Encyclopedia of Medieval Pilgrimage

Get access Subject: History
Edited by: Larissa J. Taylor et al.

The Encyclopedia of Medieval Pilgrimage is an interdisciplinary reference work, giving wide coverage of the role of travel in medieval religious life. Dealing with the period 300-1500 A.D., it offers both basic data on as broad a range of European pilgrimage as possible and clearly written, self-contained introductions to the general questions of pilgrimage research.

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Balkan Road Rock Paintings

(818 words)

Author(s): Svetlana Smolčić-Makuljević
One of the characteristics of the pilgrimage culture of the Balkans is the marking of the monastic, pilgrimage roads with the visual symbols - icons and crosses. In the Balkan territory, as an additional part of the Byzantine medieval culture and influence, paintings on rocks can be found on the pilgrimage roads of the monasteries of the Dormition of the Virgin in Treskavac, St Archangels in Prilep, St Prohor Pčinjski near Vranje and in the regions of Mariovo, Ohrid and Prespa. The sanctification of open spaces, along the roads, by the inscription of the sign of the cross an…


(752 words)

Author(s): Marc Schwarz
The medieval pilgrim embarked upon a significant journey, acting in the service of God and enhancing his or her own spirituality. Despite the high regard for pilgrimages in the Middle Ages, the traveler not only had to face the vagaries of weather, disease, and war, but also those of attack, robbery, and even murder. (See also War and Pilgrimage and Hazards of Pilgrimage). Indeed, part of the spiritual nature of the journey rested on the fact that the traveler undertook such risks; the suffering…


(825 words)

Author(s): Brenda Gardenour
Traveling barefoot was a characteristic of both late medieval saints and their supplicants and in both cases was a sign of poverty and humility. Barefootedness was a symbol of otherworldliness in Gospel passages such as Luke 10:3-4, in which Christ sends His disciples among enemies, commanding them not to take a change purse or sandals, and Matthew 10:9-11, in which Christ commands His disciples not to take money, a purse, extra clothes, a staff, or sandals. In this context, barefootedness signa…

Barriers to Pilgrimage

(1,768 words)

Author(s): Sari Katajala-Peltomaa
Medieval Christians had many reasons to embark on a journey to a sacred space. Similarly, their reasons and motivations not to make the pilgrimage were various and multiple. Some of the barriers were legal, some personal, while others arose from larger political, climatic, or geographic conditions. The first barriers pilgrims faced often related to their social station. Would-be pilgrims had to obtain permission to leave on pilgrimage from persons who had authority over them or to whom they had obligations. Both men and women needed a permi…

Basilica of St John Lateran

(891 words)

Author(s): John F. Romano
Constantine I the Great (ca. 272/73-337) confiscated and destroyed the barracks of the imperial horseguards located in the southeast of Rome on the Celian Hill, and there in 312 or 313 founded his first church, St John Lateran. It was possibly an ex voto offering to Jesus for his victory over Maxentius at the Milvian Bridge. The church was intended as the cathedral of the bishop of Rome. Already by the fourth century, the legend had spread that the impetus for the construction had been Constanti…

Basilica of Tours

(1,085 words)

Author(s): Christine Bousquet-Labouérie
The relationship between Tours and its bishop saint Martin took an extraordinary turn when bishop Perpetuus had a grand basilica built on the saint’s tomb, replacing the original small oratory erected by Brice, Martin’s successor to the episcopal see of Tours. Even though the Ligerian city claimed very early the saint as its own, it was not until the era of Gregory of Tours at the end of the sixth century that it would become an important pilgrimage goal. Sources on this first basilica are the w…

Belongings of Saints

(1,029 words)

Author(s): Scott Montgomery
The Tunic of the Virgin at Chartres, the Holy Tunic of Christ at Trier, the Bell of St Patrick -- such relics were widespread during the Middle Ages. Properly termed Secondary Relics, these items came into contact with a saint during his or her lifetime, thereby becoming imbued with some of the sacred power of their owners. Articles of clothing, books, bells, musical instruments, any object associated with a saint could be prized as a secondary relic (see also Contact Relics). The belief in the …

Bent Coins

(737 words)

Author(s): Sarah Blick
Before setting forth on their journey, some pilgrims took coins and bent them. When an inanimate object such as a coin was damaged or "killed" in this way, it was symbolic of the coin's transfer from a physical to a spiritual plane. By destroying its normal use, the bender rendered the coin functional only for supernatural purposes. Once bent, the coin was intended for the saintly personage to whom it was promised, and no one else. The presentation of that particular coin to the shrine fulfilled the pilgrim's vows. Vows of pilgrimage undertaken through or accompanying the bending of…

Bernward Paten

(610 words)

Author(s): Virginia Brilliant
Preserved in the Cleveland Museum of Art, the so-called Ostensorium with the "Paten of Saint Bernward" is one of the most unusual reliquaries from the Guelph Treasure. The reliquary was created in Lower Saxony during the second half of the fourteenth century and was designed to facilitate the display and veneration of ten relics. Elements of contemporary Gothic architecture rendered in miniature frame an elaborately decorated liturgical paten, the shallow disc or plate used for the elevation of the Eucharist d…

Beverley Minster

(623 words)

Author(s): Matthew Woodworth
John of Beverley (d. 721), Anglo-Saxon bishop of York, was second only to Cuthbert as the most important and renowned saint of northern England. His cult flourished through the late fourteenth century and attracted pilgrims from all over the British Isles as well as continental Europe. Archbishop Aelfric of York (1023-51) secured John’s canonization in 1037 and translated his relics to a shrine of gold, silver, and semi-precious stones near the church’s high altar. Subsequently, John of Beverley was (like St William of York) venerated at bo…