The history of St. Olav is an important cultural heritage for the Nordic region’s green belt. The project is aimed to increase St Olavsleden’s attractiveness by building a cross-border natural and cultural-historical infrastructure for pilgrims, and developing the partnership for sustainable and long-term growth. The starting point in the project has been that there is a natural added value across the border that must be developed and clarified, but it will be challenging to achieve this. The 58 km long trail from Selånger to Nidaros will be connected thematically and that the trail will be connected from start to finish.

In the spring of 2016, the church council in Selånger parish decided to implement a long-planned initiative to build a cultural and pilgrimage center in Selånger where St Olavsleden begins. The Pilgrim Center was to become a vital part of the infrastructure for walkers / pilgrims, but also a destination in itself for tourists from both near and far. During the late summer of 2016, the project manager contacted the pilgrim center at Stiklestad and the pilgrim center in Trondheim to find out if there was ground for cooperation. In the autumn of 2016, Selånger Pilgrim Center was granted pre-study funds to investigate, analyze and develop a concept for Selånger Pilgrim Center. At the same time, funds were also allocated to investigate whether there were interest and a common ground for a joint project between Selånger, Stiklestad and Trondheim.

After several meetings in the autumn of 2016 and the spring of 2017, it was decided to form a partnership and apply for joint project funding from the European Regional Development Fund (Interreg Sweden – Norway).

On 27 November 2018, the Supervisory Committee approved the project application.

Project owners have been Selånger parish, Stiklestad’s regional pilgrim center and Nidaros Pilegrimsgård (The Pilgrim Center in Trondheim). The steering group that has been responsible for ensuring that the project plan was followed has consisted of representatives from these three organizations. There have also been several others involved in the project group along the way with the various measures and activities.

During this project, many activities have been carried out to develop the infrastructure, communicate the history of St. Olav and strengthen St. Olavsleden as a connected link across national borders. Among other things, five «week-hubs», or pilgrim centers as they have chosen to call themselves have been established (Selånger, Ånge / Borgsjö, Bräcke / Gällö, Frösön and Åre). At the pilgrim centers, information, water, electricity, toilets and coffee are available to the pilgrims. A podcast has been made that contains guest lectures, the Pilgrim Podcast – In St. Olav’s footsteps. So far 3900 downloads from Spotify have been made: A concept has also been created for week long group-tours with a guide, this has not been possible to implement due to the pandemic, but the concept can be developed and used in other contexts. Other activities following the communication plan has been:

-9 guest lectures (230 participants)

– 32 occasions with hikes of between 5-15 km (1525 hikers)

– 102 visiting associations have received information about St. Olav, the trail and the pilgrimage (2,042 participants)

– 58 visiting companies and public organizations have received similar information (1,474 participants)

Two portable exhibitions have been developed, the first covering the time after Olav Haraldsson’s life, called «In the footsteps of Saint Olav». The second exhibition deals with the area and life in the 1000s, as well as Olav Haraldsson’s life. The latter contains both nature and culture. A digital, international database of Olav history/heritage has also been developed, with Stiklestad National Cultural Center as the prosjekt lead in this. They will also take over the responsibility and further development of this database in the future. A pilgrim bracelet has also been developed with meaningful charms / charms with design and material that symbolize different parts of the region and the legend.

The project has brought us closer together. We have moved from the first thoughts about a local project, directly linked to Selånger, to the fact that it is now completely natural to collaborate between Swedish and Norwegian partners along the entire St. Olavsleden. We see so clearly how our common Nordic history connects both countries and peoples. It feels right and natural to continue the collaboration that has started.

Throughout the project, there have been contacts with Finnish stakeholders about the possibility of extending the route to the east. For the coming program period, several announcements have been made after the end of the project period, including Interreg Aurora.

Selånger parish in Sweden, Kvarnen Samkommun and Pargas Municipality in Finland and the National Pilgrim Center in Norway plan to apply for pre-study funding to investigate the possibility of carrying out a project aimed at bringing the Nordic countries closer together before 2030.