Pilgrim in an individualistic context

Kaj Noschis

Department of Architecture

Federal Institute of Technology

Lausanne (Switzerland)


(Please note: This is a provisional version of the text, without references, footnotes and illustrations to be added. English needs substantial editing).


Traditional pilgrimage may be compared to migratory bird movements: a collective repetitive and unquestioned urge to travel long distances with considerable effort. Among Christians, some Catholic groups experience pilgrimage in this way also today, with annual journeys to holy places like Lourdes, Fatima, Compostela. Among other Christians such as European Protestants, where the relationship to the spiritual dimension is predominantly individualistic, pilgrimage has lost its collective appeal afte r being stopped by the Reformation in early Sixteenth Century. Yet the effort of traveling (and particularly walking) long distances towards a spiritually significant place while surrounded by nature, its beauty and challenges, has recently gained attract i veness for numerous non-practising people also of Protestant and generally Christian origin. The paper considers this phenomenon and discusses possibilities for a systematic view. A correspondence might be suggested between moments of an inner (or search ed for inner) journey and those of an outer journey such as an effort-demanding spiritually oriented trek. In 1997 on the occasion of the 1000 years celebrations of Trondheim, efforts were made to reawaken the ancient pilgrim’s route from the South to the North of Norway. Pilgrim wanderings to St Olav’s shrine in Nidaros - built into a Gothic Cathedral (Trondheim’s Cathedral is the most Northern in the world) in the XIIth Century - began shortly after St Olav’s death in 1030 and lasted up to the Reformation in 1537. Today, with more touristic than religious ambitions the project of reopening the pilgim route has again become a reality in this Protestant county. This case is discussed in some detail.


Within Christianity, pilgrimage has through the centuries been a popular expression of belief periodically at odds with the Church. Pilgrimage grows spontaneously from hearsay - people being attracted in large numbers by places where miracles have bee n heard to have happened. Such a place becomes like a magnet. The Church will follow by canonizing and eventually declaring the saintity of a person and confirming the miraculous character of an event that gradually and often very rapidly has entered popular belief as extraordinary circumstances demonstrating the tangible presence of the divine. When the Church is slow to follow a conflictual situation may arise with pilgrims, a disagreement between religious authorities and the popular generating basis of the importance of the event. As long as it has not been solved the Church will consider it superstition instead of an expression of Christian faith. In entering popular history pilgrimage to a given place will continue from generation to generation u sually strengthened by new miracuolous events. Particular paths will become ´ the way ª to the aim. So not only attaining the place but also following a definite path will become conditions for fulfilling given pilgrimage.

The spiritual motives of Christian pilgrims in undertaking their often very long and demanding wanderings have been of different sorts: penance pilgrimage to be forgiven former sins, in the Middle Ages even explicitly as a form of punishment, votive p ilgrimage with the hope of being cured from diseases, thanksgiving pilgrimage for having been exhauced, to mention only most common ones. Pilgrims would mostly wander together by foot or by horse, blessed by the priest before departure and with instructio ns a bout prayers and rituals to be performed during the pilgrimage itself. Each pilgrimage has its calendar, a date or a period of the year when it is considered most appropriate to do it. In any circumstance the trip is a physical effort subject to natu re’s conditions, believed to favor an explicit quest for contact with God or his representatives. In fact the pilgrim’s path becomes itself the occasion for other miracles. In turn this becomes evidence for it being ´ the good way&nb sp;ª. Many of the major pilgrim paths in Europe have witnessed the building of important churches, monasteries and even cities as consequences of pilgrims’ gratefulness for such events. A part from such remarkable and tangible traces of pilgrims through the centuries, the social dimension of pilgrimage itself, feeling part of a group, sharing fears and joys, as well as exchanging information has always been very important. The stories related to miracles would find here their amplifiers and channels for diffusion. Among pilgrims and along the pilgrim’s path would also hide theifs and other malvolent people who would be a concrete danger for wanderers. Escaping the dangers of diffcult natural conditions and burglars would become reasons for gratefulness and signs of having passed succesfully the pilgrims’ trials.

