A pilgrimage may be described as a journey to a sacred shrine or sanctuary for a religious motive. Such journeys are a common religious phenomenon not restricted to any one people. This composite article examines pilgrimages in the Bible, in the early Christian period (to 600), in the Middle Ages (600 to 1500), and in modern times (1500 to mid-20th century).
1. IN THE BIBLE
Pilgrimages have a long history in the ancient Near East among Semitic peoples; they are as old as the sacred shrines uncovered by archeologists. To these various cultic centers the common man carried a part of the fruits of his land and livestock to offer it to the gods in homage and thanksgiving. The sanctuaries were places believed to be chosen by the gods as special abodes and manifested as such by peculiar natural phenomena (a height, a spring, a tree) or by a theophany, e.g., Jacob's dream (Gn 28.10–22).
Some of the Canaanite open-air shrines were merely converted to the use of the Yahwistic cult, e.g., shechem, bethel, and Mamre. Because of Israel's tribal structure one shrine usually served as the central sanctuary, at least for partial confederations of the 12 tribes. The cultic center acted as politico-religious bond, an intertribal focus to which the federated clans periodically came on pilgrimage. At various times Gilgal, Shiloh, Mizpeh, and probably Gibeon served as such local centers. A description of a pilgrimage to a central shrine is found in the prescriptions for offering the first fruits of the grain harvest (Dt 26.1–10; cf. 1 Sm 1.3–7). Jerusalem became the focal point of religious gatherings after King David brought the ark of the covenant there. Later, Jeroboam I, King of Israel, in order to have his own cultic centers in the Northern Kingdom, separated from Judah, established sanctuaries for Yahweh at Bethel and the city of Dan (1 Kgs 12.27–30).
Many other local sanctuaries attracted pilgrims during the time of the two kingdoms, as is clear from the preaching of the Prophets who condemned the evil influence of religious syncretism that these shrines fostered. These sanctuaries were destroyed by the centralizing reforms of Hezekiah (2 Kgs 18.4) and Josiah (2 Kgs 23.8–20), Kings of Judah, but flourished again after their deaths.
The custom of sacred pilgrimages was affirmed in ancient Israelite legislation concerning the religious feasts. The three ḥag (pilgrim) festivals, the Feast of passover, the Hebrew Feast of pentecost, and the Feast of booths (tabernacles), were times when the Israelites were commanded to appear before the Lord (Ex 23.14–17; Dt 16.16), a practice parallel to the Arabic Ḥajj.
Israelite religious pilgrimages continued during and after the exile [Ps 41 (42)]. Josephus (Bell. Jud. 6.9.3)
speaks of the large gatherings at Jerusalem to celebrate the feasts of Yahweh. Evidence for them in the New Testament is found in Lk 2.41–42; In 2.13; 5.1; 7.2–10;12.201; and Acts 2.1–11.
Bibliography: r. de vaux, Ancient Israel, Its Life and Institutions, tr. j. mchugh (New York 1961) 468–517. Encyclopedic Dictionary of the Bible, tr. and adap. by l. hartman (New York 1963), from a. van den born, Bijbels Woordenboek 1858.
[s. m. polan]
2. EARLY CHRISTIAN
Journeys to holy places made by Christian men and women between the 1st and the 7th century. These voyages were undertaken to venerate places sanctified by the life of Christ; by the saints, especially the martyrs; or by miracles; and also to beg divine aid and to perform acts of penance or thanksgiving. After the Peace of the Church (313) and all through the 4th century, several events fostered the idea of making a pilgrimage: the honoring of the holy places in Palestine by constantine i and his mother, helena; the publicity given the Holy Land by jerome, and the monastic life he helped to foster there; the attention directed to the monastic life in Egypt by such works as athanasius's Life of Anthony, the anonymous Historia monachorum in Aegypto, and palladius's Lausiac History; and, in Rome, the work of Pope damasus i in restoring the catacombs.
Pilgrimages will be treated here in three sections: (1) the Holy Land, the preferred place of pilgrimage; (2) the monasteries of Egypt and the tombs of Rome; and (3) shorter pilgrimages arising from local cults throughout the early Christian world. Despite difficulties of travel in ancient times, pilgrimages, especially to the Holy Land, were not unusual by the end of the 4th century, as the writings of the Fathers frequently attest.
The Holy Land. eusebius of caesarea supplies information on a 2d-century pilgrimage of Bishop melito
of sardes (c. 160) to the land where the Scriptures were enacted (Ecclesiatical History 4.26.14) and on a 3d-century pilgrimage of Bishop Alexander of Cappadocia, who journeyed to Jerusalem (c. 216) in consequence of a vow and for the sake of information about the holy places (ibid. 6.11.2). Eusebius characterized Constantine and Helena as the most noble of pilgrims and described the great works they promoted in the Holy Land between 325 and 330. To Constantine he attributed the finding of the Holy sepulcher and the building of a great basilica on its site, and another on the site of Abraham's visit from the angels at Mamre, near Hebron; to Helena he attributed the building of magnificent basilicas on the sites of the Nativity, and of the Ascension from Mt. Olivet (Vita Constantini 3.25–40). Eusebius did not mention Helena's finding the true cross. However, by the end of the 4th century she was credited with this by ambrose, john chrysostom, Jerome, rufinus, the historian Socrates, and Aetheria.
