History of Pilgrimage 206 Tours - Catholic Pilgrimages


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History of Pilgrimage




In a letter written towards the end of the fourth century by Sts. Paula and Eustochium to the Roman matron Marcella, urging her to follow them out to the Holy Places, they insist on the universality of the custom of these pilgrimages to Palestine:–"Whosoever is noblest in Gaul comes hither. And Britain though divided from us yet hastens from her land of sunset to these shrines known to her Only * through the Scriptures." They go on to enumerate the various nationalities that crowded round these holy places, Armenians, Persians, Indians, Ethiopians, and many others (P. L., XXII; Ep. xlvi, 489-900). But it is of greater interest to note how they claim for this custom a continuity from Apostolic days. From the Ascension to their time, bishops, martyrs, doctors, and troops of people, say they, had flocked to see the sacred stones of Bethlehem and of wherever else the Lord had trod (489). It has been suggested that this is an exaggeration, and certainly we can offer no proof of any such uninterrupted practice. Yet when the first examples begin to appear they are represented to us without a word of astonishment or a note of novelty, as though people were already fully accustomed to like adventures. Thus in Eusebius, "History" (tr. Crusé, London, 1868, VI, xi, 215), it is remarked of Bishop Alexander that "he performed a journey from Cappadocia to Jerusalem in consequence of a vow and the celebrity of the place." And the date given is also worthy of notice, A. D. 217. Then again there is the story of the two travelers of Placentia, John and Antoninus the Elder (Acta SS., July, II, 18), which took place about 303-4. Of course with the conversion of Constantine and the visit to Jerusalem of the Empress St. Helena the pilgrimages to the Holy Land became very much more frequent. The story of the finding of the Cross is too well known to be here repeated (cf. P. L., XXVII, 1125), but its influence was unmistakable. The first church of the Resurrection was built by Eustathius the Priest (loc. cit., 1164). But the flow of pilgrimages began in vigour four years after St. Helena's visit (Acta SS., June, III, 176; Sept., III, 56). Then the organization of the Church that partly caused and partly resulted from the Council of Nicæa continued the same custom.

In 333 was the famous Bordeaux Pilgrimage ("Palestine Pilgrim Text Society", London, 1887, preface and notes by Stewart). It was the first of a whole series of pilgrimages that have left interesting and detailed accounts of the route, the peoples through which they passed, the sites identified with those mentioned in the Gospels. Another was the still better-known "Peregrinatio Silviæ" (ed. Barnard, London, 1891, Pal. Pilg. Text Soc.; cf. "Rev. des quest. hist." 1903, 367, etc.). Moreover, the whole movement was enormously increased by the language and action of St. Jerome whose personality at the close of the fourth century dominated East and West. Slightly earlier St. John Chrysostom emphasized the efficacy in arousing devotion of visiting even the "lifeless spots" where the saints had lived (In Phil., 702-3, in P. G., LXII). And his personal love of St. Paul would have unfailingly driven him to Rome to see the tomb of the Apostles, but for the burden of his episcopal office. He says ("In Ephes. hom. 8, ii, 57, in P. G., LXII), "If I were freed from my labors and my body were in sound health I would eagerly make a pilgrimage merely to see the chains that had held him captive and the prison where he lay." While in another passage of extraordinary eloquence he expresses his longing to gaze on the dust of the great Apostle, the dust of the lips that had thundered, of the hands that had been fettered, of the eyes that had seen the Master; even as he speaks he is dazzled by the splendor of the metropolis of the world lit up by the glorious tombs of the twin prince Apostles (In Rom. hom. 32, iii, 678, etc., in P. G., LX). Nor in this is he advocating a new practice, for he mentions without comment how many people hurried across the seas to Arabia to see and venerate the dunghill of Job (Ad pop. Antioch. hom. 5, 69, in P. G., XLIX). St. Jerome was cramped by no such official duties as had kept St. Chrysostom to his diocese. His conversion, following on the famous vision of his judgment, turned him from his studies of pagan classics to the pages of Holy Writ, and, uniting with his untiring energy and thoroughness, pushed him on to Palestine to devote himself to the Scriptures in the land where they had been written. Once there the actual Gospel scenes appealed with supreme freshness to him, and on his second return from Rome his enthusiasm fired several Roman matrons to accompany him and share his labors and his devotions. Monasteries and convents were built and a Latin colony was established which in later times was to revolutionize Europe by inaugurating the Crusades.


