St. Olav’s Cultural Route


St. Olav, one of the most important saints in the Medieval Europe, left a strong imprint on the entire Savonlinna region. Today his legacy can not only be seen in the form of fascinating sights, such as statues, churches, natural landmarks and Olavinlinna Castle (‘St. Olav’s Castle’), but Olav’s cult can also be experienced in exhilarating events and lively traditions that still exist in Savonlinna.
For travellers planning a day trip or a longer journey through the Lakeland Saimaa, the theme of St. Olav has a lot to offer. In addition to the appealing attractions and festivals there are plenty of local products and travel services that connect to St. Olav’s heritage. Families, history buffs, outdoor people and everyone travelling in the Savonlinna region will surely find captivating ideas for their holiday. Savonlinna is a good starting point even for a modern-day pilgrimage in the footsteps of St. Olav – enjoy the refreshing nature on your way through beautiful landscapes!

Olav’s cult is based on the legend of Saint Olav, who was originally the Viking king Olav II Haraldsson (995 to 1030). He became known around Savonlinna in the 15th century at the latest, when Olavinlinna Castle was built and Olav’s cult spread to the shores of Lake Saimaa. The new Christian faith existed alongside ancient natural religions for a long time, but it rooted so firmly here that the traditions associated with St. Olav preserved through centuries and some of them are practiced even today – perhaps thanks to the castle which is the only fortress in the world named after the Nordics’ favourite saint.


Today, there are for example many sculptures and festivities in Savonlinna that remind us of St. Olav. He is commemorated annually around the city centre on the 29th of July. At the same time the celebration is dedicated to the founding of the town of Savonlinna, and there are many things to experience for the whole family from early morning to late at night. A marathon named after St. Olav also takes place every summer, just to name but a few engaging events. In the Savonlinna region Olav’s cult is often associated with a black ram which is said to have once rescued the castle. The mighty animal has been immortalized as a statue on Tallisaari Island next to the fortress and it is represented in many symbols and products, like locally manufactured craft beer, post cards, everyday items and handmade souvenirs.


In addition, there are several other interesting sights near Savonlinna that fall under this theme, such as peculiar cup-marked stones in Kerimäki, old churches and cemeteries, and the famous hillfort in Sulkava which was possibly built as early as the Iron Age i.e. close to St. Olav’s lifetime. Now a charming locality, Savonlinna was a significant border town between the East and the West for centuries. St. Olav was an important saint not only for the Catholics, but also for the Orthodox, and his cult linked the entire Savonlinna region with the rest of Europe already at an early age.


Currently, a pilgrim’s route is being built through continental Finland, which can be followed from Savonlinna as far as to Trondheim, Norway where the last resting place of the great saint king is. The trail will be accessible at the beginning of the 2020s, but even before that you can discover the extensive Olav’s traditions in Savonlinna and have an intriguing insight into the rich history of Lakeland Saimaa.


Welcome to explore Saint Olav’s heritage!

Interesting sights connected with St. Olav

Souveniers from the route