onsdag 19. november 2014

Rapport fra et møte i Roma

Roma 17. oktober 2014: Representanter for pilegrimsforeninger fra Italia, Tyskland Danmark og Norge var samlet for planlegge pilegrimsstafetten som går fra Nidaros til Roma i 2015. Foto: PCB. Klikk forstørrer bildet.

Pilgrims Crossing Borders arrangerte et internasjonalt presentasjonsmøte i Roma 17. oktober 2014. Arrangementet falt sammen med Olavsdagene i Roma, en årviss kulturfestival som arrangeres av Venneforeningen for St. Olavsalteret i Roma. I år markerte venneforeningen tusenårsubileet for Olav Haraldssons dåp på høytidsdagen 16. oktober (etter tradisjonen dagen da Olav skal ha blitt døpt i Rouen i 1014). Jubileet ble markert med en festgudstjeneste i San Carlo al Corso i Roma, kirken der man siden 1893 har hatt et kapell og et alter viet til Hellig Olav.

Under festmessen i San Carlo-kirken deltok blant andre biskop Bernt Ivar Eidsvig fra Oslo,  domprost Ragnhild Jepsen og pilegrimsprest Einar Vegge fra Nidaros. Sistnevnte deltok også på presentasjonsmøtet for PCB sammen med styreleder for Pilegrimsfellesskapet St. Olav, Vigdis Vormdal og undertegnede.  Ved å velge 17. oktober som dato for presentasjonsmøtet for pilegrimsstafetten, kunne delegasjonen fra Trondheim også delta under Olavsdagene i Roma 16. – 18. oktober.

Presentasjonsmøtet for PiCroBo fant sted i lokalene til Società Geografica Italiana i Roma. Til stede var representanter fra pilegrimsforeninger fra Italia, Tyskland, Danmark og Norge. Det fremmøtte publikum omfattet cirka 40 deltakere.

Lederen for Det italienske geografiske selskap i Roma, professor Bruno Conti, innledet møtet med en hilsen til forsamlingen før han ga ordet til Silvia Costa, en av Italias representanter i Europaparlamentet der hun er leder av komiteen for kultur og utdanning. Silvia Costa uttrykte sympati for arrangementet som jo fremmer internasjonalt samarbeid, dialog og forbrødring mellom land og folk. Hun vil vurdere å delta på noen av stafettetappene inn mot Roma i oktober 2015.

Under møtet ble traseen for pilegrimsstafetten gjennom Europa behørig beskrevet av representanter for pilegrimsforeninger fra Danmark, Tyskland, Italia og Norge. Publikum viste begeistring for arrangementet, og flere meldte interesse for å delta i stafetten til neste år. Ved å klikke på linken PCB presentasjon 17-10-2014 åpnes en nettbasert presentasjon (Slideshare) av hovedinnlegget fra møtet i Roma.

Vi har tro på at dette arrangementet kan skape internasjonal dialog og forbrødring. Og vi har håp om at stafetten kan baseres på gjestfrihet, toleranse, dialog, solidaritet, menneskerettigheter og fred. Slik håper vi å inkludere deltakere med ulik bakgrunn til å vandre og snakke sammen. Til å knytte bånd og bygge vennskap. Til å krysse grenser i konkret og overført betydning.

Nasjonalt Pilegrimssenter i Norge, Instituttet for Europas kulturveier, Pilegrimsfellesskapet St. Olav, Trondheim kommune og the European Association of the Via Francigena har gitt sin tilslutning til pilegrimsstafetten fra Nidaros til Roma og Jerusalem. Vi – de frivillige pilegrimsentusiastene – setter pris på all støtte som gjør oss i stand til å realisere dette internasjonale arrangementet. Som Askeladden er vi avhengige av gode hjelpere, så takk til alle som bidrar til at vi når målet.

Vi slutter oss til erklæringen som Europarådet har vedtatt for de europeiske kulturveiene:
“May the faith which has inspired pilgrims throughout history, uniting them in a common aspiration and transcending national differences and interests, inspire us today, and young people in particular, to travel along these routes in order to build a society founded on tolerance, respect for others, freedom and solidarity “

lørdag 9. august 2014

Albert the Abbot and the Way to Rome

Albert was an abbot who lived In the German town of Stade by the mouth of the Elbe river in the 13th century. He had been appointed abbot of the Benedictine Monastery of the Holy Virgin Mary in Stade in 1232. He was, however, not entirely content with the regime in his monastery. He wanted to introduce a more literal observance of St. Benedict’s rule and a stricter discipline for his monks. He was impressed with the practice of the Cistercians, and wanted to reform his monastery accordingly. But, in order to carry out such a reform, he needed a permission from the pope.