Whether or not she found it, she and her son gave great impetus to the pilgrimage movement, as an increasing number of sources attests. A text of 333 details the stations of a pilgrimage from Bordeaux to Jerusalem and back via Rome to Milan (Geyer, 1–33). sozomen notes that in 351, on the occasion of the appearance of a miraculous cross in the sky above Jerusalem, there were travelers from all parts of the world there for prayer and to visit the places of interest (Ecclesiastical History 4.5). By the end of the 4th century, references to pilgrimages can be found frequently in the fathers of the church, who especially valued them because they brought one to the land of the Sacred Scriptures. In a letter to a group of virgins who had returned from a pilgrimage to Jerusalem, Athanasius introduced a theme that was to become familiar: they can remain with Christ by a holy life, although they have left the scenes of His earthly life [ed. J. Lebon, Muséon 41 (1928) 170–203]. John Chrysostom spoke of the efficacy of pilgrimages in arousing devotion (In Phil., Patrologia Graeca, ed. J. P. Migne, 62:702–03).
Jerome has probably made himself the most famous of early Christian pilgrims to the Holy Land, not only as a resident there for over 30 years, but also as its most prolific writer and the greatest Scripture scholar of his age. He influenced the aristocratic Roman ladies paula, eustochium, and both melania the Elder and the Younger to establish monasteries there. His own words show the impetus he was capable of giving to the pilgrimage movement, by pointing out the benefits to be derived from journeys to holy places:
Just as one understands the Greek historians better when one has seen Athens, or the third book of Virgil when one has sailed to Troas or Sicily … so we also understand Scripture better when we have seen Judea with our own eyes, and discovered what still remains of … ancient towns…. That is why myself took care to travelthrough this land …. [Praef., In lib. Paralip. ]
His friends Paula and Eustochium witness to the appeal of Christian pilgrimaging:
Here one can see the most important people from everywhere … the best known in Gaul …. The Briton … comes … to seek a city which he knows … by what he has read of it in the Holy Scriptures. What shall we say of the Armenians, Persians, peoples of India and Ethiopia, from Egypt,… Pontus, Cappadocia, Coele-Syria, Mesopotamia and all the crowds from the East? … We shall be able to enter with you the cave of the Savior, weep at the Sepulchre, … kiss the wood of the cross, ascend … the Mount of Olives …. [Jerome, Epist. 46.]
Much more celebrated now than in her own time is the pilgrim nun Aetheria, famous for her account of the celebration of the liturgy in Jerusalem when she visited there (395) and for the extent of her travels, which included upper Syria as far as Edessa, the Sinaitic peninsula, and Egypt. Other noted Holy Land pilgrims also visited the desert fathers in Egypt; Rufinus and Melanie the Elder (371–372); Cassian (c. 385); Jerome (386); Palladius (388); the anonymous author of the Historia monachorum (394); Sylvania, sister-in-law of the Consul Rufinus (c. 396); and Postumianus, disciple of Sulpicius Severus (401–404). Some of the 5th-century abbots of Lérins seem to have been Palestine pilgrims (Acta Sanctorum June 1:75–78; January 2:18–19). From the 5th or 6th century comes an enumeration of the sanctuaries of Jerusalem (Geyer, 151–155). The De situ terrae sanctae of Theodosius, an archdeacon from North Africa (c. 520–530; Geyer, 135–150), and an account of several pilgrims from Piacenza to Palestine (c. 560–570; Geyer, 157–218) are witnesses to the continued flow of pilgrims to Palestine through the 6th century.
One of the strongest witnesses to the popularity of early Christian pilgrimages and to sound teaching concerning them lies in the frequent warnings the Fathers uttered against their abuse: St. John Chrysostom (Ad pop. Antioch hom. 3, Patrologia Graeca 49:49), St. Jerome (Epist. 58), St. Augustine (Epist. 160), and especially St. Gregory of Nyssa (Epist. 2).
Pilgrimages to Egypt and Rome. In the 4th century, monasticism proved to be a link between Egypt and Palestine, the two famous places of early Christian pilgrimage. Athanasius's Life of Anthony not only fostered the monastic movement throughout the Mediterranean world but also drew pilgrims to seek counsel from the austere Desert Fathers. Those of Nitria, some 50 miles south of Alexandria, were fairly accessible, but as the author of the Historia monachorum relates, the journey to the the baid was arduous and dangerous. He had made it; so also did the intrepid Aetheria.
Although in the first six centuries Rome had not the same importance for pilgrimages as the Holy Land, the graffiti on the walls of the catacombs witness to a steady stream of pilgrims. The tombs of Peter and Paul were equally objects of pilgrimage, often made by visitors who had come to Rome on business. Polycarp of Smyrna visited Rome c. 150; both Abercius of Hierapolis in Phrygia (c. 216) and Origen seem to have made a sort of pilgrimage (c. 212), "desiring to see the most ancient church of Rome" (Eusebius, Ecclesiastical History 6.14). As in the case of the Holy Land, it was after the Peace of the Church that Roman pilgrimages increased. In the second half of the 4th century, Pope Damasus gave impetus to the movement by architectural restorations in the catacombs and by the inscriptions he had carved on the tombs. Jerome tells of his own visits to the catacombs when he was a youth studying in Rome and of the crowds of pilgrims: "Where save at Rome do they crowd with such frequency to the churches and sepulchres of the martyrs?" (Comm. in Ezech. 12.50; Comm. in Epist. Galat. 2). Ambrose (Hymnus 15) and Prudentius (Peristephanon 12) are among the many witnesses to the vast streams of pilgrims who flocked to Rome for the feast of Saints Peter and Paul on June 29.