In the Christian tradition Jerusalem - where Christ lived and died - became the first and foremost place for pilgrimage from the 4th century (A.D.) onwards, that is once it was believed that escavations had brought to light the cross that Jesus was crucified on. Rome, where Saint Peter was buried and that soon became the centre of the Christian world, would also become an aim for pilgrimage at appoximately the same time. With the Christianization of Europe other places would also become goals for pilgrimage as soon as events of a miraculous order would be manifested somewhere. From the 11th century St James de Compostela would impose itself as the most important pilgrimage aim in Europe. Paths from all over Europe would soon be leading to this place in North Western Spain. (Today there are considered to be nine main historical paths leading to Compostela from all over Europe).Through the centuries the Catholic Church in particular has cultivated the importance of such places. Birthplaces of important figures within the Catholic Church itself, such as, for instance, that of Pope John XXIII who died in 1963 have also become aims of pilgrimage again related to miraculous events having happened there.

On the other hand, even as recently as 1981 a new major pilgrimage has been imposed by popular belief in former Jugoslavia, people from all over coming to Medjuvorjde where according to the tales the Virgin Mary appeared to three young girls. However t his site has not yet been officially endorsed by the Church so it remains for the time being, although very popular, a pilgrimage that is adopted only by some communities within the Catholic Church. This is just an example of how pilgrimage often begins o utside the official Church before being recognized as part of the Churchs’ activities.

Certainly pilgrimage existed also before Christianity but has massively been adopted and incorporated into its practices. Probably some places for pilgrimage were such even before Christianity took them over. Be this as it may, there have been two peri ods in the Christian history of Europe when pilgrimage has lost of its attraction. After the Reformation in the 1530:s pilgrimage became ill considered in the parts of Europe that adhered to Protestantism. The father of Reformation, Luther, suggested the suppression of pilgrimage because it had men leave their tasks and families, often meet illicit temptations and made them spend their savings on the way. In Luther’s fight against indulgences as pra ctised by the Chrurch - inasmuch as the Church forg ave sins when it received appropriate gifts associated with religious rituals such as pilgrimages - these were probably also seen by Luther as inconvenient. As he had, before becoming the initiator of the Reformation, made a pilgrimage to Rome he had wit nessed a lot himself. So protestants, following Luther, would deny pilgrimage as an expression of faith : rather it was to be seen as lost working time for society. On the other hand the Counter-Refor mation would give rules for acceptable pilgrimages, admitting implicitly that excesses had been committed. Thus the Catholic Church in the late 16th century would still encourage pilgrimages although their importance with respect to indulgences was lessened. Practically this meant that while the North of Europe would stop pilgrimage the South and generally Catholic Europe would continue to practice it. The late17th century and 18th century saw again a crisis in pilgrimage when the Enlightment was accom panied by an important loss of interest for religion and the supernatural generally. Then in the 19th century, with Romanticism and traveling, spiritual preoccupations were again in the forefront and pilgrimage ´ was back ª. Now Nature had itself a major role as the place for visions an d emotions. Today we are still in the aftermath of this historical period. Yet, with greatly facilitated group-transportation there has been a tremendous quantitative increase in very organised forms of group pilgrimage that have almost taken over. Travel ing by air, train, bus and car are more common today than walking. In this perspective - although preparation for arrival may take place during the traveling - it is not anymore the wandering itself and its events that are central to the pilgrimage but be ing at the end point, reaching the aim.

