Pilgrimage involves a search for spiritual significance. Typically it is a journey to a shrine or other location of importance to a person’s beliefs and faith. The physical journey of the body enables and enriches the inner journey of the mind and the heart.
You don’t have to be religious to go on pilgrimage. People go for as many reasons as there are pilgrims, often when at a crossroads in relationships or the direction of their lives. They take the opportunity to step out of the non-stop busyness of the world, to seek a time of quiet and reflection, when they can ‘walk through’ the issues on their minds, and find peace.
Christian pilgrims travelled to Rome, the city of the martyrdom of Peter and Paul, and to Israel and to other sites associated with the apostles, saints, martyrs and the Virgin Mary. Pilgrimage sites generally housed a saint’s relics: sometimes the whole body, or a body part or significant object owned or touched by the saint. Other popular sites were places where miracles had occurred.
Following Thomas Becket’s martyrdom in 1170, pilgrims flocked to Canterbury in their thousands every year, wanting to see the site of the murder and to kiss the tomb. The flow of pilgrims increased further after the translation of Becket’s remains from the crypt to the shrine in 1220.