This pilgrimage and others throughout the Christian world often gave rise to feasting and merrymaking, against which the clergy constantly had to preach. Prudentius in his Peristephanon is witness to a full flowering of the cult of the martyrs and the important role of pilgrimages in the century after the persecution of diocletian and the Peace of the Church. He was especially moved by the great pilgrimages to Rome on the feast of the Passion of St. Hippolytus (Peristephanon 11). A dramatic feature of Roman pilgrimages in the 4th century were those of Roman emperors to the tombs of the Apostles. The writings of John Chrysostom (Patrologia Graeca 61:582) and St. Augustine are among the witnesses to these events. In the words of St. Augustine: "… the emperor comes to Rome: whither does he hasten? To the temple of the emperor, or to the memorial of the Fisherman?" (Patrologia Latina, ed. J. P. Migne, 37:1830). In 450 Valentinian III came to Rome, according to Pope Leo the Great, "to seek the Fisherman's intercession" (Patrologia Latina 54:858). A steady stream of pilgrims to Rome seems to have continued unabated into the Middle Ages. At the opening of the 6th century, Pope Symmachus (498–514) built three hospices near the tombs of Saints Peter, Paul, and Lawrence. Later in the century, Gregory of Tours speaks of Roman pilgrimages from Gaul and describes an activity commonly connected with them, that of procuring relics for local shrines (De gloria martyrum 1.28).
Local Pilgrimages. Not far from Rome, at Imola and at Nola, pilgrimage cults in honor of the martyrs Cassian (Prudentius, Peristephanon 9) and Felix (Paulinus, Carmina, Corpus scriptorum ecclesiasticorum latinorum v.30) spread during the 4th century. By the end of that century, the cult of St. Felix was greatly extended by the devotion of the noted aristocrat and poet paulinus, who retired to the monastery he had built at Nola and celebrated in his poetry the throngs of pilgrims who came there, among them the noted Bishop nicetas of remesiana (Carmen 17). Important pilgrimage centers grew up in Gaul also. By the middle of the 4th century, a shrine had been established near the site of the martyrdom of St. Maurice and his theban legion in Valais, Switzerland (d. probably c. 286). Pilgrims returning from Rome and, above all, pilgrims seeking cures came in such numbers that by the middle of the 5th century a large hostelry and infirmary had been built, and by the 6th, the still famous Abbey of saint-maurice d'Agaune. The late 4th century saw also the rise of Gaul's most extraordinary center of devotion and pilgrimage—the tomb of St. Martin at Tours. Gregory of Tours, who was one of Martin's most devoted episcopal successors, witnesses two centuries later to the unceasing stream of pilgrims to the tomb. They range from the Frankish King Chlotar (c. 560), making atonement for the murder of his son, to the simple youth Wulflaicus from Lombardy, who was so moved by the grace of him visit to Tours that he became an austere hermit near Yvois and converted many in the surrounding region (Hist. Francorum 8.15–16). In 5th-century Arles the throngs of pilgrims passing between the two shrines of St. Genesius on his feast were so great they broke the bridge over which they crossed (Patrologia Latina 50:1273–76).
Patristic literature bears witness that pilgrimages became an established part of Christian devotion, whether they involved traversing a city or more than half of the civilized world. The early Christian centuries gave the movement an impetus that took it wall into the Middle Ages.
Bibliography: p. geyer, ed., Itinera Hierosolymitana saeculi IV–VIII (Corpus scriptorum ecclesiasticorum latinorum (Vienna 1866–) 39; 1898). Library of the Palestine Pilgrims' Text Society, 13 v. (London 1890–97). f. stummer, ed., Monumenta historiam et geographiam Terrae Sanctae illustrantia (Florilegium Patristicum 41; 1935). eusebius, Ecclesiastical History, and Vita Constantini, Patrologia Graeca, ed. j. p. migne (Paris 1878–90) 20:45–1440. socrates, Ecclesiastial History, and sozomen, Ecclesiastical History, Patrologia Graeca, ed. j. p. migne (Paris 1857–66) 67:29–1630. e. r. barker, Rome of the Pilgrims and Martyrs (London 1913). h. leclercq, Dictionnaire d'archéologie chrétienne et de liturgie, ed. f. cabrol, h. leclercq, and h. i. marrou, 15 v. (Paris 1907–53) 14.1:65–176. g. bardy, Analecta Bollandiana 67 (1949) 224–235, b. kÖtting, Peregrinatio religiosa (Münster 1950). a. fliche and v. martin, eds. Histoire de l'église depuis les origines jusqu'à nos jours (Paris 1935–) v.3, tr. e. messenger (New York 1950) 504–512. j. m. theurillat, L'Abbaye de St-Maurice d'Agaune, des origines à la réforme canoniale, 515–830 (Sion, Switzerland 1954), f. van der meer and c. mohrmann, Atlas of the Early Christian World, ed. and tr. m. f. hedlund and h. h. rowley (New York 1958). h. lharkamp, Lexikon für Theologie und Kirche ed. j. hofer and k. rahner, 10v. (2d, new ed. Freiburg 1957–65) 5:822–824.
