Pilgrim passports and pilgrim stamps are a long-standing part of the Christian pilgrim tradition. The pilgrims of old would often carry a passport that the priest would stamp to certify that the holder was a true pilgrim. Showing the passport also made it easier to get a bed for the night. Years ago, carrying a pilgrim passport meant that you could wander freely around Europe without being stopped by rules and borders. The stamps in the passport also helped to record those journeys that were more of a penance hike.
How are they used today?
Still today, a pilgrim passport is a record of your journey. It has space for stamps that you collect during the trip. Nowadays, the passport and stamps are more of a symbol of the journey and a fun souvenir – but above all, a way to prove that you have hiked at least the last 100 kilometers to Nidaros or biked at least 200 kilometers. That’s how you gain your diploma-Olav’s letter which you collect at Pilegrimsgården right next to Nidaros Cathedral in Trondheim. The passports used today can still be signed and blessed by a priest before the start of the journey.
There are different kinds of stamps. The important thing is that they in some way indicate the place you have walked through. You can collect a stamp at your accommodation, in churches and other places along the trail. About two stamps per day is enough so ask at the places you stay, where you buy food or the restaurants you pass along the way if they have a stamp. In several unmanned places, the stamp is placed in a red post box or small wooden cupboard. There’s a variation of the stamp that was created for the re-opening of the trail in 2013, you’ll find it at many of the accommodation places.
Where can you get a pilgrim passport?
You can buy a St. Olavsleden pilgrim passport for a symbolic amount at all tourist information offices in Sweden along the trail, as well as in the parish of Selånger, at the cultural centre in Stiklestad (kulturcentrat i Stiklestad) and at Nidaros pilegrimsgård in Trondheim.
Pilgrim diploma– Olav’s letter
Olav’s letter dates back to the same time as the old European pilgrim documents. The illustrations are from the shrine in Hedal, Norway (1250) and show St. Olav and the pilgrim apostle St. Jacob in Santiago, Spain. St. Jacob is the universal pilgrim. There’s a sculpture of him in Nidaros Cathedral with his typical hiking equipment: a hat, staff, bag and pilgrim conch shell. Olav’s letter also contains a simple map with a number of different pilgrim trails. This is to illustrate that Nidaros can be considered in the same context as the pilgrim trails in Rome and Santiago de Compostela.