1902 Encyclopedia > Pilgrimage


PILGRIMAGE. The word Pilgrimage (derived from the Latin pereger, i.e., per-ager, "one who traverses a region," through the intermediate forms peregrinus, pellegrino, pelegrin) denotes the act of journeying to some place esteemed sacred, for the purpose of discharging a religious obligation, or to obtain some supernatural assistance or benefit. The practice is common to many religions, and mounts back to prehistoric ages. It is ultimately traceable to the nature of tribal religion, in its early form of worship of a deity regarded as purely local in the sphere of his special influence. As community in religious acts was one of the principal ties between members of the same tribe, to the exclusion of outsiders, it would naturally become the rule, and then the duty, of the tribesmen to present themselves at recurrent intervals at the sanctuary of their tribal god. As they scattered away from their own settlement, and became travellers or sojourners amongst aliens, the belief that they were in some sense cut off from the protection of their tribal deity, and subjected to the influence of others in whose worship they had no share, would induce visits from a distance to the seat of their own religion, not merely for the purpose of keeping up their tribal relations, but to propitiate a power which perhaps could not hear supplications addressed from a distance, and would in any case be more ready to hear and answer prayers made in his own special shrine, attended with the appropriate rites performed by his own body of ministers. This latter consideration would operate even in the case of cults directed to the Sun-God, the Moon-Goddess, and the planetary bodies, which could hardly be regarded as localized within earthly boundaries, but might well be supposed more placable in shrines of exceptional splendour and sanctity, officered by a trained and numerous priesthood. And wherever it was believed that the deity not merely responded to prayer, but gave direct answers by omen or by oracle to inquirers, the frequentation of the prophetic seat would naturally increase. Further, as the political strength of any tribe grew, that would be attributed in a multitude of cases to the superior power of its tutelary god, or, where they worshipped the same deity as their neighbours, to some more acceptable mode of paying that worship, whence the custom would grow of making the principal temple of the most powerful tribe the meeting-place of the confederacy, as well for political deliberation as for the more directly religious purpose of reaffirming the common pact with sacrificial ceremonies. And if the strongest tribe passed from the stage of hegemony to that of sovereignty, whether by cession or by conquest, so becoming the nucleus of a nation or kingdom, the same feelings would operate yet more powerfully,—the subject tribes being either compelled to accept the gods of their conquerors, or voluntarily adopting them from a conviction of their superior might. Certain temples would in this wise become national from having been tribal, and in large empires, such as Egypt and Assyria, would collect worshippers from all the various peoples ruled under a common sceptre. The second stage in the genesis of special sanctuaries is peculiar to religions with a real or supposed historical basis, and takes the form of devotion towards localities which have been the scenes of important events in the lives of personages reverenced in the creeds of those religions. And the third stage, belonging to a much later period than either of the former, when self-consciousness had become more developed, is that where the aim of the pilgrims is primarily subjective, to stir up certain emotions in their own minds, through the means of the associations connected with special localities. But in each and all of these the fundamental underlying thought is the same, the localization of deity, the almost insuperable difficulty which the ideas of omniscience and omnipresence offer to undeveloped intellects.

It will be convenient, in tracing the history of pilgrimages, to begin with those which belong to the various forms of heathenism, ancient and modern, as pertaining, whatever be their actual date, to an earlier stage of mental evolution than the Jewish, Christian, and Mohammedan ones.

The first pilgrimages, then, of which we have any trustworthy knowledge, are those of ancient Egypt. The mythology of the Egyptians is even yet but imperfectly understood, but it is at any rate clear that, just as the votaries of Vishnu and of Siva keep apart in modern Hindustan, so the chief deities of the Egyptian pantheon had cults which were as often rival as complementary, and that the emulation of the competing temples took the form of bidding against each other for popular favour by the splendour of their chief yearly festivals. We are obliged to have recourse to Herodotus and Plutarch for information as to the general cycle of feasts nationally observed; for, although local calendars and rubrics of festivals have been discovered in several places, nothing cognate with Ovid’s Fasti has yet been found in Egypt. Herodotus notices that, instead of having but one yearly national festival (_____), the Egyptians had six, the principal of which was that of Artemis (i.e., Bast or Sekhet) at Bubastis, to which the pilgrims went in boats crowded with both sexes, playing on castanets and flutes, and singing to this accompaniment. They landed at every town along the river to perform orgic dances, and at Bubastis itself offered great sacrifices, besides feasting copiously, in particular consuming vast quantities of grape-wine. He states the numbers assembling on this occasion, exclusive of children, to average 700,000. Next to this ranked the festival of Isis at Busiris, attended with ceremonies of mourning, most probably in memory of the sufferings of Osiris. Third in order was the feast of Athene (Neith) at Sais, celebrated at night, with illuminations. Fourth was the festival of the Sun (Ra) at On or Heliopolis ; fifth that at Buto in honour of Latona (Buto or Uat). These two were attended with simply sacrificial rites, and there were no symbolical ceremonies in addition. Last came the festival of Ares (Har-tash, the Hertosi of Cedrenus) at Papremis, at which there was a rough tussle, symbolizing war, between the temple-attendants and the pilgrims, in which lives were sometimes lost. There was another high festival, that of Apis at Memphis, not included by Herodotus in his list, perhaps because not of yearly recurrence, besides the much frequented oracle of Ammon at Thebes, whither it had been transferred from Meroe, its first seat in Egypt. And it is noticeable that there was no pilgrimage at all to the most sacred spot in Egypt, the island of Philae, the burial-place of Osiris, because its very sanctity made it "tabu" to lay folk. The mysteries, in like manner, being rigidly confined to a few, did not form an occasion of pilgrimage.