[m. c. mccarthy]
3. MEDIEVAL AND MODERN
Pilgrimages in the sense of journeys to shrines or holy places for veneration, either to obtain favors through the intercession of the saints honored there or to render thanks for favors received, are a phenomenon common to all civilizations. In the Christian world they developed in all countries and in many fashions. As indicated above, the earliest documents of the pilgrimage as an institution link its origin with the veneration of places where Christ lived and of His tomb, the Holy sepulcher, in Jerusalem. But very soon pilgrimages began to be made also to the tombs of the earliest martyrs, "witnesses" of Christ. Well before the time of St. Augustine, who spoke very clearly on the point, it was held that complete remission of sins was obtained by going to the tomb of a martyr and meditating there.
Goals of Pilgrimages. If one excludes Jerusalem, the bodies of SS. Peter and Paul in Rome were the primary attraction for Christian pilgrims (see pilgrimages, roman). Later, alleged tombs of other martyrs came to be venerated, especially that of the Apostle james (son of zebedee), once his supposed tomb was discovered in Galicia at Campus stellae, hence Compostela, in 830 (see santiago de compostela).
Soon pilgrimages acquired varied and diverse goals. The faithful began to venerate the tombs of nonmartyrs, e.g., those of the confessors martin of tours in Gaul (the most popular of all) and nicholas of myra, whose body was transported to Bari, Italy, in the 11th century, and much later those of sergius of radonezh in Russia and the saintly Jean vianney in the Lyonnais, as well as the tombs of such penitents as Mary Magdalene in Sainte-Baume, Provence (see saint-maximin, abbey of).
Pilgrimages were made also to places hallowed as the result of a reputed supernatural apparition. Thus it seems that from the 6th century many pilgrims went to Monte Gargano in Apulia, made famous by an apparition of the archangel Michael. After 710 pilgrims went for the same reason to mont-saint-michel on the borders of Normandy and Brittany.
There were also pilgrimages in honor of the Virgin Mary, Mother of God. Although they originated later than the early pilgrimages to the Holy Sepulcher or tombs of saints in general, certain Marian pilgrimages are obviously very old, dating back at least to the Frankish period so far as the West is concerned; e.g., Ambronay in Burgundy dates from the 7th century at least; einsiedeln in Switzerland goes back to 954; while Savona (near Genoa, Italy) claims to have received pilgrims as early as the age of Constantine.
Origins of Pilgrimage Shrines. Many pilgrim shrines owe their renown to origins so legendary that it is difficult to sift out the historical truth. More than one such shrine coincides with the site of a holy place that was previously a pagan shrine, e.g., at Fourvière (Lyons) a statue of Mercury was honored before that of the Virgin. Many new shrines have appeared even in modern times in the wake of revelations—quite often impossible to verify—made in dreams to simple folk. The sanctuary of St. Anne in Auray, France, was begun in the early 17th century by a simple Breton peasant, Yves Nicolazic, in obedience to repeated visions. In the following century it was a child who "discovered" the picture of the Virgin painted on a rock in Concepción, Chile. The miraculous icon of Tenos was found in the 19th century as a result of the dream of a Greek nun. Each of these events was the beginning of a new pilgrimage. Weeping statues, such as the "Regina sanctorum omnium" in the cathedral at Ancona during the French invasion in 1796 or the majolica madonna in a street in Syracuse, Italy, in 1953, have also resulted in pilgrimages.
Popular piety creates new sites of pilgrimage with disconcerting spontaneity, neither seeking nor tolerating, in many cases, counsels of prudence or warnings from the hierarchy. "We have learned," wrote william de grenefield, the archbishop of York in 1313, "that a statue of the Blessed Virgin newly installed in the parish church of Foston is stirring up many simple souls as if something divine were more apparent in this statue than in others." Every new instance of this sort raises the possibility that the unenlightened faithful will be victimized by illusions or fall into superstition.
In modern times Marian apparitions in rapid succession have generated immense new shrines and places of pilgrimage, whose renown has eclipsed that of the more ancient and traditional sites, e.g., Fatima has evidently eclipsed Compostela. But Marian pilgrimages are hardly all of modern origin. Well before la salette (apparition in 1846), lourdes (1858), Pontmain (1871), or fatima (1917), waves of pilgrims had rushed to Laus in the Dauphiné Alps (17th century), to Garaison near Tarbes, France, to guadalupe in Mexico (16th century), and to Caravaggio in Lombardy (15th century). The ancient and venerable pilgrimage to Our Lady in Le Puy-en-Velay, southern France, likewise owes its origin to an apparition.
Chronology of Pilgrimages. It would be of interest to establish a chronology of Christian pilgrimages in an attempt to discover significant fluctuations throughout the centuries. No such chronological table has, in fact, ever been compiled. Were it to be, it would show the permanence of the pilgrimage phenomenon, which seems to live on despite the Reformation, the Wars of Religion, the Enlightenment, and despite the rationalism, materialism, and atheism of modern times. However, certain stages in the evolution of the pilgrimage are discernible.
