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A space for resources to help RE teachers and their students explore the Christian faith
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Lat Blaylock, Editor, RE Today

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The History of Christian Pilgrimage

Pilgrimage: A journey made to a place of importance to a religion for spiritual reasons.

aerial photography of IsraelOpen up the Bible and you will read about festivals and pilgrimages. Jesus himself travelled to different places to attend festivals such as the Jewish Passover.

'Every year the parents of Jesus went to Jerusalem for the Passover Festival.When Jesus was twelve years old, they went to the festival as usual.When the festival was over, they started back home, but the boy Jesus stayed in Jerusalem. His parents did not know this.' Luke 2:41-43

Pilgrimage has, therefore, always been of great importance to Christians. However, pilgrimage really became popular amongst Christians after Jesus' death. Many chose to visit the places where Jesus was born, lived and died. Consequently, Bethlehem, Nazareth and Jerusalem became very popular places to visit. Over the centuries, these visits increased until today they have become regular sites of pilgrimage for Christians.

Popular sites of pilgrimage include:

  • Jerusalem: As already stated, Christians visit the sites where Jesus lived and died.
  • Iona: People visit Iona as it is a place where a number of saints have lived and prayers have been answered.
  • Lourdes: This is where, in 1858, St Bernadette is said to have repeatedly had visions of the Virgin Mary. Christians visit the site as there have also been reports of divine healing taking place.
  • Taize: Christians visit Taize to experience being in a special community of Christians focused upon peace. While there they enjoy meditation and silent prayer.
  • Walsingham: Christians go on pilgrimage to Walsingham because it is the site where, in 1061, Richeldis de Faverches is said to have had a vision of the Virgin Mary.