privilege and a joy to be part of that.

Two highlights;

Firstly, the amazing musicians Sofia Sahlin and Olle Liender. The way Sofia had researched the saints of the region, in particular St Anna (Novgorod), St. Brigitte, and the music and theology of Hildegard of Bingen in addition to the patron saints of the Nordics St Henrik (Finland) St Eric (Sweden) St Knut (Denmark) and of course good old St Olav of Norway. The music chosen from different areas along the pilgrim route was amazing, and I loved the way she opened her first session … with a recording of the chimes in Nidaros (which Olle then picked up ‘live’) It was beautiful but also resonated at a deeper level.

Secondly, the passion and enthusiasm of Åsa Ringbom who reflected on the medieval art on the pilgrim route through the Finnish archipelago, the paintings, statues and stained glass works depicting St Olav on the way.

Thirdly, the words shared by Bishop Björn Wikstöm on hospitality, particularly the hospitality of strangers, was spiritually moving and inspiring too.

Today a group set out on the first leg of the St Olav Waterway … hopefully without bikes hahaha … but also, wonderfully, a pilgrim from Portugal, who set out from Turku Cathedral at Easter is due to arrive at Nidaros this weekend too. I can only imagine his JOY!

(More maps here)

My friend and I will walk the first three legs of the St Olav Waterway immediately after midsummer. In the meantime I’ll feast on the words shared at the seminar, keep up the walking, and study those maps a bit better!

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