Fourth-century documents testify that pilgrimages to Jerusalem had been going on without interruption since the Apostolic Age. eusebius of caesarea stated that a bishop from Cappadocia had made a pilgrimage to Rome as early as 217. Constantine's work of pacification that made possible the rebuilding of Jerusalem, the finding of the Holy cross, and the erection of shrines, e.g., Holy sepulcher (326–336), in effect initiated the widespread popularity of pilgrimages that continued unabated throughout the Middle Ages, even though it was slowed down during the first centuries of the Moslem occupation. Rome, then Compostela, and later such sites as those of the relics of Mary Magdalene at Vézelay (succeeding Provence) and of Thomas becket in Canterbury (from 1171) all served to satisfy the piety of pilgrims who could not get to the holy places in Jerusalem. The Crusades began in 1095, and the fighting men considered themselves—and were consideredmdash;pilgrims, though there is scarcely any need to call attention to the extent to which the pilgrimage spirit had, in their case, been deflected from its original character. The influx of pilgrims at Canterbury (1220), Rome (1300), and Compostela was considerably augmented by the proclamation of the holy years, which promised special spiritual favors to pilgrims.
The 16th century, understandably, was marked by a decline in pilgrimages in Europe, while the military advances of the ottoman turks discouraged travelers to the Holy Land. Thus, when Ignatius Loyola went to Palestine in 1523, he found it deserted, and there were very few pilgrims in Jerusalem—at least from the West—down to the time of chateaubriand. However, the newly Christianized areas in America were experiencing a rise and spread of pious pilgrimages in the 17th century, and Europe itself saw the road to Compostela become crowded once again after the thirty years' war. The "Holy House" of Loreto, long after its singular appearance in central Italy at the end of the 13th century, attracted a growing number of pilgrims, and even a man so "reasonable" as Descartes traveled there in 1624 before he began publication.
After the great crisis of the French Revolution there was a renaissance of pilgrimage; and this despite the fact that many relics had been removed, many shrines burned or demolished since the religious crisis of the 16th century, either in the name of reform of the Church or as a result of the Enlightenment. Everything smacking of "fanaticism" was to be swept away. Yet, despite, or even because of, these excesses, western European Christians once again began to go on pilgrimage; other Christians, e.g., in Greece or Russia, had never ceased to do so. The movement turned instinctively toward the site of martyrdoms, including most recent ones; e.g., the people of Angers, France, would go on Sundays to the Field of the Martyrs where a number of nonjuring clergy had been executed during The Terror (1793–94). Pope Pius VII encouraged the resumption of the cult of Our Lady of Fourvière, whose statue had been burned by the Huguenots, and in 1836 Marseilles "rediscovered" the shrine of Notre-Dame de la Garde, which had been destroyed during the Revolution. In 1858 Pauline de Nicolay became a zealous sponsor of renewed Holy Land pilgrimages, which, like many others, were directed by the assumptionists. Meanwhile the shrine at Lourdes had come into existence. Under the influence of Charles P. pÉguy in the early 20th century a new movement was begun, designed to interest intellectual circles then sharply affected by scientism and positivism. The "Chartres pilgrimages" of Paris students, copied since then by various other universities, comprise one of the newest aspects of the modern pilgrimage spirit.
The Individual Pilgrim. It should be noted that from the time of the invasions by the barbarian nations a pilgrimage was often imposed as a penance on one who had confessed a particularly grave fault. Thus, in the 8th and 9th centuries and even later, murderers or other capital offenders were compelled to go on pilgrimages that often lasted years, wearing mean attire or even chains as a token of the incomplete remission of temporal punishment due to their sin. In certain regions, especially in the Low Countries, lay tribunals were allowed to sentence offenders to pilgrimages long after public penance had been abolished in the Church. However, the pilgrimage that has been important in the history of Christian piety and spiritual life is that undertaken by a free man as a spontaneous gesture in his quest for salvation.
Motives sending Christians on pilgrimages over land and sea may not always have been entirely pure: Sir John Mandeville, who set out for the Holy Land in 1322, was prompted as much by the desire to see the world, to have new and marvellous experiences, and to be accepted as an expert traveler as by a sincere desire for personal sanctification. And the same could certainly be said of many another pilgrim. But, just as John Chrysostom dreamed of being able to go to Rome simply "to see the chains and the prison" of the Apostle, many pilgrims in all ages expect nothing else from their journeys than the simple joy of being able to reach the holy place (ad limina ), i.e., the tomb of a saint they were invoking, and there to saturate themselves with his virtus, to obtain full remission of their sins, to invoke the saint's power to cure their ills of soul or body, or to thank him for a cure already effected.
These two motives, entreaty and thanksgiving, seem constantly to alternate in pilgrimages. In both cases the object is frequently physical health, just as it was for those who sought out Christ during His earthly life. But many other graces and favors might also be solicited, e.g., liberation of a captive, victory over enemies, success in a temporal or spiritual undertaking. One of the first acts of King Richard I the Lion-Hearted after his release from the German prison following the Third Crusade was to visit the tomb of St. Edward the Confessor in westminster abbey. During the national wars against the Turks in the 17th century, Prince Esterhazy and more than 10,000 faithful made the pilgrimage to Mariazell (Austria) to implore success in arms. Each of the great wars of the 20th century has seen a revival of pilgrimages to St. Leonard of Noblat, the popular patron of prisoners: 700 to 800 persons a day came to pray before his statue at Huyssinghem in Brabant (1914–18).
In the Middle Ages the pilgrim received a special liturgical blessing before setting out; he would have already put on a special dress reminiscent of a penitent, with a broad-brimmed hat, a wallet, or pouch, slung across his back, and a long iron-shod cane or "pilgrim's staff" in his hand. Before leaving, he would have been advised to put his affairs in good order, return any money unjustly acquired, make provisions for the support of his family in his absence, and give alms while retaining enough money to defray the expenses of his often long and costly journey. Furthermore, to claim the privileges to which the authentic pilgrim was entitled (for a pilgrim was protected by many conciliar decrees and was, in a certain sense, assimilated into the clergy), the pious traveler had, in fact, to get written authorization of his bishop (or abbot, if he were a monk). By the 12th and 13th centuries only the production of such testimonial letters (testimoniales ) enabled him to escape being classified as an adventurer or pilgrimage profiteer. An ordinance of King Richard II of England in 1388 indicated that any pilgrim without such testimoniales risked arrest.