As regards the great Mesopotamian empires, our knowledge does not yet enable us to say that pilgrimages entered into their religious system, though we may not unreasonably infer so from the size and wealth of several temples, notably those of Ishtar, from the Assyrian custom of imposing their own deities upon conquered nations, and from the example of one great religious assembly from all the provinces of the Babylonian empire, recorded in Daniel iii. There may, perhaps, be indirect proof of Babylonian pilgrimages in what Cyrus states in his cylinder-inscription, namely, that Nabonidus had offended the gods by transporting their images to Babylon, and thus, as it were, making them perform pilgrimage.

The ancient Zend creed of the Medes and Persians, having no temples for worship, had no pilgrimages, but in its later Mithraic form, the initiation of neophytes by the Magians into the mysteries, through a painful course of purgation (curiously resembling one prevalent in Ireland far within the present century), in a cavern or grotto at Babylon, necessitated a pilgrimage thither on the part of those who desired to become experts; and Lucian has left some account of its rules in his Menippus.1

Amongst the Phoenicians there are clear traces of at least two great pilgrimages in honour of Ashtoreth, one to Aphaca (probably the Aphek of Scripture), celebrated for a yearly miracle of a ball of fire appearing on the mountain summit, and thence falling into the sea. The obscene rites for which this temple was infamous led to its destruction by Constantine the Great (Euseb., Vit. Const., iii. 56). The other great Ashtoreth pilgrimage was to Hierapolis in Syria, frequented by votaries from all the Semitic races except the Jews. Antioch was also a great centre of this cult, as also of that of Thammuz, but, strictly speaking, there is no proof of a Thammuz pilgrimage, nor of one in honour of Melkarth, though his worship was carried from Tyre, its chief seat, into all the Phoenician colonies, and the famous oracle of his temple at Gades drew crowds of inquirers annually. In Palestine proper, though the cults of Baal, Ashtoreth, Moloch, Dagon, and Beelzebub were widespread and persistent, and though the name Jericho probably, and Ashtaroth-Karnaim certainly, point to a seat of moon-worship, as Bethshemesh does to one of sun-worship, there is no direct evidence of organized pilgrimages to these places.

In ancient Hellas there were four classes of religious observance more or less cognate with pilgrimage, though not in any case identical therewith. First may be placed the consultation of oracles,—those of Apollo at Delphi, of Zeus at Dodona, of Trophonius at Lebadeia, and of Asclepius at Epidaurus (the last of which was resorted to also for the cure of disease) being the most famous and most frequented, while, outside Greece and its colonies, the oracle of the Libyan Ammon in the desert south of Cyrene was also in much esteem. Next come the four great national festivals and games, the Olympic, Pythian, Nemean, and Isthmian, attended by crowds from all Greek states, not only as attractive shows, but as religious ceremonies.2 Thirdly may be named the more local or tribal festivals, such as the Panathenaea, the feast of the Charites at Orchomenus, that of Hera at Samos, Aphrodite at Paphos, and of Artemis at Ephesus, which drew together many worshippers besides those who were specially bound to visit the shrines in question. But the closest parallel to the Christian theory of pilgrimage is found in the celebration of the Eleusinian mysteries (see MYSTERIES), the special likeness of which to pilgrimages of a later day lies in the notion of merit and spiritual benefit attached to initiation, to the belief that happiness in a future state of existence would be promoted, nay, insured, by admission to the ranks of the mystae.