From the Holy Land the circle widens to Rome, as a centre of pilgrimages. St. Chrysostom, as has been shown, expressed his vehement desire to visit it. And in the early church histories of Eusebius, Zosimus, Socrates, and others, notices are frequent of the journeyings of celebrated princes and bishops of the City of the Seven Hills. Of course the Saxon kings and royal families have made this a familiar thing to us. The "Ecclesiastical History" of St. Bede is crowded with references to princes and princesses who laid aside their royal diadems in order to visit the shrine of the Apostles; and the "Anglo-Saxon Chronicle" after his death takes up the same refrain. Then from Rome again the shrines of local saints begin to attract their votaries. In the letter already cited in which Paula and Eustochium invite Marcella to Palestine they argue from the already established custom of visiting the shrines of the martyrs: "Martyrum ubique sepulchra veneramur" (Ep. xlvi, 488, in P. L., XXII). St. Augustine endeavors to settle a dispute by sending both litigants on a pilgrimage to the tomb of St. Felix of Nola, in order that the saint may somehow or other make some sign as to which party was telling the truth. He candidly admits that he knows of no such miracle having been performed in Africa, but argues to it from the analogy of Milan where God had made known His pleasure through the relics of Sts. Gervasius and Protasius (Ep. lxxvii, 269, in P. L., XXXIII). Indeed, the very idea of relics, which existed as early as the earliest of the catacombs, teaches the essential worth of pilgrimages, i. e., of the journeying to visit places hallowed by events in the lives of heroes or of gods who walked in the guise of men (St. Aug., "De civ. Dei", XXII, 769, in P. L., XXXVIII).


At first a mere question of individual traveling, a short period was sufficient to develop into pilgrimages properly organized companies. Even the "Peregrinatio Silviæ" shows how they were being systematized. The initiators were clerics who prepared the whole route beforehand and mapped out the cities of call. The bodies of troops were got together to protect the pilgrims. Moreover, Christian almsgiving invented a method of participation in the merits of a pilgrimage for those unable actually to take part in them; it established hospices along the line (Ordericus Vitalis, "Hist. eccles.", ed. Le Prévost, Suc. hist. France, II, 64, 53; Toulmin Smith, "English Guilds", passim). The conversion of the Hungarians amplified this system of halts along the road; of St. Stephen, for example, we read that "he made the way very safe for all and thus allowed by his benevolence a countless multitude both of noble and common people to start for Jerusalem" (Glaber, "Chron.", III, C. I. Mon. Germ. Hist., VII, 62). Thus these pious journeys gradually harden down and become fixed and definite. They are allowed for by laws, civil and ecclesiastical. Wars are fought to insure their safety, crusades are begun in their defence, pilgrims are everywhere granted free access in times alike of peace and war. By the "Consuetudines" of the canons of Hereford cathedral we see that legislation was found to be necessary. No canon was to make more than one pilgrimage beyond the seas in his own lifetime. But each year three weeks were allowed to enable any that would to visit shrines within the kingdom. To go abroad to the tomb of St. Denis, seven weeks of absence was considered legal, eight weeks to the body of St. Edmund at Pontigny, sixteen weeks to Rome, or to St. James at Compostella, and a year to Jerusalem (Archæol., XXXI, 251-2 notes).


Again in another way pilgrimages were being regarded as part of normal life. In the registers of the Inquisition at Carcassone (Waterton, "Pictas Mariana Britannica", 112) we find the four following places noted as being the centres of the greater pilgrimages to be imposed as penances for the graver crimes, the tomb of the Apostles at Rome, the shrine of St. James at Compostella, St. Thomas's body at Canterbury, and the relics of the Three Kings at Cologne. Naturally with all this there was a great deal of corruption. Even from the earliest times the Fathers perceived how liable such devotions were to degenerate into an abuse. St. John Chrysostom, so ardent in his praise of pilgrimages, found it necessary to explain that there was "need for none to cross the seas or fare upon a long journey; let each of us at home invoke God earnestly and He will hear our prayer" (Ad pop. Antioch, hom. iii, 2, 49, in P. G., XLIX; cf. hom. iv, 6, 68). St. Gregory Nazianzen is even stronger in his condemnation. He has a short letter in which he speaks of those who regard it as an essential part of piety to visit Jerusalem and see the traces of the Passion of Christ. This, he says, the Master has never commanded, though the custom is not therefore without merit. But still he knows that in many cases the journey has proved a scandal and caused serious harm. He witnesses, therefore, both to the custom and the abuse, evidently thinking that the latter outweighed the former (Ep. ii, 1009, in P. G., XLVI). So again St. Jerome writes to Paulinus (Ep. lxviii in P. L., XXII) to explain, in an echo of Cicero's phrase, that it is not the fact of living in Jerusalem, but of living there well, that is worthy of praise (579); he instances countless saints who never set foot in the Holy Land; and dares not tie down to one small portion of the Earth Him whom Heaven itself is unable to contain. He ends with a sentence that is by now famous, "et de Hierusolymis et de Britannia æqualiter patet aula cœ;lestis" (581).


