Religious Pilgrimages in the Middle Ages

Essay by nightmare_factoryCollege, UndergraduateA+, May 2006

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Pilgrimages are a method of showing religious devotion by visiting holy sites, often either the burial place of a saint, the place of death of a religious martyr, or the site of a holy relic. While several different religions utilized this practice, none was as popular or widespread as the religious pilgrimages of the Christians in the Middle Ages. Because of the fact that in the Middle Ages the church encouraged a theology of association, Pilgrims believed that the relics of the saints which were kept at the pilgrimage sites ensured the presence of the saint. They would undertake a pilgrimage to gain better health for themselves or loved ones, promising that if they or their loved ones were cured, they would make a pilgrimage to the saint's grave as thanks. People also went on pilgrimages as a means of penance, to uphold a vow, to discharge a religious obligation, or to gain protection from enemies (E.M.P.P).

While pilgrimages had originally commonly consisted of a lone pilgrim quietly going about his business, as they gained in popularity they quickly became a means of punishment, reconciliation and scandal to name a few.

The garb of a pilgrim in the middle ages resembled the dress of a Dominican monk. It was generally made up of a long smock, over which was worn a hooded cape. They wore low crowned wide brimmed hats to protect from wet weather, tied under the chin by two strings which were long enough that the pilgrim could let the hat hang down their backs when it was not needed. They wore a belt which crossed across their chests and from which their wallets hung. The wallets were meant to be carrying cases for food, money, relics and any other necessities. They also often carried bells in their...