The Latin customs bear a certain superficial likeness to the Greek, in that local oracles, such as those of Faunus, of Albunea, of Fortuna, and of the Sibyls, were much frequented; there are traces of great tribal sanctuaries and gatherings, such as the worship of Jupiter Latiaris on the Alban Mount, of more narrowly restricted tribal cults, such as the Julian worship of Vejovis at Bovillae and the Fabian sacrifice to Hercules on the Quirinal, and of at least two temples to which regular pilgrimages seem to have been made—those of Juno Sospita at Lanuvium, and of Vesta (perhaps of all the Penates also) at Lavinium. But, apart from racial and theosophic differences of belief, there was one factor at work in Italy which tended to bring about a wholly different character of popular religion from that which was evolved in Hellas—the overmastering centralization of Rome, and the practical identification of all solemn worship (apart from the rustic ceremonies in honour of minor and little known deities) with the apotheosis of the Republic. Hence, after the chief seat of Roman worship was transferred from the Regia to the Capitol, pilgrimage proper disappeared, for the local gods of each newly absorbed city or state were added to the original triad of Roman gods, and to the other Sabine triad, moved from the Quirinal to the new sanctuary, and it becomes impossible to distinguish clearly between the purely political ceremonies performed in honour of gods viewed primarily as the tutelars of Rome and voluntary resort to the great temple for the personal cult of any particular deity enshrined there. One relic of the older custom seems to have survived till later times, namely, the pilgrimage of Roman women barefoot to the temple of Vesta in the Forum on June 9 every year.

No pilgrimages seem to have been usual in the Teutonic and Slavonic religions, though both had special temples regarded as more sacred than the remainder, and in the case of the latter we know with tolerable accuracy that Kieff, Novgorod, Rethra in Mecklenburg, Karenz, Winneta and Julin (isle of Wollin), Stettin, and lastly Arkona in the isle of Rügen, succeeded one another as the chief seat of the worship of Perun, Lada, Bielbog, and other principal Slavic deities, and were necessarily attended by much larger bodies of worshippers than temples of less account, more thinly officered, and inferior in repute for the learning and prophetic powers of their priests.

Directing our attention to an entirely different region of the world, we learn that in 1519, when Cortes entered Cholula in Mexico, he found it a great resort of pilgrims to the huge temple of Quetzalcoatl, then of unknown antiquity, as founded by a race earlier than the Aztecs, and built upon a colossal mound, vying in dimensions with the largest pyramids of Egypt. And what is yet more curious, besides this principal shrine, there were subsidiary tribal temples in the city, restricted to the uses of the several allied or kindred nations, who desired to have their own sanctuary in the holy city, precisely as churches of different nationalities are found in Jerusalem in and in Rome to-day. And similarly in Peru, the great Temple of the Sun at Cuzco, with its encircling girdle of chapels dedicated to minor deities, was visited by pilgrims from all parts of the empire; nay, it was even regarded as a misfortune to fail in accomplishing the journey.

India, however, is above all others the land of pilgrimage, for it has observed them during a longer unbroken period than any other country of which we possess sufficient records, and for frequency and multitude it would be difficult to find any parallel. The most celebrated of them are those to the temple of Jagan-nâth at Puri in Orissa; Benares, Hurdwar, Ganga-Sagara, Gangotri, Jumnotri, Prayâga (Allahabad), Râmêswara, Gaya in Behar, and Ayodhya or Oudh. Apart from the motives, common to all pilgrims, of acquiring religious merit or expiating sins, these Indian shrines are frequented for the performance of sraddha ceremonies in honour of deceased ancestors or as votive acts for the recovery of the sick, or, again, to carry the ashes of deceased kindred to be scattered in the waters of some sacred or purifying river. Every great river in India, with some lakes, tanks, and springs, is regarded as permeated with the divine essence, and as capable of cleansing from all sin. Hence the favourite resorts are river sources and confluences, while Benares, as situated on the Ganges itself, is the holiest spot in Hindustan. The other most frequented shrines are usually associated with the cults of Krishna, Siva, and Râma. All these are exclusively connected with Brahman rites, for the entire extirpation of Buddhism from the Hindu peninsula has prevented any special sacredness from continuing to attach to the scenes of Gautama Buddha’s life (though the Buddhists allege that the sanctity of Benares is due to its having been the residence of Buddha himself and the scene of his earliest preachings); and it is in Ceylon only that two Indo-Buddhist pilgrimages survive,—that of Adam’s Peak, and the yet more popular one to the temple of Kandy, where the Dalada Malagawa, or tooth of Buddha, is an object of special veneration. For northern Buddhism the chief shrines are Lhassa in Tibet, the seat of the Dalai Lama, and Urga in northern Mongolia, the seat of the Tesho-Lama, Krashis Lunpo in Further Tibet, the seat of the Pantshen Lama. Before the Brahman revolution, which drove Buddhism out of India, pilgrimages to the chief scenes of Gautama Buddha’s life were common; and notably Kapilavastu, his birthplace, Benares, where he began his mission, and Kasinagara, where he died, were much frequented, especially by Chinese converts. The narratives of some of these, Fa Hian, Hwai-Seng, and Sung-yun, and Hwen-T’sang, the most noteworthy of them all (see vol. xii. p. 418), who came to visit the holy places and to collect the sacred books, are still extant.