In considering Northern Europe let us remind that even the official banning of pilgrimage did certainly not mean that the populations converted into P rotestantism would immediately give up practices that had existed for centuries. But among Protestan ts pilgrimages would loose their officially recognized character and become individual or small group wanderings. Gradually pilgrimage would thus loose its collective appeal and be perpetuated through more informal and isolated ritual wanderings. Only d uring this century, in parallel with a tremendous increase of popular tourism among Europeans, have Protestants again started to consider pilgrimage as a form of religious practice. This means that in an oecumenical spirit a pilgrimage by a protestant to a non-protestant destination is seen as an expression of Christian faith. But as within protestantism faith is basically an individual matter - of a personal relationship with God - pilgrimage is first of all an individual search. Hence the notion of effo rt and contact with Nature are of importance.

It should be added that during the last 30 years Europe has generally witnessed the birth and strengthening of an ecological consciousness - a concern with the conservation of Nature. This is entailing a major change of attitude. During the last centur ies the general attitude of Christians towards Nature has been to submit it , to exploit its resources for the bettering of human living conditions. There has been little regard for the consequences of this exploitation of natural resources on Nature it self. Human beings are there to dominate and use nature for their purposes. The realisation that some natural resources might come to an end and that on the other hand human beings were capable of doing so much harm to nature as to make some places unhabi table and dangerous for man himself has recently compelled Europeans to look at their relationship with Nature in different terms. Instead of dominating nature the issue is now gradually becoming to li ve in accordance with nature, to reduce or avoid pollu tion, to renew natural resources. This change of attitude had also an impact on Christians’ search for a closer relation to nature. While there has, since Romanticism in the early 19th century, a mong people having such possibilities, been an interest for traveling through beautiful natural landscapes and for enjoying mountains or sea, forests or natural parks, this interest is today much more general. Escaping with private cars or public transpo rtation means, inhabited and polluted cities during we ek-ends and vacations is almost a mass movement. Besides, physically quite demanding walks in Nature have also become popular among all age groups and particularly the young.

2. Trekking as a form of pilgrimage ?

Trekking might be defined a s ´ traveling by foot using as much as possible old tracks, paths and passages ª. The choosen path is then the trek itself. The wanderers are trekkers. Practised often with sophisticated light and pract ical equipment, as well as fo llowing pre-defined paths indicated on special maps - it is today a well established form of free-time activity with shops, magazines and travel agencies for its adepts. These paths are ancient ones - that have ´ tr aditionally ª been used by wanderers, generally joining small villages to each other or reaching places of particular interest for a group or community or then being paths through hunting, forest fruit or fishing areas. Today when such paths wo uld be along or close to ve ry trafficked or inhabited areas, new paths will be established to keep trekkers in the realm of wilderness. Trekking is certainly a way of getting away from harrassing urban life but it is in its more devoted forms quite deman ding itself as a physical effort. The point is to spend time in an uncontaminated nature, while carrying in a backpack all that is needed for sustainment during the wandering. The challenge is in distances to be covered daily, in the difficulty of the pa ths, in facing climatic and weather conditions, while the pleasure is in meeting untouched and unspoilt Nature, its flora and fauna, in encountering unique views and in good company. The aim is to be on the path that "is good" for oneself. When deciding f or a trek considerations on the path’s characteristics are predominant: the aim and pleasure is the the traveling and what happens during the walk. A plan for distances to be covered, for resting points and meals is generally pre-established and t he n followed. The goal of the path is not itself to be considered of major importance except for precisely being the end of the effort, the endpoint of the trek.

As a main aspect is to get away from the daily urban environment, its constructions, rythm,demands and offers, a trek is generally away from man-made environments. Restplaces or help in passing waterplanes are however welcome. These places are generall y occasions for meeting other trekkers, sharing experiences and questions.

Natur e gives the rythm for the trek: changing weather conditions as well as the difficulty of the path to be followed, will decide the progression. This is an important aspect in trekking and invites directly the trekker to be in dialogue with Nature a nd hims elf. In fact, although the term of inner dialogue is not necessarily evoked in discussing trekking, all wanderers will acknowledge that they are also experiencing a confrontation with themselves.

