Christians the world over have historically erected monuments, churches and shrines to honour those individuals who held considerable status in the church in their lives. Journeys of moral or spiritual significance have re-affirmed individual’s faith and beliefs, or prompted a spiritual awakening for Christians for centuries.
A pilgrimage is a deeply personal experience, and for some the most significant experience of their lives. Throughout history pilgrimages have been undertaken to destinations of religious significance for a number of different reasons.
Saints are recognised for having an exceptional degree of virtue, sanctity and holiness. In times gone by a saint was associated solely with Christianity. Today, however, saints are recognised across a wide spectrum of religions.
Those undertaking pilgrimages have, historically, flocked to the burial site of El Camino de Compostela by the Way of St. James. Throughout the centuries people have journeyed from across Europe to tread along the paths leading to the Church of St. James in Compostela to seek and worship at the remains of St. James.
Founders of Religious Orders
Time has seen pilgrims travel to sites associated with the formation of religious orders. Those that devoted their lives to God would begin the journey and followers would become attracted and accompany them on their journey. Religious orders also encouraged individuals to make such a journey. It was not uncommon for different religious orders to be joined by monasteries, congregations, convents and schools.
Across the world festivals are held in honour of a patron saint. These have become known as pilgrimages in themselves. The centuries have recorded annual festivals honouring saints, and the blessings that they have bestowed upon a lucky few. From a bountiful harvest to favourable weather, saints are acknowledged to have made considerable impact in improving the quality of people’s lives and as such homage’s are paid.
In some cases a town or religion has been named after a Paton Saint who lived in the region. Over time these Patron Saints migrated away from their town of origin spreading the word of God to people across a vast area. Pilgrimages are made to such towns, and all the places that they chose to visit.
Relics of spiritual significance are also widespread pilgrimage destinations. Historically, relics that hold body parts, particularly bones, are of unique significance. Such bones are prominent in some churches, and as such attract a great number of pilgrims each year.
It’s thought that these relics hold special spiritual significance leading to an abundance of pilgrims journeying visiting their final place of rest. The arrival at such places leads pilgrims to seeking blessing and healing, and provides comfort to those that need it.