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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War and Pilgrimage

(1,304 words)

Author(s): Andrew Holt
During pilgrims' lengthy journeys it was not uncommon for them to travel near, or even through, war zones. In such circumstances, pilgrims had to be especially careful of the pitfalls common to foreigners traveling in hostile lands. In both Europe and the Holy Lands, pilgrims were sometimes targeted by armies concerned about their presence and intentions in regions already destabilized by war. Pilgrims might also be drafted unexpectedly to fight in defense of the towns and shrines they visited, …

Watching Chambers

(640 words)

Author(s): Sarah Blick
The gleam of gold and jewels that adorned precious shrines and reliquaries were sometimes too great a temptation for visiting pilgrims. To counteract such thieving and sacrilegious tendencies, major churches implemented tight security; feretory shrines were often placed on shrine bases measuring eight feet in height and enclosed with iron fencing or stone screens. Once the pilgrims gained access to the restricted space, the riches seen therein were closely guarded, sometimes by clergy gazing dow…

Wax Candles

(837 words)

Author(s): Adriano Duque
Wax candles were manufactured using beeswax and bleach in the Middle Ages. After the honey and wax were taken from the hive, the wax was rendered and refined to remove impurities. This process left the candle white, translucent and virtually odorless. Due to the cost of producing them, wax candles soon became a sign of status in public and private devotions. In most cases, small chambers were used to dispose of the unburned wax, which was later recovered and reused. In fourteenth-century England…

Wayside Shrines

(480 words)

Author(s): Achim Timmermann
Made from wood or stone, and erected at crossroads, on bridges (see also Bridges and Bridge Chapels), near city gates and by the open road, wayside shrines (see also Consecration of Shrines) (also known as wayside crosses) were a ubiquitous feature of the high and late medieval landscape. They were either of cruciform design or of the German Bildstock-type (that is, with a columnar support and an upper, house-shaped shrine), and often displayed images of saints, the Virgin Mary, and the Passion. Wayside shrines were used as preaching and processional c…


(873 words)

Author(s): Brenda Gardenour
Weather, and particularly the four winds, determined the state of health, types of illness, and the physical nature of the medieval body, which was open to both supernatural and natural elements. Because of the permeability of body, the four winds, which according to Hippocratic medical theory were characterized by different qualities, being either hot or cold, and moist or dry, could enter into bodies and affect an individual's health and well-being. Weather not only influenced health and disea…


(700 words)

Author(s): Matthew Woodworth
Despite nearly two centuries of concerted effort, Wells Cathedral was never able to establish itself as a major pilgrimage destination in England. The attempted canonization of Bishop William de Marchia (1293-1302) ended in failure, and Wells reached the Reformation having never promoted a significant saintly cult. Wells had been a prominent cathedral in the Anglo-Saxon period, but lost its position at the end of the eleventh century when the bishopric was transferred to Bath. The present Gothic building, begun under bishops Reginald de Bo…