The purpose of St. Olav Festival in Trondheim is to reestablish and strengthen Trondheim as a national ecclesiastical and cultural center
Every year around Olsok Trondheim is filled with festivity and street life, concerts, lectures, pilgrimage, services, free events and touching experiences. This year is the 52nd time the festival is arranged. Ever since Olav Haraldsson was made a saint in the Middle Ages, Trondheim has been an important goal for pilgrims. St. Olav Festival continues to make Trondheim visible as a place for values which includes and embraces. The festival has a rich and varied program for both adults and children. We want to give you experiences which bring joy and reflection.
Olav Haraldsson died in the battle at Stiklestad in 1030 when he tried to Christianize Norway. The body was taken to Trondheim and buried by the river Nidelven. A church was built where Olav was taken ashore – Olavskirken. Later people experienced miracles at Olav’s grave. He was worshipped as a saint, and through centuries pilgrims from all over Europe came to the services in Nidaros Cathedral.
St. Olav Festival carries on the tradition which in the modern times started in 1962 when St. Olav Festival was established. During the festival there is an extensive programme in Nidaros Cathedral, and pilgrims from far and near choose to visit one of the few pilgrim goals in Northern Europe.
In the Middle Ages the custom was to stay awake the night before an important solemn festival. The main celebration of Olsok is during the day and night from 28 to 29 July – a time for meditation in the heritage of Olav.
During the Middle Ages it was common to open important church holidays with a night without sleep. The main Olsok celebration lasts around the clock from 28 July to 29 July – 24 hours of immersion into the heritage of St. Olav.
Olsok celebrates the memory of the death of Olav Haraldsson in the battle at Stiklestad 29 July 1030. Olavsvaka has its origin from the Catholic period, when there was a tradition of staying awake and say prayers through the night. In spite of the prohibition of worshipping all the saints and have services during the nights in the reformation, Olsok continued as a festival in the popular tradition. Olav continued to live as a holy king in legends and customs all over the country until the Olsok Festival was revitalized at the celebration of the 900th anniversary of his death in 1930.
29 July – the day of Saint Olav – was the big festival in Trondheim. Therefore the early hours of the day – Olavsvaka – was important. At present The Holy Day starts with the prayer Vesper on 28 July. In the afternoon 28 July there are pilgrimages from different places in the city. Olavsvaka starts with a service in Nidaros Cathedral in the beginning of the night. All through the night there are prayers every hour. At several meditation places in the cathedral it is possible to go deeper into the Christian message of Olav’s heritage. The prayer Laudes (morning song) early in the morning 29 July is for some people the end of the night and for others the beginning of the day.
On 3 August 1031 Olav Haraldsson became Saint Olav. The day has the name “Translatio Olavi”, based on the election of Olav.
Snorre Sturlason writes in his saga: «Twelve months and five days (Aug. 3, A.D. 1031), after King Olav’s death his holy remains were dug up, and the coffin had raised itself almost entirely to the surface of the earth; and the coffin appeared quite new, as if it had but lately been made. When Bishop Grimkel came to King Olav’s opened coffin, there was a delightful and fresh smell. Thereupon the bishop uncovered the king’s face, and his appearance was in no respect altered, and his cheeks were as red as if he had but just fallen asleep. The men who had seen King Olav when he fell, remarked also that his hair and nails had grown as much as if he had lived on the earth all the time that had passed since his fall.»
«After the bishop’s recognition, with the king’s approbation and the decision of the Thing, it was determined that King Olav should be considered a man truly holy; whereupon his body was transported into Clement’s church, and a place was prepared for it near the high altar. The coffin was covered with costly cloth, and stood under a gold embroidered tent. Many kinds of miracles were soon wrought by King Olav’s holy remains.
In the sand-hill where King Olav’s body had lain on the ground a beautiful spring of water came up and many human ailments and infirmities were cured by its waters. Things were put in order around it, and the water ever since has been carefully preserved. There was first a chapel built, and an altar consecrated, where the king’s body had lain; but now Christ’s church stands upon the spot. Archbishop Eystein had a high altar raised upon the spot where the king’s grave had been, when he erected the great temple which now stands there; and it is the same spot on which the altar of the old Christ church had stood. It is said that Olav’s church stands on the spot on which the empty house had stood in which King Olav’s body had been laid for the night. The place over which the holy remains of King Olav were carried up from the vessel is now called Olav’s Road, and is now in the middle of the town. The bishop adorned King Olav’s holy remains, and cut his nails and hair; for both grew as if he had still been alive.»