Another well-quoted passage comes from a letter of St. Augustine in which he expounds in happy paradox that not by journeying but by loving we draw nigh unto God. To Him who is everywhere present and everywhere entire we approach not by our feet but by our hearts (Ep. clv, 672, in P. L. XXXII). For certainly pilgrimages were not always undertaken for the best of motives. Glaber (ed. Prou, Paris, 1886, 107) thinks it necessary to note of Lethbald that he was far from being one of those who were led to Jerusalem simply from vanity, that they might have wonderful stories to tell, when they came back. Thus, as the centuries pass, we find human nature the same in its complexity of motives. Its noblest actions are found to be often caused by petty spites or vanity or overvaulting ambition; and even when begun in good faith as a source of devotion, the practices of piety at times are degraded into causes of vice. So the author of the "Imitation of Christ' raises his voice against overmuch pilgrimage-making: "Who wander much are but little hallowed." Now too the words of the fifteenth-century English Dominican, John Bromyard ("Summa Prædicantium", Tit. Feria n. 6, fol. 191, Lyons, 1522):–"There are some who keep their pilgrimages and festivals not for God but for the devil. They who sin more freely when away from home or who go on pilgrimage to succeed in inordinate and foolish love–those who spend their time on the road in evil and uncharitable conversation may indeed say peregrinamur a Domino–they make their pilgrimage away from God and to the devil."


But the most splenetic scorn is to be found in the pages of that master of satire, Erasmus. His "Religious Pilgrimage" ("Colloquies" ed. Johnson, London, 1878, 11, 1-37) is a terrible indictment of the abuses of his day. Exaggerated no doubt in its expressions, yet revealing a sufficient modicum of real evil, it is a graphic picture from the hand of an intelligent observer. There is evident sign that pilgrimages were losing in popularity, not merely because the charity of many was growing cold, but because of the excessive credulity of the guardians of the shrines, their overwrought insistence on the necessity of pilgrimage-making, and the fact that many who journeyed from shrine to shrine neglected their domestic duties. These three evils are quaintly expressed in the above mentioned dialogue, with a liberty of speech that makes one astonished at Rome's toleration in the sixteenth century. With all these abuses Erasmus saw how the spoiler would have ready to hand excuses for suppressing the whole system and plundering the most attractive treasures. The wealth might well be put, he suggested, to other uses; but the idea of a pilgrimage contained in it nothing opposed to the enlightened opinions of this prophet of "sweet reasonableness". "If any shall do it of their own free choice from a great affection to piety, I think they deserve to be left to their own freedom" (op. cit., 35). This was evidently the opinion also of Henry VIII, for, though in the Injunctions of 1536 and 1538 pilgrimages were to be discouraged, yet both in the bishop's book (The Institution of the Christian Man, 1537) and the king's book (The Necessary Doctrine and Erudition of the Christian Man, 1543), it is laid down that the abuse and not the custom is reprehensible. What they really attack is the fashion of "putting differences between image and image, trusting more in one than in another" (cf. Gairdner, "Lollardy and the Reformation", II, London, 1908, IV, ii, 330, etc.). All this shows how alive Christendom has been to evils which Reformers are forever denouncing as inseparable from Catholicism. It admits the danger but does not allow it to prejudice the good use ("Diayloge of Syr Thomas More", London,1529). Before dealing with each pilgrimage in particular one further remark should be made. Though not properly included under a list of abuses, a custom must be noted of going in search of shrines utterly at haphazard and without any definite notion of where the journey was to end (Waterton, "Piet. Mar. Britt.", London, 1879, III, 107; "Anglo-Sax. Chron.", tr. Thorpe in R. S., London, 1861, II, 69; Beazley, "Dawn of Mod. Geog.", London, 1897-1906, I, 174-5; Tobl. Bibl. Geog. Pal. 26, ed. of 1876).




