There is something that has united all world religions for many centuries – the pilgrimage. Millions of people walk well-known pilgrimage routes, such as the Way of St. James, every year. However, you don’t necessarily have to travel to Spain to embark on a pilgrimage. Northern Germany also has a pilgrimage trail which helps you to discover yourself, whether you are a believer or not – the Sigwardsweg.
Over a distance of 180 kilometres (111 miles), the Sigwardsweg takes you in the footsteps of Bishop Sigward of Minden through the former diocese of Minden. You walk through rich cultural landscapes and past unique churches with the wooded, green countryside as your constant companion. You climb small mountains, hike through the protected nature of the Schaumburg Land and cross moors and fields as you follow the official red sign of the Sigwardsweg.
On each of the ten stages, your goal is to find sacred places where you can find peace and answers to questions that come up during your pilgrimage. Sigward von Minden points you in the right direction with his wise words: "I am who I was, but was not who I am".
The Sigwardsweg leads you through a region that has drastically changed over the past centuries. Sigward led the diocese of Minden from 1120 to 1140. After his death, he was buried in a church in the village of Idensen in Lower Saxony. In the centuries after his death, Catholic congregations moved closer and closer to Protestantism, and some dissolved. Many historic buildings from the period still stand today. Some communities carry the spiritual legacy of this time of upheaval into the present day.
On 10 spiritual stages, the Sigwardsweg takes you on a circular Tour from the cathedral city of Minden in North Rhine-Westphalia to Idense village in Lower Saxony. From Idensen, you continue towards Schinna, the northernmost point of the trail, pass Petershagen town and return to Minden. The start and endpoint are conveniently the same, so arriving and departing is easy. Minden also has a lot of long-stay parking spaces, as well as a railway station.
As the Tours end in towns and villages with public transport connections, you can easily choose to hike the stages individually rather than in one go. The quickest way to find train and bus connections is here (in German language): vbn.de.
There are 24 pilgrimage stations along your hike that welcome you, inspire you, and impart a lot of wisdom. You can pick up a pilgrim’s passport from the pilgrim’s office in Minden cathedral treasury at the beginning of your hike and collect stamps along the way. I’ve included information about where to find the stamps in the Tour descriptions.
On the Sigwardsweg, exciting acquaintances and conversations about life await as you hike mindfully through the wonderful nature along the pilgrimage path. The Siwardsweg is not only a path for pilgrims, but also for enthusiastic history lovers and nature lovers who are interested in exploring the south of Lower Saxony.
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The first ten kilometers of the sixth stage of the Sigwardsweg run undisturbed along the Steinhuder Meer nature reserve. The only place along the way is Düdinghausen. The sixth stage is characterized by calm and mindfulness. Fittingly, the destination is the venerable Loccum monastery, in whose pilgrim house you can spend the night. Along the pilgrim path there are several options for silent meditation or prayer and it goes up high on the Wilhelmsturm.The first stop on the way is St. Catherine's Church in Bergkirchen. If you wish, you will receive a small prayer and the pilgrim's blessing there. The church is also a stamping point. In Bad Rehburg you first come across the Matteschlösschen and can take a look at the neo-Gothic building. Then the Wilhelmsturm awaits you for an ascent. Then you will already reach the Friederiken Chapel, a special art monument.
The first kilometers through the Loccumer Heide are pure nature: the area through which the Sigwardsweg leads today is only rarely inhabited. It goes back towards the Weser and the wild and romantic Stolzenau nature reserve with its small lakes.Today you will find the oldest church in the north of the Minden-Lübbecke district: Heimsen Church. With the stamp of the church in your pilgrim pass, you will reach the manor and the Schluesselburg Castle after another seven kilometers. Both buildings are privately owned. A little further on you will find the Evangelical Church in Schluesselburg, which was built in 1585.In your destination Stolzenau, the Jacobi Church is already waiting for you at the end of the stage. The friendly yellow church facade is more than inviting, especially in the sunshine, and the church tower has a unique twisted shape. You will get another stamp in the church.
It is like always when you are on your way: Once you have reached your destination, your view of things has changed a little again. Luckily. On the last stage of the Sigwardsweg pilgrimage route, you have the opportunity to reflect on the past few days. “I am who I was, but I wasn't who I am,” Bishop Sigward once said. Do you see the motto of the pilgrimage differently now than at the beginning - regardless of whether you are a believer or not?On the last stage, you can quickly get your stamp in the Petri Church, if you haven't done that the evening before. You start at St. Johannes Baptist, the church of the oldest Catholic parish of the old diocese of Minden. It is still a Catholic church today and has a close connection to the glassworks in Gernheim.