Today modern transportation has removed not only all danger for the majority of pilgrims but even, in most cases, any flavor of penance. But for centuries millions of Christian pilgrims suffered grim hardships, from both the length and the difficulties of their journeys. English pilgrims crossing to Compostela in the 14th century or Europeans going to the Holy Land in Venetian boats in the 15th were uncomfortable and in danger of shipwreck or capture by the infidels, harassed by poor sanitation and the extra fees often demanded by shipowners. The German Dominican Felix Fabri, who went from Ulm to Jerusalem in 1484, left a detailed account of such conditions.
For a long time pilgrims traveled on land by horse or mule. The Indians of Minas Gerâes still travel by mule over the Brazilian plateaus to Apparecida, a town whose name tells its story. Frequently, pilgrims traveled all or part of the way on foot. This is not unknown even today, e.g., Péguy's pilgrims and the Cologne pilgrims to saint-hubert in the Belgian Ardennes at the beginning of this century both went on foot. Many of the Portuguese peasants going to Fatima still travel on foot.
Very rare today, and constituting the exception even in the Middle Ages, were pilgrimages on which pilgrims went barefoot. King Louis IX walked five leagues barefoot on the road to Chartres; and Enea Silvio Piccolomini, the future Renaissance Pope pius ii, walked barefoot through snow on pilgrimage to Our Lady of Whitekirk.
Pilgrim Roads. Popes and secular rulers early realized their duty to organize pilgrim roads and erect hostels and to ensure, as far as possible, the safety of the pilgrims. In Rome, for example, Pope symmachus concerned himself with pilgrim safety as early as the 6th century, and the famous Schola Saxonum was in existence in the 8th century (see holy spirit, order of the). In the 16th century the staggering influx of Holy Year pilgrims in the city of Rome prompted St. Philip neri's work there. On the most dangerous parts of the journey refuges were built: Novalesa (on the road through the Mont-Cenis Pass) was encouraged by Emperor Louis the Pious (825); and Roncesvalles, a hostel for pilgrims to Compostela, was perhaps the most renowned of all such hospices and was showered with favors by the kings of Navarre. Certain orders were created expressly to aid pilgrims, such as the knights of st. james in Spain, the Knights templars, and the knights of malta, who were initially intended to aid poor, unarmed, and sick pilgrims. The seal of the Templars bore the figure of a knight aiding a pauper et peregrinus. From the 13th century there appeared all over Christendom a great number of confraternities whose aim was to assist pilgrims. One of the most famous of these was that of Altopascio founded in Tuscany. Its influence in Paris is marked by its church of Saint-Jacques "du HautPas," at the starting point of the Paris stage on the road to Compostela. A shrine-city like Lourdes today, or the hostels for pilgrims (in the widest sense of the word) founded in Chartres or Vézelay by pax christi, are modern extensions of the efforts and the spirit of the medieval hospitallers.
Rarely does any pilgrim travel alone: he joins with companions for reasons of economy, security, or spiritual support. Thus, the pilgrimage as a mass phenomenon is of interest to the sociologist as well as to technical scientists, such as sanitation engineers and town planners.
Pilgrim Numbers. Sources tell of mob scenes at many medieval shrines, especially on certain dates (e.g., Holy Saturday at the Holy Sepulcher), with everyone wanting to be the first to reach the holy places; many were trampled in crowds carried away by misguided eagerness. The figures given by medieval sources seem astonishing; yet modern statistics tend to corroborate the huge numbers involved in pilgrimage statistics. Villani states that, during the first Holy Year in 1300, Rome had a steady 200,000 inhabitants above normal; 100,000 pilgrims are said to have congregated in Trier for the first solemn exhibition of the Holy Shroud in 1512. But then there were 300,000 pilgrims in Puy in 1853, close to 160,000 in Aachen in 1881, and at least 1,200,000 in Kiev in 1886 (the railroad had opened that year). Einsiedeln had 150,000 pilgrims a year at the beginning of the 20th century. Lourdes had 8,000,000 in 1958, the centenary year of the apparitions. The annual number of pilgrims in Lisieux (St. thÉrÈse de lisieux) still exceeds 1,000,000. In India a week-long exposition of the arm of St. Francis xavier in Goa attracted several million pilgrims who, incidentally, were not all Christians.
Pilgrim Ritual. The pilgrim usually brought an exvoto to the shrine, which he would leave there, e.g., a wax or metal reproduction of a limb that had been healed or a tablet telling of an accident that he had escaped. Different centuries and civilizations have seen pilgrims bring an infinite variety of such objects: tammata to Greek sanctuaries, silver orange trees with golden fruits to Tenos, wax ships to the shrine of St. gerald of braga in the 13th century, silver ships recalling shipwrecks survived to Notre-Dame de la Garde in Marseilles in the 20th century, military medals and sabres to Notre-Dame des Victoires in Paris, crude and homely figurines of domestic animals for the little shrines in Carinthia, and innumerable marble plaques to Pontmain, to Sainte-Radegonde in Poitiers, and to Sainte Anne de Beaupré in Canada.