In China pilgrimages are made to several of the more sacred spots both by Buddhists and Confucianists. Wutai-shan in Shan-si is the chief resort of Buddhist pilgrims, and Tai-shan, the mountain sacred to Confucius, that of Confucianists (Williamson, Journeys in North China). In Japan both the older Shintô nature-worship and the newer Buddhist creed have their several sanctuaries and pilgrimages. The principal Shintô pilgrimages are those to Isé in the department of Watarai, and to the sacred mountain Fuji. There are two temples at Isé, ranking in sanctity first of all Shintô shrines, and the special seat of the worship of Ten-shôkô-daigin, the Sun-Goddess, from whom the Mikado is held to descend. Two great festivals are held yearly at Isé, in the sixth and twelfth months, and are known as O-barai no matsuri, "great purification feast," being held to effect the purifying of the whole nation from the sins of the previous half year. Tickets inscribed with the names of the gods of Isé, and especially that of the Sun-Goddess, are issued at the temples and their agencies (being formerly sold by hawkers corresponding to the pardoners of mediaeval Europe), and are carefully preserved in the domestic shrine of Japanese houses, being supposed to avert all peril for six months, but requiring renewal at the end of that period. The pilgrims to Isé number many thousands yearly, and are known as they return by bundles of charms wrapped in oiled paper, and hanging from the neck by a string. The pilgrimage to Fuji takes place in summer, and the pilgrims go clad in white, and carrying bells. They ascend the mountain so as to reach the summit before sunrise, when they turn to the east, clap their hands, and chant a hymn to the Sun-Goddess. There are also many local Shintô pilgrimages of less note. Buddhism in Japan is broken up into several sects, having each of them their own pilgrimages; but the most frequented are those of the god Fudo at Narita and the sacred mountain of Oyama, each some 30 miles distant from Tokio. These both belong to the Shingou sect, the earliest introduced into Japan. The Hokke or Nichiren sect make pilgrimages to the monastery, of Ikegami near Tokio, and to that at Mount Minobu, about 100 miles to the west, between which two shrines the relics of the founder are divided. Ninety miles north of Tokio are the shrines of Mount Nikko, also a great Buddhist pilgrimage, where the shoguns are buried, and where the founder of the Tokugawa dynasty is worshipped under the name of Gongen.

So much will suffice to have said concerning the various heathen pilgrimages, and we may now consider those of the Hebrew religion and its two derivatives, Islam and Christianity.

The legislation of the Pentateuch is precise in making resort to one central shrine a positive and fundamental precept, binding on the whole nation, obviously with the double object of cementing national unity and of guarding against the erection of local sanctuaries, which were liable to be diverted to idolatrous cults (see PENTATEUCH). Under the judges and the kings we find many traces of pilgrimage, not only to the sanctuary of the ark at Shiloh, and afterwards to Jerusalem, but to local high places, such as Ophrah, Mizpeh, Dan, Bethel, and Beersheba. In truth, it is not till the post-exilic period that the supremacy of one national sanctuary is assured (though a pilgrimage even after the destruction of the temple is recorded in Jeremiah xli. 5, showing that the mere site was held sacred), for the local devotion of the high places resisted all the efforts of the reforming party under Hezekiah and Josiah even in the kingdom of Judah itself. Since the final overthrow of the Jewish polity by Titus and Hadrian, no effort has been made either to establish a centre of sacrificial worship anywhere outside Palestine (as in the curious episode of the temple of Heliopolis in Egypt), or to revive it in Jerusalem itself, where, even now, the synagogues and colleges of the Sephardim and Ashkenazim are entirely separate and independent organizations, and show no tendency to coalesce into the nucleus of a national system. Hence, as the political and religious motives for the pilgrimage to Jerusalem have both dropped into abeyance, the custom itself is no longer regarded as binding, and, though it is not obsolete, inasmuch as a visit to the Holy City is considered a meritorious act, yet it has now, like the pilgrimage to Hebron, more of an emotional and historical character than a ceremonial one, so that it is not in the strict sense a pilgrimage any longer.

