Pilgrimage, or a trip with religious purposes, is one of the oldest forms of tourism, which has deep historical roots. One of the first tourists was the medieval pilgrims.
Religious travel has three main goals.
The first – and the most common – visit to iconic places for this religion. Believers go or go to places where legendary, significant events took place or are happening: a lot of pilgrims from time immemorial come to Mecca, Jerusalem, to Calvary, to Orthodox churches, the Vatican, large Buddhist temples.
Even in the Middle Ages, people believed that in such “centers of faith” their prayers were especially effective. Connected with the name of the prophet, saint or with a divine sign, these places have always accumulated many pilgrims. For example, today the main pilgrimage center in France is Lourdes. In the middle of the XIX century, this city in the heart of the Pyrenees was overshadowed by the appearance of the Virgin Mary Bernadette Subirou in the Grotto Massabiel.
But not only world religions have such centers. The revived interest in ancient, pagan religions encourages people to look for ancient temples – Slavic, Celtic. Of course, they are also places of power, memory – and places of pilgrimage.
The second goal is healing. The fierce belief that the relics of saints, icons, altars, menhirs, the touch of a papal hand possess healing power, lives inevitably in people. It is difficult to say for sure what exactly healed and heals people: indomitable faith (it is also called the “placebo effect”) or the influence of unearthly forces. But the facts remain facts: cripples rose to their feet, the blind saw their light, and lepers got rid of the disease.
A more important healing invisible to the eye is spiritual healing. Atonement – or to comprehend the truth under the guidance of a wise teacher, in the east and west, religious travels in this regard were similar. To become better, wiser, to atone for sins – a person must pass the test. Medieval confessors often imposed penance, demanding a pilgrimage, and sometimes ordered to go barefoot or in one shirt.
The third goal is very earthly and human: curiosity. As an Orthodox, Catholic or atheist, a person can still go to Mecca to observe religious action. People try not only to visit the temple, but to get into the service.
Even if it is an alien religion – but natural curiosity, a thirst for knowledge lead a person to a mosque or Buddhist temple, a Catholic monastery or an Orthodox church. Many diocesan administrations have introduced foreign economic departments that regulate pilgrimage issues.
Not only for believers, but also for ordinary tourists it often matters: is there a temple where I am going? Often, besides the church, there is nothing interesting in the town – but if there is a monastery, a person will certainly stay for a short time.
There is also “religious tourism the other way around.” Do not guess?
The holy relics go on a journey themselves – and along the way, people come to bow, see, ask for help, touch, pray. Thus, the icons and relics of the saints “travel”.
Religious tourism is one of the most elevated types of tourism. Of course, now you rarely meet pilgrims who barefoot overcome the Schengen borders. But still, the interest in the divine, unearthly – to know, see, partake of – is very great.