Among the countless effects which pilgrimages produced the following may be set down:

Towns–Matthew Paris notes ("Chron. major." in R. S., I, 3, an. 1067) that in England (and the same thing really applies all over Europe) there was hardly a town where there did not lie the bodies of martyrs, confessors, and holy virgins, and though no doubt in very many cases it was the importance of the towns that made them the chosen resting-places of the saint's relics, in quite as many others the importance of the saint drew so many religious pilgrims to it that the town sprang up into real significance. So it has been noted that Canterbury, at least, outshone Winchester, and since the Reformation has once more dwindled into insignificance. Bury Saint Edmunds, St. Albans, Walsingham, Compostella, Lourdes, La Salette have arisen, or grown, or decayed, accordingly as the popularity among pilgrims began, advanced, declined

Roads were certainly made in many cases by the pilgrims. They wore out a path from the sea- coast to Canterbury and joined Walsingham to the great centres of English life and drove tracks and paths across the Syrian sands to the Holy City. And men and women for their soul's sake made benefactions so as to level down and up, and to straighten out the wandering ways that led from port to sanctuary and from shrine to shrine (Digby, "Compitum", London, 1851, I, 408). Thus they hoped to get their share also in the merits of the pilgrim. The whole subject has been illuminated in a particular instance by a monograph of Hillaire Belloc in the "Old Road" (London, 1904).


Geography too sprang from the same source. Each pilgrim who wrote an account of his travels for the instruction and edification of his fellows was unconsciously laying the foundations of a new science; and it is astonishing how very early these written accounts begin. The fourth century saw them rise, witnessed the publication of many "Peregrinationes" (cf. Palestine Pilg. Text Soc., passim), and started the fashion of writing these day-to-day descriptions of the countries through which they journeyed. It is Only * fair to mention with especial praise the names of the Dominicans Ricaldo da Monte Cruce (1320) and Bourchard of Mount Sion (Beazley, II, 190, 383), the latter of whom has given measurements of several Biblical sites, the accuracy of which is testified to by modern travellers. Again we know that Roger of Sicily caused the famous work "The Book of Roger, or the Delight of whoso loves to make the Circuit of the World" (1154) to be compiled, from information gathered from pilgrims and merchants, who were made to appear before a select committee of Arabs (Symonds, "Sketches in Italy", Leipzig, 1883, I, 249); and we even hear of a medieval Continental guidebook to the great shrines, prefaced by a list of the most richly indulgenced sanctuaries and containing details of where money could be changed, where inns and hospitals were to be found, what roads were safest and best, etc. ("The Month", March, 1909, 295; "Itineraries of William Wey", ed. for Roxburgh Club, London, 1857; Thomas, "De passagis in Terram Sanctam", Venice, 1879; Bounardot and Longnon, "Le saint voyage de Jhérusalem du Seigneur d'Auglure", Paris, 1878).


Crusades also naturally arose out of the idea of pilgrimages. It was these various peregrinationes made to the Sepulchre of Jesus Christ that at all familiarized people with the East. Then came the huge columns of devout worshippers, growing larger and larger, becoming more fully organized, and well protected by armed bands of disciplined troops. The most famous pilgrimage of all, that of 1065, which numbered about 12,000, under Gunther, Bishop of Bamberg, assisted by the Archbishop of Mainz, and the Bishops of Ratisbon and Utrecht, was attacked by Bedouins after it had left Cæsarea. The details of that Homeric struggle were brought home to Europe (Lambert of Gersfield, "Mon. Germ. Hist.", 1844, V, 169) and at once gave rise to Crusades.


Miracle Plays are held to be derived from returning pilgrims. This theory is somewhat obscurely worked out by Père Monestrier (Représentations en musique anc. et modernes; cf. Champagnac, I, 9). But he bases his conclusions on the idea that the miracle plays begin by the story of the Birth or Death of Christ and holds that the return to the West of those who had visited the scenes of the life of Christ naturally led them to reproduce these as best they could for their less fortunate brethren (St. Aug., "De civ. Dei" in P. L., XXXVIII, 764). Hence the miracle plays that deal with the story of Christ's Passion were imported for the benefit of those who were unable to visit the very shrines. But the connexion between the pilgrimages and these plays comes out much more clearly when we realize that the scene of the martyrdom of the saint or some legend concerning one of the miracles was not uncommOnly * acted before his shrine or during the pilgrimage that was being made to it. It was performed in order to stimulate devotion, and to teach the lessons of his life to those who probably knew little about him. It was one way and the most effective way of seeing that the reason for visiting the shrine was not one of mere idle superstition, but that it had a purpose to achieve in the moral improvement of the pilgrim.


