Crown Princess Mette-Marit bared her soul and her feet in Norway’s Nidaros Cathedral in Trondheim Wednesday evening, when she took part in an unusually public discussion on faith, hope and love. She fought back tears when describing her first meeting with Crown Prince Haakon.
The cathedral was their goal after two days of walking along the historic pilgrims’ trail that leads to Nidaros over the mountains, and that explained why the crown princess showed up barefoot. Her hiking resulted in blisters, and she asked forgiveness from her audience at what proved to be a highlight of Trondheim’s annual festival honoring St Olav, Olavsfestdagene.
“As a pilgrim, I have sore feet,” she said with a smile.
An estimated 3,000 people filled the cathedral and followed Crown Princess Mette-Marit’s discussion with Pastor Per Arne Dahl on screens set up outdoors. The session was held on the eve of Olsok, the traditional date to mark the death in 1030 of St Olav, Norway’s “eternal king” who forced its conversion to Christianity.
Crown Princess Mette-Marit professed a deep Christian faith herself and said she often finds help from her psalmbook. She said her faith has given her “increased understanding” for others and that her hike along the pilgrims’ trail was “incredibly fine, to walk in God’s nature.”
She said the hike also gave her an opportunity to “reflect over life,” and that’s when the topics of faith and hope shifted over to love.
“I experienced it so strongly that Haakon saw me when we met,” she said, choking back tears as she suggested that his love has allowed her to love herself “when I’m at my darkest.” She added that she thinks that’s because “Haakon is a person who is so unusually giving.”
With her husband watching from the audience, she further noted that she thinks Haakon “has an ability to see people with respect.”
The Royal Palace said Crown Princess Mette-Marit shared her highly personal feelings because she wants to “create room” for conversations about “the big questions in life.” She also thinks the Nidaros Cathedral and Olsok represent a spirituality in the Norwegian culture that is important to preserve.
Foreign Minister Jonas Gahr Støre and his wife also joined the royal couple for the hike along the trail called “pilgrimsleden,” and spoke publicly with Dahl as well. His remarks centered on his dramatic trip to Kabul in 2008, when terrorists attacked the hotel where the Norwegian delegation was staying and journalist Carsten Thomassen of Norwegian newspaper Dagbladet was killed.
“I was afraid that I was being the target of something I had no control over,” Støre told Dahl, who serves as pastor for the Norwegian Parliament and has long written columns in Norwegian newspapers. “I wasn’t afraid to die, but I was more afraid afterwards.”