Progress along St. Olav’s Way: The penultimate leg—almost to Nidaros!

Photo: Gams / Wikimedia Commons Rennebu Kirke, one of only four Y-shaped churches remaining in Norway.

Photo: Gams / Wikimedia Commons
Rennebu Kirke, one of only four Y-shaped churches remaining in Norway.

Christine Foster Meloni
Washington, D.C.

I am moving right along on my virtual trek from Oslo to Trondheim. I have now completed all of the legs of the pilgrimage except the final one. I reached the municipality of Oppdal in Sør-Trøndelag County at the end of Leg G. I then set out from Oppdal on Leg H. I will relate my adventures on this penultimate leg. I traveled 40 miles from Opp­dal to Segard Hoel.

Vang Burial Ground
My first stop was the Vang Burial Ground, located about two kilometers outside of Oppdal. This is a remarkable site, the largest pre-Christian burial ground in Norway. It was used from A.D. 500 until around A.D. 1000 There are over 750 burial mounds and also some graves underground here.

Archeologists have excavated 15 of the graves and discovered many interesting items such as swords, axes, spears, knives, bronze jewelry, glass beads, and cooking utensils. Bronze plates from Ireland have also been found here, which is evidence of Viking raids to the west. The people buried in these graves were all cremated, and their worldly possessions were buried along with their ashes.
This burial ground is now a park with a marked path through it.

Fagerhaug Chapel
I visited another church, the Fagerhaug Chapel. Yes, churches do seem to be the main attraction along St. Olav’s Way.

This wooden church with 150 seats was built in 1921. It has a rather interesting history. It was originally called Elim Chapel and housed a Baptist congregation. Then in 1928 it was converted into a carpentry workshop. The Germans then occupied it from 1943-1945 during World War II.

In 1950 it became Fagerhaug Kapell, a Lutheran parish church. It underwent some modifications, which were finished in 1959.

My next stop was Hæverstølen, a lodge built to resemble a medieval pilgrim center. It has eight timber buildings constructed in the wooden block building style that was used back in the 16th and 17th centuries.

I decided to spend the night here. I stayed in a Sælehus (blessed house). It looked medieval on the outside but inside it had all of the modern comforts including electricity and a kitchen. I was able to buy some food in the lodge’s grocery store: bread, butter, spreads, and drinks. I bought a set of disposable sheets and pillow cases and slept in a bed. Many of the other pilgrims slept in their sleeping bags. I also had access to a shower, a WC, and a washing machine in another building.

Other buildings also had accommodations for pilgrims—a storehouse, smokehouse, cabin, smithy, and barn. I was pleased to find a library here with books on nature, culture, and the pilgrimage.

From the farmyard I had a wonderful view of the Pilgrim’s Way.

Photo: Clemensfranz / Wikimedia Commons Another red building, as inviting to pilgrims as any church—a train station on a line that connects to Trondheim. But the stalwart pilgrim keeps walking!

Photo: Clemensfranz / Wikimedia Commons
Another red building, as inviting to pilgrims as any church—a train station on a line that connects to Trondheim. But the stalwart pilgrim keeps walking!

Orkla River
I love rivers, perhaps because the Mississippi River ran through my hometown of Minneapolis. I was happy to see the Orkla River, considered one of the best rivers in Europe for salmon fishing. It is 179 miles long and goes from the Orkel Lake through Rennebu, Meldal, and Orkdal before emptying into the Trondheim Fjord basin at Orkanger.

As I am a vegetarian, I did not buy a fishing license to catch some salmon. It is a popular fishing spot, however, not only for Norwegians but also for fishermen from many other countries. The salmon are supposedly quite large!

Meslo Herberge (Hostel)
This hostel is very popular and it is open all year round. It is located on a functioning farm owned by Ingrid Meslo. She encourages her guests to interact with her animals—cows, sheep, chickens, and a barn cat. Pilgrims are also invited to help with the farm work. If you are there at the right time, you can help with lambing or drying hay. I wasn’t there at the right time!

The charge per night is 250 kroner per person. You can have breakfast and a packed lunch for 100 kroner and dinner for 150 kroner. At most overnight locations along the route, a packed lunch comes with the breakfast. This is very much appreciated!

This hostel is only half a kilometer away from the Orkla River. In addition to fishing, you can also rent a canoe to enjoy the river.

Berkåk is a village in the Rennebu municipality with a population of 900. As I entered the village from the south, I saw a bright red railway station. It was built in 1921, and it serves the Dovre Line between Oslo and Trondheim. Yes, I was almost tempted to catch a train to Trondheim but pilgrims don’t usually take trains so I resisted this urge. And I most certainly would have missed something special.

Berkåk Kirke
On the north side of the village I saw the Berkåk Kirke, a lovely white wooden church constructed in 1878, designed by architect Johannes H. Nissen.

Rennebu Kirke
The Rennebu Kirke is a parish church located on the banks of the Orkla River in the village of Voll in the municipality of Rennebu. It was built in 1669 and has the Y-shaped form. Only four of these churches remain in Norway, and this is the oldest of the four. The Y-shape was used to bring the pulpit and the congregation closer together. Men and women would sit in the separate arms of the Y.
The modern coat of arms of the Rennebu municipality, approved on February 19, 1982, depicts this Y-shape form.

Segard Hoel—Overnight Location
My last stop on this leg of my pilgrimage was the Segard Hoel, located between the hamlets of Jerpstad and Meldal. It is a farm that has been converted into a hostel. It offers rooms for rent at 250 kroner a night in a traditional farmhouse and in a smokehouse. The farmhouse has a living room, kitchen, bathroom with a shower, and a loft with several bedrooms. The smokehouse has a common room, a bathroom with shower, a bedroom, and a loft bedroom. A total of 18 beds are available in these two buildings. It is open all year round.

Meals are provided: breakfast for 75 kroner, packed lunches for 50 kroner, and dinner for 150 kroner.

I find the history of these overnight locations for pilgrims quite interesting. Farms started taking in pilgrims as early as A.D. 1030, soon after the death of St. Olav at Stiklestad. Then there were farms that began accommodating pilgrims in the 17th century. When the Pilgrim’s Way was clearly marked and made more official in 1997, there was a need for more hostels and, therefore, more farmers opened their farms to the modern-day pilgrims.

Close to my destination
I have now completed 335 miles of my pilgrimage and my final destination is only 52 miles away. Stay tuned for the final report! My previous progress reports can be in found in the following issues of the Norwegian American Weekly: December 26, 2014; January 23, 2015; February 13, 2015; March 6, 2015; April 3, 2015; May 8, 2015; June 12, 2015; July 3, 2015; August 28, 2015; Sept. 4, 2015; Nov. 6, 2015, and Nov. 13, 2015.

This article originally appeared in the Dec. 4, 2015, issue of the Norwegian American Weekly.

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Christine Foster Meloni

Christine Foster Meloni is professor emerita at The George Washington University. She has degrees in Italian literature, linguistics, and international education. She was born in Minneapolis and currently lives in Washington, D.C. She values her Norwegian heritage.