International Communications owed an enormous debt to the continued interchange of pilgrims. Pilgrimages and wars were practically the Only * reasons that led the people of one country to visit that of another. It may safely be hazarded that an exceedingly large proportion of the foreigners who came to England, came on purpose to venerate the tomb of the "Holy blissful Martyr", St. Thomas Becket. Special enactments allowed pilgrims to pass unmolested through districts that were in the throes of war. Again facilities were granted, as at Pontigny, for strangers to visit the shrines of their own saints in other lands. The result of this was naturally to increase communications between foreign countries. The matter of road-making has been already alluded to and the establishment of hospices along the lines of march, as the ninth-century monastery at Mount Cenis, or in the cities most frequented by pilgrims, fulfilled the same purpose (Acta SS., March, II, 150, 157; Glaber, "Chron." in Mon. Germ. Hist.: Script, VII, 62). Then lastly it may be noted that we have distinct notices, scattered, indirect, and yet all the more convincing, that pilgrims not infrequently acted as postmen, carrying letters from place to place as they went; and that people even waited with their notes written till a stray pilgrim should pass along the route (Paston Letters, II, 62).


Religious Orders began to be founded to succor the pilgrims, and these even the most famous orders of the medieval Church. The Knights Hospitallers, or Knights of St. John, as their name implies, had as their office to guard the straggling bands of Latin Christians; the Knights of Rhodes had the same work to carry out; as also had the Knights Templars. In fact the seal of these last represented simply a knight rescuing a helpless pilgrim (compare also the Trinità dei Peregrini of St. Philip).

Scandals effected by this form of devotion are too obvious and were too often denounced by the saints and other writers from St. Jerome to Thomas a Kempis to need any setting out here. The "Canterbury Tales" of Chaucer are sufficient evidence. But the characteristic ones:


(i)    excessive credulity of the guardian of the shrine;

(ii)    insistence upon the obligation of pilgrimages as though they were necessary for salvation;

(iii)   the neglect on the part of too many of the pilgrims of their own duties at home in order to spend more time in passing from one sanctuary to another;

(iv)  the wantonness and evil-living and evil-speaking indulged in by the pilgrims themselves in many cases. Not as though these abuses invalidated the use of pilgrimages. Erasmus himself declares that they did not; but they certainly should have been more stringently and rigorously repressed by the church rulers. The dangers of these scandals are evidently reduced to a minimum by the speed of modern travel; yet from time to time warnings need to be repeated lest the old evils should return.




To complete this article, it will be well to give the following blessings taken from the Sarum Missal (London, 1868, 595-6).


Blessing of Scrip and Staff

 V. The Lord be with you.
 R. And with thy spirit.

Let us pray. O Lord Jesus Christ who of Thy unspeakable mercy at the bidding of the Father and by the Co-operation of the Holy Ghost was willing to come down from Heaven and to seek the sheep that was lost by the deceit of the devil, and to carry him back on Thy shoulders to the flock of the Heavenly Country; and didst commend the sons of Holy Mother Church by prayer to ask, by holy living to seek, by persevering to knock that so they may the more speedily find the reward of saving life; we humbly call upon Thee that Thou wouldst be pleased to bless these scrips (or this scrip) and these staves (or this staff) that whosoever for the love of Thy name shall desire to wear the same at his side or hang it at his neck or to bear it in his hands and so on his pilgrimage to seek the aid of the Saints with the accompaniment of humble prayer, being protected by the guardianship of Thy Right Hand may be found meet to attain unto the joys of the everlasting vision through Thee, O Saviour of the World, Who livest and reignest in the unity of the Holy Spirit, God for ever and ever. Amen.

Here let the scrip be sprinkled with Holy Water and let the Priest put it round each pilgrim's neck, saying: In the Name of our Lord Jesus Christ receive this scrip, the habit of thy pilgrimage, that after due chastisement thou mayest be found worthy to reach in safety the Shrine of the Saints to which thou desirest to go; and after the accomplishment of thy journey thou mayest return to us in health. Through, etc.