Although trekking is primarily walking towards natu re, looking for nature and finding harmony in it, there is also an inner dimension to wandering - that can be phrased using the same terms: walking towards oneself, looking for oneself and finding harm ony in oneself. This is often related to what happens during the trek: encounters, escaping dangers, being taken by nature’s beauty, etc. Many trekkers will explicitly say that wandering is of spiritual significance for them. In fact, the description that we have just given comes close to what has alwa ys being happening in pilgrimage except for the lack of overt religious intentions. Prayers and other explicitly religious rituals are substituted by lay practices: writing a journal, astonishment in f ront of a natural spectacle, sharing emotions around a camp-fire. During a trek these moments are very meaningful for the participants, they ´ connect ª them with Nature and themselves. Thus, a good trek is to find oneself in harmony w ith Nature and its events. To ´ be connec ted ª, to ´ feel in syntony ª with the surroundings. Let me submit a personal view in this respect. If psychologists discuss pilgrimage - or trekking for that matter - out of their own experience or more generally, they will talk about ´ a journey of transformation ª, where wandering changes oneself, to the outer journey corresponds an inner transformation. I believe that this is not the point about pilgri mage nor about trekking. To be a pilgrim or a trek ker is to be looking for ´ the good path ª, to feel that one is in a good place at the right time, that ´ my life is in syntony with the forces around me ª. It is no t about becoming someone new, about finding the s elf, but about ´ feeling oneself on a good track ª, about being connected to oneself, so that when one returns home after the pilgrimage the feeling is to be able to continue ´&nbs p;on a track that is right for me ª.

3. Nidaros

We will now consider in some detail one of the high-places of Christian pilgrimage in the Middle Ages but where, due to Reformation’s impact, pilgrimage was not anymore allowed after 1537. We will then see how trekking is today contributing to the comeback of this pilgrimage, and speculate on how these two practices are to be related. The Cathedral of Trondheim, officially named Christ’s Church in Nidaros (former name of the Trondheim region), is the most Northern Cathedral in Europe. It is l ocated in the Northern part of Norway, a country that was progressively Christianized after the year 1000 but where Protestantism was imposed soon after the Reformation in 1537. Trondheim is covered by snow during approximately half of the year. Even toda y it is extremely impressive and in all seasons to arrive in front of the huge Gothic Cathedral in a small city where a large part of the other buildings are wooden. Nidaros Cathedral’s history goes back to the 11th century. In 1070 a small wooden c h apel was demolished and work began on the construction of a stone church on the spot where, according to tradition, Norway’s patron saint King Olav Haraldsson was buried after his death in a battle in 1030. The coffin was brought from the distant b at tleground to Nidaros - name of the town at that time - and buried in the sand beside the river. Nidaros Cathedral’s high altar stands today in this place. Olav had been baptized allegedly in Rouen (France) during one of his Viking expeditions and as he gained power in Norway in 1016 he actively tried to convert Norwegians to Christianity. In 1028 Olav had to flee the country chased by a Danish invader King and he died in a battle when trying to come back and re-establih his power. Yet the country bec ame totally Christianized soon afterwards. Only short time after his burial people started talking about miracles which were brought about with the help of the King. He was soon declared a saint and in the sand were he had first been buried a spring a ppea red. It was water that would cure its drinkers. His coffin had by then been moved to what was also the first church that was built in town, the already mentioned wooden chapel. Soon great numbers of pilgrims flocked to Olav’s shrine in Nidaros . Ac ross Norway other churches were dedicated to St Olav and for instance in London 6 churches were dedicated to St Olav before the end of the 11th century. There are innummerable accounts of the miracles worked by Olav during his life-time travels acro ss Eur ope and there are many springs connected with his name. The Saint’s day of martyrdom - his death in battle - was July 29 and impressive amounts of pilgrims would invade Nidaros on that date. There was also a procession carrying the saint’ s reliq uary, so that all attendants would have a chance to see a glimpse of it.

