European Medieval Pilgrimage Project - Sites

Click on the map below to view the national pilgrimage sites. Return here by clicking the 'Sites' icon.

Sweden Britain Eire France Germany Italy Russia Portugal



France Germany Italy Portugal Russia Sweden

The most spectacular destination was, of course, the Holy Land, where the pilgrim would literally walk in the footsteps of Jesus. Christians had travelled to Palestine already during the 3rd century for this very purpose.  During the early Middle Ages pilgrimages of this kind gained in popularity, even if it was still only a possibility for a few people. This was because a journey of this kind was an expensive enterprise, and partly because the Holy Land became less accessible, due to the Arabic expansion.

The second most important city was Rome, the city of Peter and Paul, with countless graves of martyrs. Through a well-planned strategy by the Pope, the popularity of Rome as the most important destination for a pilgrimage eventually grew. But even if Rome and the Holy Land were of a higher status, the destination that involved the most pilgrims during the Middle Ages was Santiago de Compostela in Spain. 

The importance of the city also grew when the Turks had blocked the way to Jerusalem, and when the popes had been driven away from Rome. No less than half a million pilgrims came to Compostela and the grave of the Holy James every year. Along the way, the people had built countless churches, convents and lodgings. The route for the pilgrims to Compostela can be said to have been the basis of the middle age European Christian cultural union. Architecture, sculpture and the painting of church walls blossomed. The Christian togetherness grew stronger, as the people felt they had a common enemy in the Arab intruders in Spain. Today, when the thought of pilgrimages once again seem to have been reborn, between 25,000 and 50,000 people wander along the beautiful road to Compostela  

Some other important international destinations for the pilgrimages were Canterbury, Köln (Cologne) and Aachen (Aix-la-Chapelle). Nidaros (Trondheim) in Norway was the fourth most common destination for medieval pilgrims. 


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