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.
Correction in the guidebook:
In the guidebook S:t Olavsleden – a pilgrims path in northern Scandinavia tells you that you can walk 10 miles along any part of the trail to get the diploma. That’s not right. You must pass at least 10 of the last miles towards Nidaros to get the diploma. We apologize for any misunderstandings with this.
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.
Show your Pilgrim passport and get 20% off at Jamtli
When showing your pilgrim pass, you have a 20% discount on the entrance fee to Jamtli Historieland and Museum in Östersund. You can also buy the Pilgrim Pass at Jamtli. Read more about Jamtli at jamtli.com
The Överhogdal Tapestries
These textiles are the crown jewels of Jamtli’s collections. They are a fascinating series of woven tapestries from the Viking Age. Each of the weaves is covered by figures of people, horses and wild animals, as well as legendary creatures. They hurry from right to left in rows, passing houses, churches and ships on their way. The motives and symbols have been interpreted in many different ways over the years.
Some people believe that the tapestries show the story of the missionary Staffan bringing Christianity to Härjedalen. Others see scenes from the Völsunga saga. The latest theory is that the images are about the end of the world – known as Ragnarök in Norse mythology, the Apocalypse in Christianity.
It is undoubted that the tapestries show motives connected with both old Norse and Christian beliefs. They were woven in a period of transition between the two faiths, a fact that makes them even more exciting to our imagination.
They were found in a shed by the church in Överhogdal in Härjedalen in 1910. First believed to date from the middle ages, C14 test conducted in 1991 proved the different parts of the tapestries to date from between 800 and 1100 AD. This means that they were made during the Viking era.