Although the Mohammedan pilgrimages are much later in chronological order than the Christian ones, it will be more convenient to consider them briefly first. They consist, then, of two main classes, which may be distinguished conveniently by Latin theological terms, as those of "obligation" and those of "devotion." There is properly only one Moslem pilgrimage of obligation, that to Mecca, which still often draws an annual contingent of from 70,000 to 80,000 pilgrims (see MECCA). It is in truth a pagan survival which proved too powerful for extirpation by Mohammed. The Kaaba had been constituted the national sanctuary of Arabia about 100 B.C., and contained, besides the famous Black Stone, some three hundred and sixty idols of various Bedouin tribes, united in one pantheon, exactly as with the Capitol of Rome; and, though it was possible to sweep the idols out of the Kaaba, it was not so easy to deconsecrate the spot, but far more convenient to give it a new sanction.

The Mohammedan pilgrimages of devotion are very numerous, and are chiefly connected with the saint-worship which has overlaid and obscured the original strict monotheism of Islam. Chief amongst the sacred shrines of this second class stands the tomb of Mohammed at MEDINA (q. v.), but, holy as it is considered, and meritorious as a visit to it is accounted, it is in no sense binding on a Moslem’s conscience, and only about one-third of the Meccan pilgrims proceed thither. Other sanctuaries abound in all Mohammedan countries, of which a few, like Abraham’s tomb at Hebron, are honoured by all Mohammedan sects, while others are peculiar to the Sunnites and Shiites respectively, and others again, such as Kairwân in Tunis, and Wazan in Morocco, and still more the tombs and oratories of merely local saints or welis, found in almost every Moslem town or village, are restricted to a comparatively small body of votaries. The most famous, after the Pan-Islamic pilgrimages, are the great Shiite sanctuaries, of which there are three :—Meshed in Khorásán, with the tomb and mosque of Imam Riza, said to attract almost as many yearly pilgrims as Mecca itself; Khoum in Irak Ajemi, where Fatima, wife of Imam Riza, is buried; and, yet more sacred than either, Kerbela in Mesopotamia, in the Turkish dominions, about 28 miles north-west of the ruins of Babylon, where is the tomb and mosque of Imam Hosein, grandson of Mohammed (see KERBELA and MOHAMMEDANISM). There is a passion-play performed there at the yearly commemoration, which draws enormous crowds from all parts of Persia and other Shiite regions, and the title hajj attaches to all who make the journey. Some idea of the multiplicity of minor pilgrimages amongst Moslems may be gathered from the fact that in the city of Damascus alone there are one hundred and ninety-four places of resort by pilgrims, and fourteen more in the environs. A great reaction against the whole system, inclusive of the invocation of saints, took place under the Wahhabis in the last century, in the course of which countless welis or tombs of Moslem saints were destroyed, including even those of Hosein and Mohammed himself; but, on the overthrow of the fanatics by Mohammed Ali, the customary practices were restored, and have continued in full vigour ever since.

Christian pilgrimages were at first limited to Jerusalem and its immediate neighbourhood, including Bethlehem. It is probable enough that the local church of Jerusalem regarded the various scenes of the gospel history, and notably of the Passion and Resurrection, with special reverence, and would guide the steps of visitors to the most sacred localities while the city yet stood, and point out the sites, as nearly as possible, after the work of Titus had been completed by Hadrian, and a vast mound of earth, on whose summit rose a temple of Venus, had been raised over the Holy Sepulchre. But this is matter of conjecture rather than of knowledge. There is no actual proof of very early Christian pilgrimage to the holy places, though the belief was already current at the close of the 4th century that the custom had prevailed unbroken from apostolic times, as is distinctly asserted by Paula and Eustochium in their letter to Marcella (Epist. Hieronym., xvii.), written in 386, wherein they state also that of which they are more trustworthy witnesses, that pilgrims then flocked from Armenia, Persia, India, Ethiopia, and even Gaul and Britain, to visit the cradle of Christianity. But in point of fact the earliest pilgrim of whose visit as a religious act we have definite proof is Alexander, a Cappadocian bishop, who came to Jerusalem in consequence of a dream (212), and was elected coadjutor to Narcissus, then bishop of the diocese (Euseb., E. H., vi. 11). Origen, who was a friend of Alexander, is another early example, but his own words (Comm. in Evang. Joann., vi. § 24) imply that he came rather in the modern spirit of devout scholarly inquiry than as a pilgrim in the strict sense. He paid a short visit in 216, and returned in 231, to settle down for a time at Caesarea, where he opened a school of theology in 238. It is not till after the pilgrimage of the empress Helena (the first quite unquestionable event of the kind) about 326 or 328, that the fashion set in, accompanied with the desire to bring back some relic, either inherently sacred or at least hallowed by contact with certain venerated spots. That the temper of the time was not a very critical one is sufficiently proved by the casual mention by St Chrysostom of a pilgrimage as commonly practised to Arabia in order to see the dunghill on which Job sat, and that by visitors from the very ends of the earth (Hom. v. de. Statuis).