Usually the pilgrim offers gifts in money or in kind at the shrine. In fact, many shrine churches of the Middle Ages depended on offerings of oil and wax from their pilgrims for their illumination needs. Furthermore, a considerable number of old coins have been found in st. peter's, Rome; the Anglo-Saxon, 7th-century coins found there are one of the sources attesting to the early flow of English pilgrims to the tomb of Peter. In the 14th century gifts to the shrines of St. cuthbert of lindis farne and St. bede at durham, England, were particularly abundant. In modern times czĘstochowa in Poland was considered one of the richest shrines in the world. But even more modest shrine churches overflow with gifts; e.g., a little pilgrimage center in south Italy, Viggiano in Lucania, received sums amounting to 2,500,000 lire (or $4,000) in 1950, as well as some four pounds of gold.
The pilgrimage vow itself was discharged by prayer and penance at a shrine. The pilgrims generally prayed kneeling, and in consequence, e.g., the stone placed in front of the reliquary of Edward the Confessor in Westminster Abbey is now worn almost hollow. But penance was no less essential than prayer. Medieval pilgrims assumed a penitential posture as soon as they reached the mons gaudii, the height from which they first caught sight of their goal, and they retained this posture from that point on. Emperor Otto III thus approached the tomb of adalbert of prague at Gniezno. One of the most constant penitential exercises was climbing a lofty staircase on hands and knees (Rocamadour; the Scala sancta in Rome; the shrine on Mt. Sinai; the oratory of St. Joseph in Montreal, Canada). Another penance was begging at the approaches to the shrine. Sometimes even more demanding penances were required of the pilgrim, such as those minutely codified for the pilgrim to the famous St. Patrick's purgatory. A custom frequently observed at shrines, now as in the past, is the all-night vigil, in which a great number of pilgrims pass the entire night in the shrine itself or nearby in order to saturate themselves with the mysterious power of the saint. This is mentioned as early as the Miracula of St. hilary of poitiers. In the 15th century Felix Fabri and his companions spent three nights in the church of the Holy Sepulcher. Even in the 20th century it used to be a frequent occurrence to see villagers camping out all night singing psalms and canticles during pilgrimages to Uzhgorod in the Ukraine, Russia, or to the Ostra Brama in Vilna, Lithuania. On Tenos, for the vigils of the Annunciation and the Assumption, the church is open for worshipers day and night.
Other pilgrim practices require the pilgrim to circle the tomb or pass under it if the architecture permits. This latter can often be observed in Breton "pardons" (pilgrimages). At some shrines the pilgrims circle the church itself, not unlike the practice in Mecca. Processions made over rocky ground at Fatima are considered especially penitential.
Receiving the Sacraments is one of the most appropriate acts for the pilgrim who has reached the goal of his pilgrimage, for he has journeyed all the way essentially to be freed from his sins. There are no pilgrim shrines without numerous confessionals; in Laus, hearing confessions is a steady and weighty duty of the chaplains. In Lourdes, during the peak pilgrimage period, pilgrims receive Communion for hours on end every day at the grotto. And it is a striking fact that even during the worst period of jansenism (1732) there were an average of 250 Communions a day at Notre-Dame de Hal in Belgium.
Bodily cures have always been sought by pilgrims, and in fact there is no shrine venerated by popular piety that has not at some point been the scene of cures. There is no way of verifying the cures reported—probably with exaggeration—in medieval sources. In modern times, however, a rigorous system of checking has been instituted, and the cures reported are all the more impressive. In many shrines the sick lie along the length of the processional route of the Blessed Sacrament or reliquaries of the saints, or they are immersed in the water of a miraculous spring. At the procession of Aug. 23, 1897, at Lourdes, when 350 miracles were recorded, there were 41 miraculous cures. At the 1891 Trier expositions 11 cures were officially reported. In England certain pilgrimages that were discontinued at the Reformation have been recently revived, and miraculous cures have been reported at the walsingham pilgrimage (revived in 1927).
Pilgrims' Return Home. Many pilgrims, especially in the past, could only regretfully bring themselves to leave the place where they had found peace of soul; in fact, some settled down at the holy site, especially Jerusalem, for months or even years, devoting themselves to works of mercy, to caring for the sick in the hospitals, etc. Even into the 20th century the faithful who went to the famous Solovetski Island shrine in the White Sea would often remain for some time in the service of the monks who were custodians of the shrine. Sources mention pilgrims who would express the wish that they might die there at the goal of their pilgrimage lest they fall again into sickness or sin. In exceptional cases this favor would be granted.
When pilgrims returned home, they always tried to take some tangible memento of their journey, some "relic." Most had to be satisfied with a few drops of the oil used in the lamps burning before the tomb of the saint. This oil would be carried away in ampullae, or phials, such as those preserved in the treasury of Monza in Lombardy. Or they would take minute fragments of the tomb itself, surreptitiously removed splinters of stone or a little of the dust scratched from the tombstone and carried away in a small bag. The "dust of the Holy House" at Loreto is still collected for pilgrims each year on Good Friday; rosaries with a lunula reliquary in their crosses containing "earth of the catacombs" are still sold just outside St. Peter's in Rome.
