My new approach to the pilgrimage takes me from Munkeby to Stiklestad. It is on St. Olav’s Route, the pilgrim’s route leading from Selånger in Sweden, via Stiklestad, to Nidaros. It is said that this was the route taken by Olav Haraldsson on his last journey to the battlefield in 1030. Our journey, too, ends at Stiklestad, but we begin at the beginning.

The Monks of Munkeby

We start in Munkeby, an agricultural community in the borough of Levanger. Monks live there, as the name suggests. Munkeby Mariakloster is a Cistercian monastery established in 2009, which is when the new monastery was completed. Four French Cistercian monks live there. They speak Norwegian and have good contact with their neighbours. One reason for this is that the neighbouring farms supply the monastery with milk, from which Munkeby Mariakloster produces cheese. The monks brought the recipe and skills with them from their parent monastery in France.

On Håkon Fiskvik’s farm we find Munkeby Herberge (hostel). The old storehouse has been converted into a pilgrim’s hostel, and it is here I see and taste Munkeby cheese for the first time. The cheese has been praised by critics, and if you are a cheese connoisseur you will know why.

“We like to serve Munkeby cheese to our guests,” says Håkon Fiskvik. “We make a plate with cheese and a variety of crackers and bread, berries and jam. And the perfect drink with this is a beer we have had specially brewed to compliment the cheese, Munkeby Beer.”

After tasting the cheese, we make our way to the monastery, Munkeby Mariakloster. A small red house has been built at the entrance. It is a self-service shop where the cheese is sold.

Out and about

With a tummy full of delicious cheese and a head full of new impressions, my journey continues to the old monastery ruins. It is these that constitute the main reason why there is a new Cistercian monastery in Munkeby today. This is where we start our walk along the pilgrim’s route. The trouble with starting the day with cheese and a visit to the monastery is that I am so preoccupied with these things, that I forget today’s walk. It is 19 km from Munkeby to Stiklestad. We are walking half the way and driving the rest. Right, I’m ready!

We leave Munkeby, and the route follows a dirt road through the farmyard, then brief detours into the woods before the agricultural landscape opens up again. We pass wild raspberry bushes and fruit trees. The weather is getting rougher, but it doesn’t matter. We’re out on a walk and have experienced much today already. And there will be more, our destination, after all, is Stiklestad.

The Battle of Stiklestad in 1030

Scandic Stiklestad Hotel is one of many buildings in the area, and this is where we will be staying. The neighbours include Stiklestad Church, Stiklestad National Culture Centre, the mediaeval farm of Stiklestadir, the folk museum and the amphitheatre.

The Battle of Stiklestad in 1030, where Olav Haraldsson was killed, was “where it all began.” Our guide knows his history inside out and is an excellent medium. Arnstein Indahl takes us inside the church and tells us the whole story about Olav Haraldsson. The church is said to have been erected on the site where Olav Haraldsson fell on 29 July 1030. He lost the battle, but was nonetheless victorious. It’s complicated. But on Olav’s death, Christianity was established in Norway, and this was what Olav had been fighting for, for many years.

“The amphitheatre is the arena for the ‘Pageant of Holy Olav’ which is performed every summer,” Arnstein Indahl tells us. It brings to life one of the most famous battles in the history of Norway, so if you have forgotten your history, I recommend it.

It was not difficult to lay my head on the pillow that night. I enjoyed my new approach to a pilgrimage. The way is our goal, and today we have achieved many interesting goals.
Runa Eggen, 04.10.2012