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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Cologne Cathedral

(798 words)

Author(s): Gerhard Lutz
In 1164 archbishop Rainald von Dassel, who had accompanied Emperor Friedrich Barbarossa on his tour to Italy, brought the relics of the Three Wise Men (see also Shrine of the Three Kings, Cologne), which he had received from the Emperor as a present in Milan. This extraordinary spectacular donation changed the character of Cologne Cathedral. The church became the center of an important pilgrimage with the most venerated shrine among the numerous churches of Cologne and later on a principal stop during the so called Aachenfahrt. On the feast day of Sts Peter and Paul this Heiligtumsschau to…

Communitas and Pilgrimage

(1,335 words)

Author(s): Denise A. Stodola
In Latin, "communitas" literally means "community." Within the work of anthropologist Victor Turner, however, the term has a fuller range of connotations. "Communitas" is a phenomenon characterizing the second stage of the tripartite model of rites of passage, a notion which first appeared in Arnold van Gennep's T he Rites of Passage (1960), and upon which Turner elaborates. Turner's works on the topic include The Ritual Process (1969), Dramas, Fields, and Metaphors: Symbolic Action in Human Society (1974), and Image and Pilgrimage in Christian Culture: Anthropological Per…

Compostela, Routes to

(889 words)

Author(s): Jorge Abril Sánchez
The Camino de Santiago, or Way of Saint James, is the pilgrimage to the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela in Galicia, in the northwest of Spain, where the remains of the apostle Saint James the Great are thought to be buried. The discovery of the relics of the saint in the year 812 led to the foundation of a temple and the birth of a pilgrimage. Despite being soon considered a major Christian peregrinatio ad loca sancta to earn plenary indulgences in medieval times, the Way of Saint James did not have a single route. Like the grooves of a shell (Saint James's symbol),…


(1,876 words)

Author(s): Roisin Cossar
Historians use the term "confraternity" to describe the voluntary pious organizations or brotherhoods whose lay members engaged in a variety of pious and devotional activities during the Middle Ages. These organizations developed throughout Europe during the early medieval period and persisted - in changed form - even after the reforms of the Council of Trent. The names given to the groups by their members included "fraternities," "companies," "pious congregations," and "charities". The term "re…


(807 words)

Author(s): Kathy Gower
Conques was first founded some time around 819 CE by the hermit, Dadon, the founder of a Benedictine order in the isolated, shell shaped plateau above the Dourdou River in southeastern France. Louis the Pious, son of Charlemagne, made donations of land to the monastery founded there and gave gifts of precious gold, silver and gems which were part of the original treasury. Saint Foy (Saint Faith) was a fourth-century virgin and martyr whose earthly remains are preserved in a golden, jewel encrusted statue on a gilded throne in Conques. Born in Agen, St Foy w…

Consecration of Shrines

(1,454 words)

Author(s): Walter Knowles
Types of shrines Pilgrimage shrines and their consecrations can be divided into at least four distinct categories: the primary shrine (in the case of a saint, this is usually the burial site for a miracle or apparition, this would be the site of the miracle or apparition), reliquary shrines (housing significant relics of the devotional cult), image shrines (consisting of a painting or sculpture, but without relics), and popular shrines (which may or may not be in the domain of normative ecclesiasti…


(2,484 words)

Author(s): Krijnie Ciggaar
Constantinople, the capital of the Eastern Roman empire (the Byzantine empire), was the biggest city of Europe in the Middle Ages. It was the center of Christianity and was also called the New Jerusalem and the New Rome. The city was the destination of thousands and thousands of travelers who came to the city for various reasons. Whatever made them come to the East, they admired the large avenues and squares of the city. Many of them visited the shrines in churches, chapels and in monasteries, t…

Contact Relics

(1,232 words)

Author(s): Scott Montgomery
The rather vague term "contact relic" can be used to describe two entirely different classes of relic (see also Belongings of Saints). Secondary relics are items that came into contact with a saint during his or her lifetime, such as the tunic of Francis of Assisi. Tertiary relics are items that have come into contact with relics and thereby absorbed some of their power, becoming another form of contact relic, such as the strips of cloth ( brandea) that were touched to the tombs of saints. These tertiary contact relics allow for the power of the holy to spread beyond the…

Contested Pilgrimage

(1,437 words)

Author(s): Lutz Kaelber
This term is generally associated with an influential argument made by John Eade and Michael Sallnow in Contesting the Sacred: The Anthropology of Christian Pilgrimage (1991), which challenged Victor and Edith Turner's (1978) seminal work on Christian pilgrimage on two grounds. They argue that the Turners depicted pilgrimage as too consensual and were seemingly unaware of conflicting voices about it, and that their characterization of pilgrimage's ostensible liminality overemphasized the pilgrims' extra-mundane status …

Corona Chandeliers

(1,296 words)