So, in 1236 he set out on the long and strenous journey from Stade to the centre of Christendom to get the pope’s permission. It is likely that he travelled on horseback, or perhaps in a two-wheeled horse-drawn cart. His affinity for the Cistercian ideals made him take a rather long detour on his way to Rome, namely to Citeaux in eastern France, home to the abbey of the first Cistercian monks. Their monastic life was founded on simplicity and evangelical poverty, ideals held high by Albert von Stade.

In Rome, he obtained the pope’s permission to reform the monastery in Stade according to the Cistercian rule. He set out on the long journey home through Italy, Austria, Bavaria, Thuringia, Sachsen-Anhalt and lower Saxony. His journey covered 3500 km and lasted approximately half a year.

Back in Stade, the monks in the Monastery of the Holy Virgin Mary were not keen on welcoming Albert’s wish for reform, in spite of the pope’s permission. Albert therefore resigned as abbot. Instead he joined the so-called Minorites, a Franciscan order in the monastery of St. John of Stade. It was in here that he wrote the so-called Annales, chronicles of important political and ecclesiastic events of his time. In the Annales he describes a dialogue between two monks who impart facts and advice regarding the best pilgrim route to Rome. The dialogue is a kind of pilgrim guide based on Albert’s own journey to Rome, mentioning the holy sites, the resting places and the distances for each stage (the latter recently checked and found to be correct).

Map from the article "The Via Romea Stadensis leading to Rome". By Prof. Giovanni Caselli and Rodolfo Valentini.
Courtesy of the European Association Via Francigena Magazine "Via Francigena and the Pilgrim Ways"
The abbot’s nearly 800 year old manuscript is still intact in the Herzog August Bibliothek in Wolfenbüttel. Until recently it was of interest mainly to scholars and researchers, but this ancient route attracted popular attention when, in 2001, the Italian archeologist Giovanni Caselli investigated the history of the Via Romea Stadensis, the old road to Rome.

The Via Romea Stadensis
Caselli soon discovered that the Italian continuation of Albert’s route to Rome was identical to the Via Romea dell’Alpe di Sierra that ran through the Casentino Valley, not far from his home town, Bibbiena in Tuscany. Pilgrims and other travellers had used this medieval road to reach Rome for centuries, but the existence of this old pilgrim trail was made known to the general public through a series of documentary films broadcast on Italian television in 2004. An interest in the abbot’s old pilgrim road had also been gaining momentum in Germany for some time. A meeting between Caselli and the mayors from 18 German towns along the route was held in Ochsenfurt am Main in 2008.

Resolute and enthusiastic cooperation resulted in a common project where the goal was to revitalize the Via Romea as a path for modern pilgrims on the way from northern Europe to Rome; or vice versa. An association to achieve this goal was established in 2009; when the Via Romea Stadensis, or the Förderverein Romweg - Abt Albert von Stade was founded.

Their first meeting was held in Garmisch-Partenkirchen in 2009 and delegations from both Germany and Italy attended. An Italian sister organization, the Via Romea Germanica, was founded soon after, joining forces with fellow pilgrims to promote the pilgrim ways to Rome.

A Road to Friendship
The ensuing cooperation has inspired many pilgrim walks, confirming the old saying that we become friends by walking and talking together. The most recent Via Romea walk went through Sachsen-Anhalt and Thuringia in 2014,when a colourful group of participants from Italy, Germany and Norway walked  from Wernigerode to Schmalkalden.
See photos

A ceremony to celebrate the pilgrimage was held in the town of Wernigerode on 28th June 2014. Ministerpräsident of Sachsen-Anhalt Dr. Reiner Hasseloff, Mayor of Wernigerode Peter Gaffert and Jerusalem-pilgrim Johannes Aschauer attended the ceremony, not only to celebrate the Via Romea pilgrimage, but also to promote Aschauer’s book Auf dem Jerusalemweg in which he describes a six-month pilgrimage for peace from Switzerland to Jerusalem in 2010.