Here let him give the Staff to the Pilgrim, saying: Receive this staff for thy support in the travail and toil of thy pilgrimage, that thou mayest be able to overcome all the hosts of the enemy and reach in safety the Shrine of the Saints whither thou desirest to go; and having obediently fulfilled thy course mayest return again to us with joy. Through, etc.


The Blessing of the Cross for one on a pilgrimage to Jerusalem

 V. The Lord be with you.
 R. And with thy spirit.

Let us pray. O God, whose power is invincible and pity cannot be measured, the aid and sole comfort of pilgrims; who givest unto Thy servants armour which cannot be overcome; we beseech Thee to be pleased to bless this dress which is humbly devoted to Thee, that the banner of the venerated Cross, the figure whereof is upon it, may be a most mighty strength to Thy servants against the wicked temptations of the old enemy; a defense by the way, a protection in Thy house, and a security to us on every side. Through, etc.

Here let the garment marked with the Cross be sprinkled with Holy Water and given to the pilgrim, the priest saying:
 Receive this dress whereupon the sign of the Cross of the Lord Our Saviour is traced, that through it safety, benediction and strength to journey in prosperity, may accompany thee to the Sepulchre of Him, who with God the Father and the Holy Ghost, liveth and reigneth one God, world without end. Amen.



The idea of a pilgrimage has been traced back by some (Littledale in "Encycl. Brit.", 1885, XIX, 90; "New Internat. Encyc.", New York, 1910, XVI, 20, etc.) to the primitive notion of local deities, that is, that the divine beings who controlled the movements of men and nature could exercise that control Only * over certain definite forces or within set boundaries. Thus the river gods had no power over those who kept away from the river, nor could the wind deities exercise any influence over those who lived in deserts or clearings or on the bare mountainside. Similarly there were gods of the hills and gods of the plains who could Only * work out their designs, could Only * favor or destroy men within their own locality (III Kings, xx, 23). Hence, when some man belonging to a mountain tribe found himself in the plain and was in need of divine help, he made a pilgrimage back again to the hills to petition it from his gods. It is therefore the broken tribesmen who originate pilgrimages.


Without denying the force of this argument as suggesting or extending the custom, for it has been admitted as plausible by distinguished Catholics (cf. Lagrange, "Etudes sur les relig. sémit., VIII, Paris, 1905, 295, 301), we may adhere to a less arbitrary solution by seeking its cause in the instinctive notion of the human heart. For pilgrimages properly so called are made to the places where the gods or heroes were born or wrought some great action or died, or to the shrines where the deity had already signified it to be his pleasure to work wonders.


The Incarnation was bound inevitably to draw men across Europe to visit the Holy Places, for the custom itself arises spontaneously from the heart. It is found in all religions. The Egyptians journeyed to Sekket's shrine at Bubastis or to Ammon's oracle at Thebes; the Greeks sought for counsel from Apollo at Delphi and for cures from Asclepius at Epidaurus; the Mexicans gathered at the huge temple of Quetzal; the Peruvians Massed in sun-worship at Cuzco and the Bolivians in Titicaca. But it is evident that the religions which centered round a single character, be he god or prophet, would be the most famous for their pilgrimages, not for any reason of tribal returns to a central district where alone the deity has power, but rather owing to the perfectly natural wish to visit spots made holy by the birth, life, or death of the god or prophet. Hence Buddhism and Mohammedanism are especially famous in inculcating this method of devotion. Huge gatherings of people intermittently all the year round venerate Kapilavastu where Gaukama Buddha began his life, Benares where he opened his sacred mission, Kasinagara where he died; and Mecca and Medina have become almost bywords in English as the goals of long aspirations, so famous are they for their connection with the prophet of Islam.


Granting then this instinctive movement of human nature, we should expect to find that in Christianity God would Himself satisfy the craving He had first Himself created. The story of His appearance on earth in bodily form when He "dwelt amongst us" could not but be treasured up by His followers, and each city and site mentioned became a matter of grateful memory to them. Then again the more famous of His disciples, whom we designate as saints, themselves began to appeal to the devotion of their fellows, and round the acts of their lives soon clustered a whole cycle of venerated shrines. Especially would this be felt in the case of the martyrs; for their passion and death stamped more dramatically still the exact locality of their triumph. Moreover, it seems reasonable to suppose that yet another influence worked to the same end. There sprang up in the early Church a curious privilege, accorded to dying martyrs, of granting the remission of canonical penances. No doubt it began through a generous acceptance of the relation of St. Stephen to St. Paul.


