Pilgrimage is a journey to sacred places that are inspired by
religious devotion. The place that is visited is usually where events
have happened in the past that are relevant or important to what the
pilgrim believes. Pilgrimage is an ancient custom which has changed
over many years. It used to be a long and dangerous journey, but now
many treat it like a holiday. A very early example of a pilgrim was
Hsüan Tsang, a 7th century Chinese Buddhist; he travelled 65,000 km/
40,000 mi during his 16 year pilgrimage through India and China. Here
is a picture of Hsüan Tsang, returning home from India:
Another old pilgrimage tradition which happened in the 1400’s was a
pilgrimage from London to the shrine of Thomas Becket in Canterbury.
He was an English priest and politician who lived in the era of Henry
II. He was appointed archbishop of Canterbury; but interests in the
church conflicted with interests to do with the crown and Thomas
Becket was assassinated in 1170. He was declared a saint, and his
shrine became the busiest centre of pilgrimage in England. Here is an
image of Thomas Becket:
There are several different types of pilgrimage. Some people used to
go on pilgrimages as punishment for a crime. They did this to gain
forgiveness and remorse. The journeys were often very long, and hard.
Some carried armour to make it harder for themselves. Another type of
pilgrimage is when people go to the holy place to pray, to be healed.
Lourdes is a French town at the foot of the Pyrenees. It is a popular
place for Christians because it is where a young girl, Bernadette, had
a number of visions of the Virgin Mary in a grotto near to her home.
These visions happened over a six month period in 1858. It is said
that Mary told Bernadette to find a spring. She did and in 1862 it was
declared by the pope that the underground spring had miraculous
healing qualities. Since then Lourdes has become one of the most
popular pilgrimage centres for Christians. There have been numerous
claims of cures of bodily ailments at Lourdes, some of which have been
pronounced miraculous by the ecclesiastical authorities. A medical
bureau, the Bureau des Constatations Médicales, examines people who
claim to have been cured. It consists of a permanent president and a
panel of other doctors (of any nationality or religious persuasion)
who happen to be in Lourdes and who have registered their names with
Almost three million people visit Lourdes every year. Some reasons why
pilgrims go are; for spiritual discipline. Pilgrimage is an act of
prayer and devotion, something undertaken for God. Many go to increase
their faith. They visit the scenes of events that are part of their
spiritual life. Some go to allow those events to become more...