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

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RE Coursework - Pilgrimage                                                                                                              

Mark Cranshaw


RE Coursework


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

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 the bureau.

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 real to them. As they see the places where these things happened, they feel they can picture them more clearly. They feel closer to God during their pilgrimage. Many go just for the simple experience of being a pilgrim. For a day, or for a few days, they can concentrate on their faith in a happy relaxed way. Lots go for the sense of being part of a world wide fellowship. At the most visited pilgrimage places people are likely to meet Christians from many other countries. The majority of pilgrim’s pilgrimage to pray for something that is of special importance to themselves or their loved ones.

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When pilgrims reach Lourdes there are many things that they do; almost every pilgrim to Lourdes makes a visit to the grotto where Bernadette saw her visions. Pilgrims pray in the grotto, many of them use rosaries, and light candles. Many pilgrims visit the spring described to Bernadette. Some bathe in the water and hope that it miraculous powers may heal them. Lots drink the water for similar reasons and many take the water home to give to friends and family etc. Pilgrims attend mass at a church near the grotto. Here are some pictures taken during a pilgrimage ...

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