But certain it is that at an early date this custom had become so highly organized that there was a libellus, or warrant of reconciliation, a set form for the readmittance of sinners to Christian fellowship (Batiffol, "Etudes d'hist. et de théol. posit.", I, Paris, 1906, 112- 20). Surely then it is not fanciful to see how from this came a further development. Not Only * had the martyrs in their last moments this power of absolving from ecclesiastical penalties, but even after their deaths, their tombs and the scenes of their martyrdom were considered to be capable also–if devoutly venerated–of removing the taints and penalties of sin. Accordingly it came to be looked upon as a purifying act to visit the bodies of the saints and above all the places where Christ Himself had set the supreme example of a teaching sealed with blood.


Again it may be noted how, when the penitential system of the Church, which grouped itself round the sacrament of the confessional, had been authoritatively and legally organized, pilgrimages were set down as adequate punishments inflicted for certain crimes. The hardships of the journey, the penitential garb worn, the mendicity it entailed made a pilgrimage a real and efficient penance (Beazley, "Dawn of Modern Geography", II, 139; Furnival, "The Stacions of Rome and the Pilgrim's Sea Voyage", London, 1867, 47). To quote a late text, the following is one of the canons enacted under King Edgar (959-75): "It is a deep penitence that a layman lay aside his weapons and travel far barefoot and nowhere pass a second night and fast and watch much and pray fervently, by day and by night and willingly undergo fatigue and be so squalid that iron come not on hair or on nail" (Thorpe, "Ancient Laws", London, 1840, 411-2; cf. 44, 410, etc.). Another witness to the real difficulties of the wayfaring palmer may be cited from "Syr Isenbras", an early English ballad:–

"They bare with them no manner of thynge That was worth a farthynge Cattell, golde, ne fe; But mekely they asked theyre meate Where that they myght it gette.   For Saynct Charyte."

(Uterson, "Early Popular Poetry", I, London, 1817, 83). And the Earl of Arundel of a later date obtained absolution for poaching on the bishop's preserves at Hoghton Chace Only * on condition of a pilgrimage to the shrine of St. Richard of Chichester ("Archæologia", XLV, 176; cf. Chaucer, "Works", ed. Morris, III, 266). And these are but late descriptions of a practice of penance which stretches back beyond the legislation of Edgar and the organization of St. Theodore to the sub-Apostolic age. Finally a last influence that made the pilgrimage so popular a form of devotion was the fact that it contributed very largely to ease the soul of some of its vague restlessness in an age when conditions of life tended to cramp men down to certain localities. It began to be looked upon as a real help to the establishment of a perfectly controlled character. It took its place in the medieval manuals of psychology. So John de Burg in 1385 (Pupilla oculi, fol. LXII), "contra acediam, opera laboriosa bona ut sint peregrinationes ad loca sancta."



In older ages, the pilgrim had a special garb which betokened his mission. This has been practically omitted in modern times, except among the Mohammedans, with whom ihram still distinguishes the Hallal and Hadj from the rest of the people. As far as one can discover, the dress of the medieval pilgrim consisted of a loose frock or long smock, over which was thrown a separate hood with a cape, much after the fashion of the Dominican and Servite habit. On his head, he wore a low-crowned, broad-brimmed hat, such as is familiar to us from the armorial bearings of cardinals. This was in wet and windy weather secured under his chin by two strings, but strings of such length that when not needed the hat could be thrown off and hang behind the back. Across his breast passed a belt from which was suspended his wallet, or script, to contain his relics, food, money, and what-not. In some illuminations it may be noted as somehow attached to his side (cf. blessing infra). In one hand he held a staff, composed of two sticks swathed tightly together by a withy band. Thus in the grave of Bishop Mayhew (d. 1516), which was opened a few years ago in Hereford cathedral, there was found a stock of hazel-wood between four and five feet long and about the thickness of a finger. As there were oyster shells also buried in the same grave, it seems reasonable to suppose that this stick was the bishop's pilgrim staff; but it has been suggested recently that it represents a crosier of a rough kind used for the burial of prelates (Cox and Harvey, "Church Furniture", London, 1907, 55). Occasionally these staves were put to uses other than those for which they were intended. Thus on St. Richard's day, 3 April, 1487, Bishop Story of Chichester had to make stringent regulations, for there was such a throng of pilgrims to reach the tomb of the saint that the struggles for precedence led to blows and the free use of the staves on each other's heads. In one case a death had resulted. To prevent a recurrence of this disorder, banners and crosses Only * were to be carried (Wall, 128). Some, too, had bells in their hands or other instruments of music: "some others pilgrims will have with them bagpipes; so that every town that they came through, what with the noise of their singing and with the sound of their piping and with the jangling of their Canterbury bells, and with the barking out of dogs after them, that they make more noise then if the King came there away with all his clarions and many other minstrels" (Fox, "Acts", London, 1596, 493).  This distinctive pilgrim dress is described in most medieval poems and stories (cf. "Renard the Fox", London, 1886, 13, 74, etc.; "Squyr of Lowe Degree", ed. Ritson in "Metrical Romanceës", London, 1802, III, 151), most minutely and, of course, indirectly, and very late by Sir Walter Raleigh:– "Give me my scallop-shell of quiet.  My staff of faith to walk upon, My scrip of joy, immortal diet, My bottle of Salvation, My gown of glory (hope's true gage), And then I'll take my pilgrimage." (Cf. Furnivall, "The Stacions of Rome and the Pilgrim's Sea Voyage".) In penance they went alone and barefoot. Æneas Sylvius Piccolomini tells of his walking without shoes or stockings through the snow to Our Lady of Whitekirk in East Lothian, a tramp of ten miles; and he remembered the intense cold of that pilgrimage to his life's end (Paul, "Royal Pilgrimages in Scotland" in "Trans. of Scottish Ecclesiological Soc.", 1905), for it brought on a severe attack of gout (Boulting, "Æneas Sylvius", London, 1908, 60).