But another kind of pilgrimage, destined to be more powerful than that to Jerusalem, began to be popular nearly at the same time, that to the tombs of distinguished martyrs or confessors. In the present day, the passionate admiration of the Christians of the 3d, 4th, and 5th centuries for the martyrs as a class seems somewhat disproportioned to the part they actually played in the history of Christianity, which was more effectually propagated and maintained by the eminent teachers and divines of the ancient church. But the truth is that they supplied just the element of enthusiasm which was needed to sustain the courage and endurance of the humbler Christian laity under the stress of recurrent persecutions; and, when peace was finally secured under Constantine the Great, there were so many families which counted one or more martyrs amongst their kindred, and viewed such kinship as a patent of nobility, that everything favoured the rapid development of pilgrimages to places in which so many had a direct personal, as well as a corporate religious, interest. So much did the notion begin to prevail that pilgrimage was almost a necessity of religion, and that prayer could be heard more assuredly in particular places, that warnings against error of the kind were uttered by teachers whose own acts had helped to propagate the opinion in question. Thus, only a few years after the letter above cited, urging Marcella to migrate to Bethlehem, St Jerome writes to Paulinus (393) pointing out that many of the most celebrated saints and ascetics had never visited the holy places, that heaven is just as open from Britain as from Jerusalem, and that the circumstances of life in Jerusalem itself were far from helpful to devotion. But his own abode at Bethlehem, the celebrity of the religious houses he founded and directed there, and the unlike tenor of other letters he wrote, entirely counteracted this advice. St Chrysostom at one time speaks of the needlessness of pilgrimage (Hom. i. in Philem.; Hom. iii. and iv. ad pop. Antioch.), and at another expresses his own wish to see the relics of St Paul at Rome (Hom. xxxii. in Rom. ii., iii; Hom. viii. in Eph. ii.). So, too, St Augustine contributed powerfully to promote pilgrimages to the shrines of saints, by sending in 404 two clerical disputants to the shrine of St Felix of Nola, in the hope that some miracle would be worked there to decide the matter, though no such signs had been granted at the grave of any African saint (Ep. lxxviii.). And in another place he attests the working of many miracles by the relics of the protomartyr St Stephen in various African towns where portions of them had been shrined (De Civ. Dei, xxii. 8). Nevertheless, in yet a third place he appears to condemn this very temper as mere superstition, stating that, while he knows many professing Christians who are worshippers of tombs and pictures, "the church condemns them, and daily strives to correct them as evil children" (De Mor. Eccl. Cath., xxxiv. 75, 76).

Here, too, example proved stronger than precept, and the only unqualified opposition to the popular tendency which issued from any quite unimpeachable source (for Vigilantius and Jovinian cannot be fairly cited) is the remarkable letter of St Gregory of Nyssa to a friend, on the subject of pilgrimages to Jerusalem, the heads of which are as under:—there is no divine precept for the usage; the moral dangers of the journey, from bad companions and from the quality of the inns, are great, especially to women, and above all to nuns; the immorality and irreligion of Jerusalem itself are gross and notorious. True, he had gone thither himself, but it was on public ecclesiastical business, connected with the Arabian Church and he had travelled in a public vehicle with a company of monks. He did not find his faith stimulated or improved in any way by a sight of the scenes of the gospel history, and he recommends others to stay at home, assuring them that no spiritual benefit is lost by so doing, and no spiritual gain acquired by visiting the most sacred places without inward amendment (Epist. ii.). The authenticity of this epistle has been challenged, but on no sufficient grounds.