During the 13th century the town, due to increased pilgrimage and the establishment of an archibishopric, became also an important commercial centre. The great Cathed ral builder was Nidaro’s second archibishop Erlendsson from 1161 to 1188. He intr oduced Gothic architecture to Norway. In the following century Nidaros retained its position as the country’s religious and cultural centre but dramatic events too k place. In the 14th century, when the nave and most of the church had been completed, pestilence reached the country and it is estimated that 70% of Nidaro’s 3000 inhabitants died. The situation remained difficult for two centuries - admittedly pilg rimage also diminished - and construction of the cathedral was interrupted. The Reform ation was imposed to Norway in 1537 by the Danish-Norwegian king ruling over the country at that time and against the will of the Norwegian archbishop. The king took ov er as the head of the Norwegian church. With the reformation an end was also put to the cult connected with St Olav. Pilgrimage was not allowed anymore. Nidaros’ Cathedral would further decay in importance and the construction itself would suffer. I t was then only in the 19th century that restoration work began on the Cathedral. This corresponded with Norways new independence. Yet there would not be talk anymore about pilgrimage in this Protestant county.

4. Follow the pilgrim’s footstep s.

In 1997 the city of Trondheim celebrated its 1000th birthday. On that occasion a pilgrims’ route for wanderers was ´ reopened ª. It was the result of an important public effort as it now became possible to wander from the cap ital city Oslo to Trondheim and cover the almost 1000 kms separating the two cities on mainly mountain paths. During the preceeding years efforts had been made to rediscover the old pilgrim roads and they were now proposed for wanderings toward Nidaros. A s part of Trondheim’s millenium celebrations, there were now again groups of Christians explicitly doing a pilgrimage. But given the protestant context and county the insistence is on a journey through impressive natural landscapes ´ that m ight also become an innerly significant experience ª. The emphasis for the larger potential public is more on trekking than pilgrimage. The ´ recreational and touristic ª character of the wandering is stressed. I will shor tl y refer to a leaflet edited in Trondheim on this occasion, a brochure called ´ Follow the pilgrim’s footsteps ª.

When you read the leaflet it becomes clear that the question is foremostly about a ´ souvenir&nb sp;ª relation to ancient pilgrimages: to wander today is a way of getting closer to pilgrims of the old times, to eventually share what they saw and to experience places they wandered through. This difference is emphasized: to wander to Nidaros today is to do it ´ in the pilgrims’ footsteps ª, not as pilgrims.

The leaflet tells about wanderings along pilgrim roads. ´ The outings will give a historical retrospective view upon the first wanderers and settlement s. Discoveries of sites and graves are visited. The guides give information about the mult itude of nature eg flora and fauna, species of stone and minerals in the mountains. The wanderers will be people interested in nature, cultural history and joint a ctivity ª. The leaflet will then give details about the trekking: daily stretches, equipment needed, provisions and lodging conditions.

In fact along the path to Trondheim today you will meet many trekkers and only few of them will even mention that this was formerly an important pilgrimage. What makes the pilgrim’s route from Oslo to Trondheim particularly attractive is its loca tion in almost untouched nature. Nordic countries are in this respect particularly favoured as there ar e still very large territories that are in the wilderness. So, given what we said above about trekking is the way to Nidaros not an interesting example of how following ancient paths wanderers could be having experiences and emotions very similar to those of their forefathers almost 1000 years ago, although this is not explicitly thought of in such terms ? When the pilgrim or the trekker feel that they a re ´ where they should be wandering ª, that is they feel connected with Cosmos or Nature, are these two figures not superposable ?