Pilgrim Signs

A last part of the pilgrim's attire must be mentioned, the famous pilgrim signs. These were badges sewn on to the hat or hung round the neck or pinned on the clothes of the pilgrim.

"A bolle and a bagge he bar by his syde, And hundred ampulles; On his hat seten Signes of Synay, And Shelles of Galice, And many a conche On his cloke, And keys of Rome, And the Vernycle bi-fore for men sholde knowe And se bi hise signes Whom he sought hadde" (Piers Plowman, ed. Wright, London, 1856, I, 109).


There are several moulds extant in which these signs were cast (cf. British Museum; Musée de Lyon; Musée de Cluny, Paris; etc.), and not a few signs themselves have been picked up, especially in the beds of rivers, evidently dropped by the pilgrims from the ferry-boats. These signs protected the pilgrims from assault and enabled them to pass through even hostile ranks ("Paston Letters", I, 85; Forgeais, "Coll. de plombs historiés", Paris, 1863, 52-80; "Archæol. Jour.", VII, 400; XIII, 105), but as the citation from Piers Plowman shows, they were also to show "whom he sought hadde". Of course the cross betokened the crusader (though one could also take the cross against the Moors of Spain, Simeon of Durham, "Hist. de gestis regum Angliæ", ed. Twysden, London, 1652, I, 249), and the colour of it the nation to which he belonged, the English white, the French red, the Flemish green (Matthew Paris, "Chron. majora", ed. Luard, London, 1874, II, 330, an. 1199, in R. S.); the pilgrim to Jerusalem had two crossed leaves of palm (hence the name "palmer"); to St. Catherine's tomb on Mount Sinai, the wheel; to Rome, the heads of Sts. Peter and Paul or the keys or the vernicle (this last also might mean Genoa where there was a rival shrine of St. Veronica's veil); to St. James of Compostella the scallop or oyster shell; to Canterbury, a bell or the head of the saint on a brooch or a leaden ampulla filled with water from a well near the tomb tinctured with an infinitesimal drop of the martyr's blood ("Mat. for Hist. of Thomas Beckett", 1878 in R. S., II, 269; III, 152, 187); to Walsingham, the virgin and child; to Amiens, the head of St. John the Baptist, etc. Then there was the horn of St. Hubert, the comb of St. Blaise, the axe of St. Olave, and so on. And when the tomb was reached, votive offerings were left of jewels, models of limbs that had been miraculously cured, spears, broken fetters. etc. (Rock, "Church of our Fathers", London, 1852, III, 463).



The History of Pilgrimages

(Mid. Eng., pilgrime, Old Fr., pelegrin, derived from Lat. peregrinatio, supposed origin, per and ager–with idea of wandering over a distance).

Pilgrimages may be defined as journeys made to some place with the purpose of venerating it, or in order to ask God for a special favor, or in thankfulness.


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