L-R: Frau Heike Bremer, Mayor of Wernigerode Peter Gaffert, Mayor of Hornburg Andreas Memmert, Ministerpräsident of Sachsen-Anhalt Dr. Reiner Hasseloff, author and pilgim Johannes Aschauer, Mr. Otto Klär (Jerusalem Way), pilgrim Ulrich Eichler and Dr. Giovanni Caselli.

fredag 23. mai 2014

Angel over angels

Archangel Michael is an angel for Jews, Christians and Muslims. He is referred to in both the Bible and the Qur'an. In the Christian world view, he is God's chosen commander, humanity's protector and Heaven's gatekeeper.


Michael is the patron saint of the sick and dying, ambulance drivers and nurses. Sailors in distress, soldiers at war and the sick on their deathbeds pray to him. He is the saviour who comes to the rescue when danger and death threaten. In the song Michael Row the Boat Ashore, it is Michael who rows the souls over the river and home to God. He is also the gatekeeper who on Judgement Day judges souls before they are allowed into Heaven.

In the apocalypse, Michael is given the role of God's commander in the battle against the dragon, evil:
Then war broke out in heaven. Michael and his angels fought against the dragon, and the dragon and his angels fought back. But he was not strong enough, and they lost their place in heaven. (Revelation 12:7-8)

The great dragon was hurled to the earth, 
and his angels with him. (Revelation 12:9).
Illustration by Gustave Dorée

Who is like God?
In sculpture and visual art, Michael is usually portrayed as a warrior angel. Armed with spear and shield he is about to defeat the dragon, the incarnation of evil. His shield often bears the inscription "Quis Ut Deus", which is the Latin translation of the angel's Hebrew name "Mik ha El" meaning who is like God? This can be understood as a scornful question to Satan who dares to oppose God.

A set of scales, representing the weighing of souls, is one of Michael's attributes. We see this symbol on the shield of the bronze statue of Michael on the north-western front tower of the Nidaros Cathedral  in Trondheim. The statue stands tall with the lance raised against the dragon at the angel's feet. It is no coincidence that the fearless Michael stands right in this location. He is the church's protection against the destructive forces in the west and to the north, ready to battle against the darkness and on the side of the light and justice (see photo below).

The sculptor Kristofer  Leirdal was inspired by
the American singer Bob Dylan when this statue
of St. Michael was created in 1965.
© Kristofer Leirdal /BONO. Photo by NDR 

St. Michael in Norway
In Norway, we know of 28 churches dedicated to St. Michael, mostly in the eastern part of the country. Only eight of these have been preserved. St. Michael's Church on Slottsberget in Tønsberg (previously called Mikkelsberg) was the most important. It was built in the 1100s, modelled after the church in Mont Saint-Michel in Normandy. The reputation St. Michael's Church had as a sacred place – and the holy relic of the cross kept in the church – made Old Tunsberg a popular shrine for pilgrims in the Middle Ages.

Marble plaque with Michael
defeating the dragon (13th c).
Photo by Carl-Erik Eriksson.
Click to enlarge.
In Nidaros Cathedral there is a small Michael Chapel over the northern entry portal. On the outside of the chapel stands a marble plaque with an image of the archangel defeating the dragon. The plaque originates from the 13th century (see photo).

The good will triumph
The cult of St Michael is international in scope. There are churches dedicated to him all over the world. In the countries around the Mediterranean and throughout Latin America, people celebrate "Fiesta de San Miguel" for many days in September every year. Here in the Nordic countries – even though we have toned down the celebration of Michael's Mass on September 29, and belief in angels – we too might do well to remember St. Michael, the fearless angel who defends the good and defeats the evil, who comforts those in need and shows mercy when it matters.

He has qualities we need – courage, compassion and vigour – in the service of good. So we can believe what we want about angels. There is no question that this angel stands firmly on the right side in the eternal struggle between good and evil.

søndag 23. mars 2014

Diary from a Journey to Campania

















O, scarce in trivial tenor all,
Much less to mock man's mortal sigh.
The syllables proverbial fall,
Naples, see Naples, and then die.

Herman Melville

Diary from a Journey to Campania