Many pilgrims in the Middle Ages were anxious to prove themselves bona fide returning pilgrims and to distinguish themselves from the swarms of pseudopilgrims, such as those Chaucer so mordantly denounces on the Canterbury roads. Their proof was the emblem (signum ) they prominently displayed while returning home. The most renowned insignia were Holy Land palm branches broken off at Jericho (hence the term "palmer" to designate the pilgrim) and the St. James shell gathered on the beaches of Galicia when at Compostela. Insignia from Rome, which began to appear only about the 14th century, were more likely to be a Veil of Veronica with a reproduction of the Holy Face than an emblem picturing the heads of the two Apostles. The periodic exposition of Veronica's Veil in St. Peter's was enriched by popular indulgences. Other insignia included the picture of Thomas Becket on Canterbury phials, the Sinai torture wheel recalling the martyrdom of St. Catherine, the head of John the Baptist for Amiens, leaden statues of Our Lady of Walsingham, of Rocamadour, and other Marian sanctuaries, such as the statuettes that King Louis XI was fond of carrying.
Pilgrims generally wanted to repeat their pilgrimages. The case of Duke William V of Aquitaine (c. 1000) is famous: each year he went to Rome or else to Compostela. King Charles VII traveled to Puy five times, Louis XI went to Notre-Dame de Béhuard in Anjou 15 times, King Henry III journeyed to Chartres 18 times. In 1843 a simple Austrian blacksmith made his 33d pilgrimage to Mariazell. There were perpetual pilgrims in the West during most of the Middle Ages and in Russia until modern times (called peregrinantes as opposed to peregrini; in Russia startsy ). They went from shrine to shrine throughout most of their life, with no other aim than to proclaim Christ by their lonely wandering. St. Benedict Joseph labre was one of these "fools for Christ's sake," as late as the 18th century.
Reaction to Pilgrims. Both perpetual and ordinary pilgrims were often mocked, scoffed at, and sometimes insulted, as were those of La Salette in Grenoble (1872). Literary satire on pilgrims has been a constant phenomenon, from the Roman de Renart to attacks by Erasmus or Voltaire. Moralists, spiritual writers, and preachers have more than once deplored the abuses of pilgrimaging; one need only recall the remarks in the Imitation of Christ or Jerome's protest that the important thing was not to go to live in Jerusalem but to live a holy life, adding: "You can reach the court of Heaven just as well from Britain as from Jerusalem." And, though a pilgrimage well performed is an important means to salvation, he added, it is not a necessary means; it is hardly proper to neglect the duties of one's state in life to go wandering over pilgrimage roads, especially if one is a monk. More than once bernard of clairvaux reminded his Cistercian confreres, "Your cell is Jerusalem." Yet despite these constant criticisms, despite the great popular credulity in relics and legends and the enormous number of pilgrims who were far from ideal, many great minds defended the principle of pilgrimaging. Sir Thomas More, for example, took pains to compose (1529) a treatise in defense of pilgrimages. "There was never a pilgrim," wrote chateaubriand, "who did not come back to his village with one less prejudice and one more idea." Charles Eugène de foucauld, for his part, maintained that the haji came back more tolerant, more just, and more pious than they had been before setting out for Mecca. These assessments are perhaps too optimistic. But this does not alter the fact that many Christian pilgrims have returned from their long journeys cured in body and at peace with God (ad Deum conversi ).
Bibliography: j. j. jusserand, English Wayfaring Life in the Middle Ages (4th ed. London 1892). j. schmitz, Sühnenwallfahrten im Mittelalter (Bonn 1910). l. de valon, Les Pèlerinages expiatoires et judiciaires de la Belgique à Roc-Amadour au moyen âge (Marseilles 1935). w. j. moore, The Saxon pilgrims to Rome and the Schola Saxonum (Fribourg 1937). m. romani, Pellegrini e viaggiatori nell' economia di Roma dal XIV al XVII secolo (Milan 1948). p. deffontaines, Géographie et religions (Paris 1948). l. vazquez de parga et al., Las Peregrinaciones a Santiago de Compostela, 3 v. (Madrid 1948–49). c. baussan, Lourdes et les pèlerinages de la Vierge (Grenoble 1949). h. f. m. prescott, Friar Felix at Large: A 15th Century Pilgrimage to the Holy Land (New Haven 1950). b. kÖtting, Peregrinatio religiosa: Wallfahrten in der Antike und das Pilgerwesen in der alten Kirche (Münster 1950). r. roussel, Les Pèlerinages à travers les siècles (Paris 1954), r. kriss and h. kriss-heinrich, Peregrinatio Neohellenika: Wallfahrtswanderungen im heutigen Griechenland and in Unteritalien (Vienna 1955). m. martins, Peregrinacões e livros de milagros na nosse idade media (2d ed. Lisbon 1957). p. cabanne, Les Longs cheminements: Les Pèlerinages de tous les temps et de toutes les croyances (Paris 1958). e. r. labande, "Recherches sur les pèlerins dans l'Europe des XIe et XIIe siècles," Cahiers de civilisation médiévale 1 (1958) 159–169, 339–347. h. engelmann, Pèlerinages (Paris 1959). a. m. besnard, Le Pèlerinage chrétien (Paris 1959). h. quÉffelec, La Bretagne des pardons (Paris 1962). r. oursel, Les Pèlerins du moyen âge: Les Hommes, les chemins, les sanctuaires (Paris 1963).
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"Pilgrimages." New Catholic Encyclopedia. . Encyclopedia.com. (July 23, 2019). https://www.encyclopedia.com/religion/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/pilgrimages
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