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Antique  print of pilgrim

Antique  print of pilgrim

Pilgrimage isn't a christian invention, it has already existed in ancient civilizations. However, the Christianity is going to give a new inspiration at the pilgrimage.


Losing its obligation and stereotyped character, it became for the pilgrim the mean to renew with places where Christ and saints lived.


The Christ's tomb was visited and venerated by some pilgrims from the fourth century. The "Burdigalien" was the first book giving informations about the travel from Bordeaux to Jerusalem. It's the ancestor of pilgrimage guides.


Those ones, more comprehensive, gave at the travellers some advice, from the choice of stopping places, to the customs and stories more and less truthful.


The cult of saints was very popular, each town had "its" martyr which the relics were venerated by everybody. It existed a real market of relics because they were very desired. Bodies of saints were cutted in several parts and distributed on several communities, then, closed into a reliquary which could have the shape of the part of body. The falsification was important, sanctuaries had the same relic and noboby shocked by that !


It would seem that the reason the most frequent of pilgrimage was the hope to have again a good health for oneself or other people. The need to do penance was very strong too.


The most important pilgrimages were Jerusalem in first (pilgrim was named "Paulmier"), afterwards Rome (pilgrim was named "Romée" or "Romieux") and then St Jacques de Compostelle (pilgrim was named "Jacquot", "Jacquet" or "Jacquaire").


But those travels weren't a little project, financially and also for all the risks. However, numerous pilgrims didn't go farther.


A pilgrimage could be made by a lonely pilgrim. But a group of pilgrims could be protected by himself against brigands and loneliness.


In principle, pilgrim should walk but the most rich rode a horse or mule.


Itineraries were marked out : Montjoies showed the dangerous places or viewpoints to discover a place of pilgrimage ; wayside crosses, chapels or other oratories which were halts to pray and rest.


The road hospices on the great pathes of pilgrimage welcame the poor pilgrims in order to give them food an comfort.


People should help pilgrims but those ones should pray into each church and chapel, tell their beads during the trip. They also should drive a symbolic cross at the top of Port de Cize, be purified at the end of travel and bring a stone like a gift for the pilgrimage of St Jacques de Compostelle.


Consequently, pilgrimage was a great adventure, with a lot of surprises, good or bad, and intense emotion.

History of pilgrimage in the Middle Age
Pèlerins, vitrail de la Cathédrale de Canterbury


Canterbury Cathedral