A slacker pilgrim’s guide to Nidaros cathedral in Trondheim

Did you know Norway has a pilgrimage?  Well, I didn’t until we stumbled on it.

The pilgrimage is called St. Olav Ways—“ways” because you can choose one of several routes, as long as you end up at Nidaros Cathedral in Trondheim.

Here I am at Old Aker church in Olso next to kilometer marker 639 (that is 639K from Nidaros), and in front of Nidaros at marker 0, feeling like a slacker for getting there by bus instead of on foot.


The tomb of St. Olav the Holy (the guy who converted Norwegians to Christianity) was right here, underneath the church. The present building was begun in the 12th century and took several hundred years to build.  (See that corner of a building sticking in on the left?  There’s a free toilet in there.  You’re welcome.)

Having come here on our accidental pilgrimage to see the northernmost Gothic cathedral in the world, HOB and I did our usual thing; looking all around and inside the church, studying the statues with a monocular, picnicking on a bench in front of it, and finally, attending vespers.

Here are a few details of the facade sculptures and gargoyles:

On the left, Mr. Pilgrim himself—St. James, normally seen in pilgrimage churches of France and Spain.  On the right, Mr. I-Accessorize-with-Decapitated-Heads.


And my favorite: Mr. Aspiring Actor Headshot.

Pillar swallowers, because sword swallowers are so 11th century.

A couple more charmers….


And an accurate picture of my face when that other Gothic beauty, Notre Dame, was on fire last week.


There’s a museum in the archbishop’s palace next door with many fine original statues from the church, as well as a film detailing the heroic dedication of historians and artisans who have documented, preserved and restored Nidaros Cathedral over the years.  There’s also another museum with the usual tedious crown jewel stuff—oh look, the king had a cape with gold crowns embroidered all over it, you know, just in case he forgot he was king….barf.


While the Camino to Santiago de Compostela will always be my first love, I can feel the draw of the pilgrimage to Nidaros too.  While there would be fewer of my darling Romanesque churches to visit, the opportunity to walk through the outrageously spectacular landscape of Norway would be its own sort of spiritual experience.

And of course, faithful pilgrims are rewarded with this vision at the end of their long journey:



How we got to Trondheim : bus from Røros.
Where we slept: Stine’s Apartment. Price: €57 for a double. Recommended: yes.


  1. Impressive facade that, bigger than the Notre Dame. But then the Norwegians don’t have good cheese.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. We didn’t do a deep dive into Norwegian cheese, though a type of cream cheese called Snowfrisk was handy for picnics.


      1. I think they have a goat cheese too.

        Liked by 1 person

    2. Snøfrisk is surely worth it and there’s a whey cheese, Brunost, that in small quantities is quite addictive! Not as many as France’s, yeah, but two more than the Brits!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I think i would be taking the bus…the knees don’t appreciate pilgrimages.///but what a spectacular cathedral.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It was lovely on the inside too, but no photos allowed. grrrrrrrr.


  3. That is certainly a grand finale. And looks like you had good weather. I’m kind of fixated with the image of you with a monocular studying the statues. As always, love your subtitles.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. We did get lucky with the weather—never even got our umbrellas out. The monocular was a gift from HOB’s boss. It works fine and takes up less room in the bag than binoculars. I like to lie on bench and look for a while, like a weirdo.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Right, I started reading this post and, as if on cue, Spotify put on Slayer, and I’m not a metalhead! Surprisingly the chopped heads, pillar eaters and that guy next to the gargoyle really got on with the noise. A Norwegian pilgrimage must be interest but I’d invest in a few weatherproofs before embarking on it…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh no, not Slayer! What is the deal with Norwegians and death metal anyway (maybe it is gargoyle and chopped heads?)

      I wouldn’t want to do the pilgrimage in winter, but late spring sounds about right, with good shoes and a rain jacket.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Well, this was a revelation! So impressive, that west front, and also reminiscent of Lincoln Cathedral with that statue-filled stone screen. Silly me thought that Norway was jusy filled with stave churches… 😁

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh you’re right—reminiscent of Lincoln Cathedral but not as ginormous.

      The real crux of the matter is not whether Norway is filled with stave churches but rather if those stave churches are open off season….that should be the subject of a future post.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Yay, looking forward to it! 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  6. What a shame no photos, will just have to google it…….very impressive worth a visit 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. There’s a lovely organ though we were there at the right days to hear it play.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. There nothing like organ playing in a church, even a small one when someone is practising, is lovely 🙂 you were very lucky 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  7. My only connection to Norway was when I worked for a German engineering firm..and I had to phone long distance occasionally on tech. support matters to my German colleague in Norway.

    We hear about Norway as better managing their oil royalties funds to support their universal social security system,…. better managed than Canada’s oil richness (which is dying now).

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You make a good point about the oil royalties, Jean—we did see mention of this, how the Norwegians are balancing the desire for infrastructure and social safety against saving for the future. I think both Norway and Canada are far ahead of the US when it comes to these matters.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. You might enjoy this blog from a French national living in Norway: https://afroginthefjord.com/

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh thanks! This blog is quite funny.


  9. The bus ride itself must have been magnificent! Loved the article!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh the bus rides in Norway were majestic! When we left Trondheim to travel to Alesund our bus went on to a ferry that crossed a fjord twice.


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