What makes the devotion to the tombs of saints such a powerful factor in ecclesiastical history is that, after the Holy Sepulchre itself, no grave had such a hold on Christian imagination as that where the bodies of the two chief apostles, St Peter and St Paul, were held to rest in Rome. And consequently, as the division of the empire lessened the intercourse between East and West, as the decay of the old lines of communication made travelling more difficult, and as the advance of Mohammedanism in Syria and Palestine made it more dangerous also in that direction, Rome gradually supplanted Jerusalem to a great degree _in the West as the goal of pilgrimage, and the enthusiasm of the visitors did much to consolidate the papal monarchy over Latin Christendom. So markedly did this new influence prevail that it has left its trace in more than one European language. The Low Latin nomerius, romipeta for a pilgrim anywhither, romeria, romipetagium for the actual pilgrimage, the obsolete French romieu, romipète, romivage, the still current Spanish romero, romeria, and Portuguese romeiro, romaria, the Italian forename Romeo, and the English romare (Piers Plowman) attest the celebrity and popularity of this pilgrimage, into which soon entered such further ideas as the desirability of confessing sins to the pope personally and obtaining absolution from him, the reference of private cases to papal arbitration on the part of bishops and other ecclesiastical judges, and the injunction of the journey as in itself a penance, a notion prevalent in the Gallic churches as early as the close of the 5th century (Caesar. Arelat., Hom. iii.). Nowhere was the pilgrimage to Rome more popular than in Saxon England, and amongst the crowds of penitents who made the journey were four kings, Ceadwalla, Ine, Coinred, and Offa, all of whom died in Rome, two of them as monks (Beda, H.E., v. 7, 19). There were not wanting efforts to check the movement. Apart from the theological objections raised by Claudius of Turin, there is a letter extant from Boniface of Mainz, an Englishman born, to Cuthbert, archbishop of Canterbury, written about 743, begging him to get a canon enacted to forbid the pilgrimage to Rome, especially to nuns, on the ground of the moral perils of the road, stating that no city of France, Lombardy, or Italy was without Englishwomen leading depraved lives, whose virtue had fallen during pilgrimage. And the council of Chalons, in 813, enacted a canon to check pilgrimages both to Rome and to the shrine of St Martin at Tours (then the most famous sanctuary in France), on the ground of serious abuses on the part of both clergy and laity; and the council of Seligenstadt made a like effort in 1022. But even the robber barons who looked on pilgrims as their natural prey could not arrest the movement (which was specially stimulated, as we learn from Radulphus Glaber, in 999 and 1000 by the belief that the end of the world was at hand), and the Roman pilgrimage reached its height in the Middle Ages through the institution of the Jubilee, or plenary indulgence to pilgrims, by Boniface VIII. in 1300, when 200,000 are said to have availed themselves of it, and smaller but still considerable numbers on its various repetitions at irregular intervals since. The pilgrimage to Jerusalem received fresh stimulus in the 9th century by the first occurrence of the alleged miracle of the heavenly fire on Easter Eve at the Holy Sepulchre, and continued to be frequented till checked by the fanaticism of the caliph Hakem-Biamr’illah about 1018, and more severely and permanently by the Seljukian Turks on their conquest of Syria, which occasioned those armed pilgrimages, the crusades, to whose history this branch of the subject thenceforward belongs. Meanwhile, a third class of sanctuaries had been steadily coming into notice and popularity, consisting neither of the seats of great historical events nor of the ascertained resting-places of eminent saints. These were the purely legendary shrines, the sites of some alleged vision, of the supernatural discovery of hidden relics, or of the presence of a wonder-working image or picture. One of the earliest and most famous of these was that of Compostella, where the relics of St James the Great were said to be discovered in 816, and, after being again hidden for many centuries, to have been discovered afresh in 1884. This was one of those most frequented by English pilgrims, no fewer than 2460 licences being granted for the journey in the one year 1434 (Rymer, Foed., xi.).1

Another, which became the Bethlehem of the West, as Rome had become its Jerusalem, was Loreto, where, ever since 1295, the Santa Casa, declared to be the home of the Holy Family, miraculously transported from Nazareth, has been frequented by pilgrims till very recent times, when its popularity has waned. Other famous shrines, some few of which even still attract yearly crowds of pilgrims, are Einsiedeln in Switzerland; Assisi, Oropa, Varese and Vicovaro in Italy; Monserrat and Guadalupe in Spain; Mariazell in Austria; Oetting and Eberhards-clausen in Germany; Walsingham, Becket’s shrine at Canterbury, Peterborough, St Davids, and Holywell in England and Wales; St Andrews in Scotland; Chartres, Notre Dame de Liesse, Notre Dame de Rocamadour, and Notre Dame des Victoires, with Ste Anne d’Auray in Britanny, in France; and Hal in Belgium. Devotion to these shrines was encouraged and developed by copious indulgences annexed to them; but this system in the long run became adverse to pilgrimages, because exactly the same privileges were annexed at a later time to acts much more easy of performance. Thus, the wearers of the cord of St Francis, every time of reciting certain brief prayers, acquire all the indulgences attached to the holy places of Palestine, Rome, Assisi, and so forth, and have naturally little inducement to perform toilsome and costly journeys thither.

There is a further small class of pilgrimages, differing from all others in being neither permanent nor yearly, but periodical at various long intervals. They are usually connected with the exposition of the principal relic or relics in some important church, an event which rarely occurs. Such are the pilgrimages of Cologne, to the shrine of the Three Kings, and that of Treves, where the alleged seamless coat of Christ has been displayed for popular devotion, and has been visited by vast crowds of pilgrims.