Let us have a closer look at what is similar and what is different between a pilgrim of the Middle Ages and a trekker of today. We mentioned that pilgrimages had manifold aims for the pilgrim. In or der to attain them he would accomplish the pilgrimage according to certain rules and religious practices . Yet, generally the pilgrim was searching to be somehow touched by God and feel that he or she was in contact with God through this experience. Parti cularly during the Middle Ages this would be a guaran tee for a good after-life. Today pilgrimage for believing Christians has still the same meaning although the concern is primarily with life on earth and feeling that one’s life is in accord with what is expected by the Church and oneself. Thus the v alue of pilgrimage as bringing the pilgrim in closer contact with God is particularly stressed. Psychologically this can be phrased as ´ being on a meaningful path ª where one is in harmony with oneself and the surroundings.

5 . Inner and outer journey


The Ancient Testament is replete with images of wanderings, to be in search of the promised land, to leave for an unknown destination because this is asked by God, in fact life on earth is described as a jour ney toward the celestial kingdom. Christ in the New Testament is similarly described as traveling to Jerusalem, as wandering in the desert and suffering in carrying the cross for his own crucifixion on Golgotha. These are all very important scriptures in the Christian tradition and suggest when int erpreted more symbolically parallels with our outer life but also with our inner search. Let it be added that such images are not the exclusivity of Judaeo-Christian sciptures.

To engage in a search thro ugh the unconscious suggests the image of a journey, of traveling through unknown paths, meeting unknown forces and having unknown experiences. It is an inner journey in search of better knowledge of oneself. Now, an outer jou rney can connect the wandere r with his inner journey, when, for instance, she or he feels that she or he is ´ on the right path ª. Psychologically this is probably a very meaningful aspect.

In the Eranos Conference of 1933 a paper by Erwin Rousselle entitl ed ´ Spiritual guidance in contemporary taoism ª comments, among other points, on a stone tablet to be found in the Monastery of the White Clouds (Po-yun-kuan) near B eijing. I will let Rousselle speak: ´ It is evident even t o the layman that (it) represent(s) a lengthwise section of a human (male) body, the head and torso. The outline of a head seems to emerge quite distinctly, and on the right side the spin al column can be seen; the heart, too, is recognizable and under it certain allegorical representations, presumably concerning the other inner organs and their functions. But on closer examination we see that the whole is allegorical; nowhere is there any realistic representation, two main pulses meet at a point where th e face should be, but there is no outline of a face. The bones are not represented as such but as cliffs, and nine peaked cliffs appear at the summit of the skull, where (in this age !) th ey cannot signify bones (or horny scales). Hence we have pure alle gories: In the head we have Lao-tse and under him a Buddhist monk; farther down the Cowherd and the Weaving maiden; the plowman and the two water-wheel treaders are also in evidence. Over t he head hangs the pearl; in the forehead in the place of the third, ´ heavenly eye ª the red sun, and opposite, at the optic center in the back of the head, the moon. In the mouth we discern a pond with bridge, at the neck a pagoda, un der the heart a row of trees, in the region of kidneys a representation of the supreme ultimate, under it a pond with fiery water, a flaming caldron (tripod) etc.; in short, we find ourselves in an exceeedingly strange, poetic landscape, embracing heaven and earth and the Stygian waters, a landscape representing man with his three selves, spiritual, psychic and animal. For an understanding of living Taoism and its doctrine of eternal rejuvenation, longevity, and the creation of an immortal self in the fo r m of a metaphysical ´ diamond body ª (chin-kang shen or Skr. vajrakaya) - all through meditation - we must examine all the physiological (?) starting points shown as this allegorical landscape of heaven, earth, and underworld. For ju st as Aeneas descended unharmed to the Acherontic waters of the underworld and returned illumined and fortified, so, it is promised, will the ´ friend of the tao ª (tao yu) find in his own self the true sources of life, health, eternit y, and wisdom, provided only he descend - equipped with the proper light - and know the way back again; but if he does this, he will also be able to ascend to the celestial regions ª (op.cit. p.76-77).

