Medieval Pilgrimage In this essay I will discuss how medieval pilgrimages were considered to be a cultural phenomenon. Overall there were many motivations for pilgrims to participate in the act of a pilgrimage. Elaborate excessive artwork led to competitions at pilgrimage sites.
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Medieval pilgrimages changed Christians along with other religious people, spiritually and emotionally. Pilgrims went on journeys that were over long distances that proved to be physical and mental hardships.
Before they left they would receive a blessing after a full confession to a priest or Bishop, mostly if their pilgrimage was to be a journey of penance. Christians believed that these particular pilgrimages would help them in a number of ways. They believed that the journey would deepen his or her faith, would cure the impossible disease or illness, or just bring them closer to God. The beginning pilgrimages started off by traveling to the places where Jesus and the Apostles lived while on earth.
Constantine was the first Roman emperor that believed in Christianity. With him believing, and respecting what the pilgrimage stood for, Constantine constructed three major sites designed for major pilgrimages; such as, the Basilica in Jerusalem at the place where Christ was crucified, the Holy Sepulcher which was the site of Jesus’ burial and resurrection, and finally in Bethlehem Constantine commissioned another church over the cave said to be Jesus’ birthplace. Sorabella) Even though the three sites said above were the most popular of pilgrimages, “Rome became another destination for pilgrims because it was easier access for European pilgrims than the Holy land. ” (Sorabella) Rome had many relics of saints and martyrs which over a period of time became a reason to set foot on a pilgrimage. Many would flock to see a saint’s hand or the Virgin Mary’s veil. Art played a huge role in this cultural phenomenon. Having many relics all over Europe sparked many opportunities for artists to create important works of art for the relics themselves. Sculptors and goldsmiths made reliquaries required to enshrine the holy objects. Jewelers produced small containers for sacred material for the faithful to wear. ” (Sorabella) This was one of the better times to be an artist. Artists created different souvenirs for pilgrims to celebrate and remember their pilgrimage. Every relic and Holy place had a different souvenir for that location. The souvenirs ranged from simple badges, mirrors, or even miniature elaborate reliquaries.
Churches would trade or even steal relics from their original resting place, which for at least one location was cause for immense celebration, and was often depicted in art. “It was customary for pilgrims to bring offerings to the shines they visited, and many of these, too, were works of art: costly liturgical vessels, elaborate priestly vestments, and other precious objects enriched the treasury of every pilgrimage church. ” (Sorabella) In the later Middle Ages pilgrims traveled because churches would promise to consolidate with god about their sins over a whole lifetime to be forgiven.
With this in effect, churches made extreme renovations to accommodate larger numbers of pilgrims at one time. A perfect example of this is the church Saint Denis which dramatically had undergone many changes in the early twelfth century. I have not experienced a journey of this magnitude in my lifetime. However, I think it would be a great experience from an emotional point of view. It may not be an exact pilgrimage but in the month of October I will be going on my own journey to Europe. I hope to gain a broader outlook on cultural differences.
I am so used to living in the same place, so it will be an exciting new adventure to be thrown into a different world and experience Europe’s normal aspects of life. There are certain places that I am specifically going just to see, such as the Roman Coliseum, Saint Peter’s Basilica, and the Leaning tower of Pisa. I can imagine that these three destinations will bring a number of emotions out in me. I also can imagine that this is probably the same way a pilgrim felt on his or her journey once they finally saw what they had travelled so far for.
I also see myself buying trinkets in memory of a particular destination just like a pilgrim buying a miniature relic once seeing Santiago de Compostela where Saint James was discovered. The concept and experiences of a pilgrimage were widely popular all throughout Medieval Europe. It sparked imagination and hope, and set the tone for travel of many different kinds. These basic concepts have not changed much in today’s time. Most travelers do not travel from a spiritual standpoint, however most travelers will travel far and wide for an emotional experience.