Pilgrims in the Middle Ages were known by a peculiar garb and various badges, the hood and cape, the staff and scrip and water-bottle, and the low-crowned hat, turned up in front, and fastened with strings, being common to all, while the palm specially marked a pilgrim from the Holy Land; a shell, one from Compostella; a bottle or bell, one from Canterbury, and so forth. They had many privileges and advantages. They were exempt from toll, their persons were inviolable, and any injury done to them incurred the penalty of excommunication ; they were entitled to shelter, fire, and water in all convents on their road, and the needier ones to food in addition; and there were resting-stations erected for them on all the great lines of travel, sustained sometimes by voluntary offerings, and sometimes by public imposts; while in Rome, above all, institutions for their reception and relief were established early, and are still in active operation.1 Nevertheless they declined in repute, not only by reason of the feigned devotees who joined them for purposes of vagrancy and mendicancy, and even from worse motives, but because many notorious criminals were customarily sent on pilgrimage as a punishment, with no care to isolate them from their innocent companions. The general charge of moral deterioration as a result of pilgrimage, which recurs from the fourth century onwards, is specifically brought by Langland in respect of truthfulness:—

"Pilgrims and palmeres plighten hem togidere,
For to seken seint Jame and seintes at Rome.
They wenten forth in hire wey, with many wise tales,
And hadden leve to lyen all hire lif after."

—(Vision of Piers Plowman, pass. i. line 82).

Hence pilgrimages were attacked with the weapons of ridicule, and the most celebrated satires upon them are the chapter in Reineke Fucks, describing Reynard’s adventures as a pilgrim, and the yet wittier squib of Erasmus, Peregrinatio religionis ergo, in which he gives a sarcastic account of the pilgrimage to Walsingham, which had much to do with destroying the prestige of not only that particular one, but most others also. The French Revolution all but completed the work of the Reformation in causing pilgrimages to decline seriously, where they were not entirely abolished, in the West, though they were still able to maintain their ground in retired and unchanging places such as Britanny, various places in central Italy, and in Ireland, where the severely penitential pilgrimages of Lough Finn, Lough Dearg, and Croagh Patrick are not yet obsolete. There was a remarkable recrudescence of the spirit of pilgrimage under the pontificate of Pius IX., notably to the new sanctuaries of La Salette and Lourdes in France, which reached its height about 1872-73, but has shown signs of subsiding again since.

In the Eastern Church, pilgrimages have not for many centuries formed so important a part of popular religion as in Latin Christendom, and the number of frequented shrines is very small. In the Greek Church properly so called, Mount Athos, with its numerous monasteries, where the great yearly gathering is on the feast of the Transfiguration, ranks next to the visit to the Jordan (Tozer, Highlands of Turkey, i. 103). After Mount Athos comes a shrine in the island of Tenos, where, in the cathedral church of the Panagia Evangelistria, is preserved an icon of the Madonna, alleged to be wonder-working, and said to have been discovered by means of a dream in 1824 ; the annual concourse of pilgrims twice a year, on the feasts of the Annunciation and the Assumption, is very great. Three alleged pictures of the Blessed Virgin by St Luke—at Megaspelion, at Sumelas in the mountains behind Trebizond, and at Stiri in Mount Helicon—are also much visited. Etchmiadzin is the chief Armenian pilgrimage, besides which are those of Kaisariyeh and Mush (Tozer, Turkish Armenia, pp. 161, 271). And finally, the chief Russian pilgrimages are to the Petcherskoilavra at Kieff (said to be visited by 200,000 pilgrims yearly), the Solovetsk monastery near Archangel, and the Troitsa, close to Moscow, besides many more locally popular shrines. (K. F. L.)


FOOTNOTES (page 91)

(1) This is probably the source of the Moslem legend of Harût and Marût, the fallen angels chained in a cavern at Babylon, who will teach magic to such as consult them in a prescribed manner.

(2) The Panhellenic festival at Aegina is omitted, as a mere factitious device of the emperor Hadrian, when classical paganism was dying, and not a real Greek custom.

FOOTNOTE (page 94)

1 This concourse of English pilgrims was soon looked on in France as politically dangerous, so that in the 14th century, when Pedro the Cruel was dethroned by Henry of Trastamara, the latter was compelled by his allies to refuse entrance into Spain to all pilgrims who had not licence of transit from the king of France. This kind of jealousy lasted very long, for there are edicts of Louis XIV. and XV. forbidding foreign pilgrimage to French subjects without the written permission of their bishop, and the counter-signature of a state official, under pain of the galleys for life. They bear date 1671, 1686, and 1738.

FOOTNOTE (page 95)

1 For more details see Mr Scudamore’s articles, "Holy Places" and "Pilgrimages," in Smith’s Dictionary of Christian Antiquities.

The above article was written by: Rev. R. F. Littledale, D.C.L., LL.D.

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