This is a very explicit example, fro m taoism, of an inner journey completed even by a map of the human body that insists on geographical parallels - to be viewed symbolically but nevertheless expressed geographically. It is an inner meditational journ ey with a description of its ´&nb sp;regions ª. It is at the same time a representation of the path of life.

On the other hand real wandering may be viewed as a prallel to the inner journey, an occasion to reflect on life’s meaning, that what I am doing is the right thing do do, if where I am is ´ a good path at a good time ª, a feel ing of syntony with the surroundings.

Psychologically the aim of pilgrimage is probably still today fundamentally very similar to what it was centuries ago. T he question has been and is about experiencing a wandering where outer reality speaks to and awakens inner reality. Psychologically I undertake a pilgrimage when I have lost the contact with myself - or when I want to explore it further or re-inforce it. Traveling towards the end-point of the pilgrimage is an image of reaching the centre, ´ the centre of the world  0;, and symbolically it might thus reconnect us with the centre in ourselves. It ´ works ª because I share with others the conviction of ´ contact with God ª and its power of ´  regeneration ª b y tending towards a specific place.

As we discussed above trekkers will talk about their experiences in similar te rms, although avoiding explicit references to Christian religion. If we use psychological terminology, the search and meaningfulness of trekking becomes almost identical with pilgrimage. The image of an outer journey related to an inner journey seems most relevant. Specifically, by deciding to do a trek we embark on a journey that is an end in itself, a wandering per se. This characteristic probably opens the symbolic parallel between inner and outer journey. As the finality is the wandering itself I to some extent ´ become one with the surrounding world ª : what my eyes see helps me to see deeper in myself, what I feel inside helps me to see furthe r with my eyes. Eventually I can feel and understand that ´ I am on a good track ª. And this is a theme that seems universal for spiritual traditions: to be in syntony with the surrounding world. It might also be one meaning of the abo ve mentioned stone tablet: to travel inside oneself, is like traveling in the outside world. In discussing trekking we shall also remind the physical characteristics of its environement: located in nature away from places transformed by men, the paths of f er trekkers encounters with Nature as such in conditions where human beings have to accept that they are greatly dependent on whatever nature’s forces decide to confront them with. These might again symbolically be viewed as encounters with deep in st inctual and or spiritual aspects of oneself, particular emotions that open specific venues for inner search.


6. Conclusion

A psychological view on the practice and meaning of pilgrimage makes it possible to draw very close p arallels with trekking - a modern form of free-time activity that currrently in Western Europe brings people, and particularly many young people, back into Nature for the pleasure but also importance of wandering as such. In Western Europe religious pilgr image is still largely practised today but, due to modern transportation means, the wandering itself has lost a lot of its previous importance. Some of the essential components of pilgrimage, when viewed psychologically, are thus lost such as a parallel b etween an outer and inner journey. Hazardous meetings with Nature’s forces were the unpredictable lot for pilgrims through centuries and in fact it may be argued that when pilgrimage looses such encounters with Nature - as when buses or trains are t he means of transportation - the spiritual meaning is not anymore the same: it is not anymore possible to get confirmation from the environment that &# 180; this is a good journey for me ª. In this major respect trekking is closer to the ol d forms of pilgrimage than modern mass pilgrimage with public transportation means and may be viewed as it’s close inheritor among large groups of people of Christian tradition but who do not recognize themselves in religious practices. The paths to Trondheim’s Cathedral may be a good example of this evolution. There is hardly any talk today in Protestant and largely laic Norway about restoring pilgrimage as such but when one has a closer look at what walking in the ´ pilgrim’s fo otsteps ª entails, at least on a psychological level the meningfulness of what is today named trekking is almost strictly superposable with an cient pilgrimage. God is not named but the experience is certainly of a spiritual order, wandering to explore and feel parallels between our outer and inner journey. Trekkers’ assumption is that miracles are not needed, that Nature as such is enough or perhaps that it is the only miracle. St Olav may decide.

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