Author(s): Lisa Victoria Ciresi
Corona Chandelier Chandeliers of this category are large wheel- or corona-shaped, made of metal and decorated with various metal fixtures that evoked the Heavenly Jerusalem. There are at least thirty-eight known examples found throughout Europe, four of which survive in Germany. Various sources indicate the corona-chandeliers were often suspended above altars and reliquary shrines. Of the extant chandeliers two are in Hildesheim Cathedral and bear the names of the bishops who commissioned them, the Azelin Chandelier (1044-1054), and Hezilo Chandeli…

Corpus Christi

(1,463 words)

Author(s): Thomas Izbicki
Establishment of the feast of Corpus Christi, honoring the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist, was advocated by Juliana, prioress of Mount Cornillon, in the thirteenth century. She acted on a vision that told her a feast honoring the Eucharistic presence was lacking. Juliana's vision was communicated to the papacy by prominent ecclesiastics. A feast was authorized by Pope Urban IV in 1264, and it was celebrated by his court. The Latin texts for the mass and the office of the feast are attr…

Crosses and Cross Bases

(440 words)

Author(s): Anastasia Keshman
The cross as symbol originated in that on which Christ was crucified (the True Cross). The veneration of the wood of this cross by pilgrims was recorded first by Egeria, c.380 (Itinerarium of Egeria; Itinerarium Egeriae, ch. 37). Jeweled crosses symbolized Christ's victory over death, such as the large-scale golden cross with precious stones erected by Theodosius II at Golgotha in the fifth century, which became a major attraction for pilgrims ( Breviarius de Hierosolyma, chs. 1-2). Any cross bearing a representation of the body of Christ is called a crucifix. Some la…

Crowds of Pilgrims

(1,498 words)

Author(s): Kate McGrath
Many of the accounts of overcrowded pilgrimage sites provide graphic descriptions of the dangers posed by crowds of pilgrims. (See also Hazards of Pilgrimage). In 1018, during the vigil for the feast of St. Martial, around fifty people were trampled to death during a stampede into Limoges. A similar tragedy took place there in 1364, killing eighteen people who had joined Edward the Black Prince in celebrating the feast. Such accounts appear throughout the history of medieval pilgrimage. For exam…

Crusader Kingdom Ampullae

(647 words)

Author(s): Lisa Mahoney
The pilgrimage tradition of acquiring ampullae and filling them with potent material remains from important holy sites ( loca sancta) in the Levant, so popular during the early Christian and early Byzantine periods, returned to the area in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries. Now manufactured under Latin rule, the form of these ampullae and their appeal remained the same in essential ways. That is, their shape imitated a 'water bottle,' of the type carried by pilgrims, with a rounded body, a neck that could be cl…

Crusader Kingdom Reliquaries

(630 words)

Author(s): Lisa Mahoney
The nature of reliquaries, generally portable and often fragile items consisting of sacred remains and precious materials, makes them susceptible to loss, explaining the relative dearth of these objects from the period of Latin occupation in the Levant (1099-1291). Certainly, in addition to visitation of loca sancta, the relics of the Holy Land were a major component of the pilgrimage experience. Historical sources provide some evidence of their previous abundance, although these tend to privilege mention of the relic itself rather than its…


(1,983 words)

Author(s): Jessalynn Bird
Among the factors contributing to the evolution of the crusades were concepts of holy war, devotion to the saints and their relics, an increasing focus on the humanity and suffering of Christ (commemorated in relics of the Passion, liturgical crosses and crucifixes), pilgrimage to the Holy Land, and the resultant appeal of rescuing sacred sites and eastern Christians from Muslim control. Awareness that the incursions of the Seljuk Turks had made Holy Land pilgrimages more hazardous and that Jeru…

Crusading Orders

(2,433 words)

Author(s): Jessalynn Bird
Origins and Organization Just as crusading (see also Crusades) came to be described as a viable alternative to the monastic life, as the fusion of salvific warfare in the defense of Christendom and its holy places and the penitential, devotional, and legal aspects of pilgrimage, so too the crusading orders fused the functions and institutions of monasticism and crusading. Initially devoted to aiding pilgrims via the provision of pilgrim hospitals and/or armed escorts, their charitable mission soon …


(900 words)

Author(s): Leigh Ann Craig
Among the most common of miracles received by pilgrims to the shrines of saints were cures of long-term disabilities, such as deafness, blindness, and especially of paralysis or other limits to normative mobility (see also Lameness). These miracles are among the most prominent that the Gospels recorded as being performed by Jesus, and as the cult of the saints began to take shape in late antiquity, such miracles were also attributed to Christian holy men and women, both living and dead. Even aft…


(622 words)

Author(s): Achim Timmermann
Crypts are vaulted structures within or adjoining churches, normally below the main floor level but not always entirely underground. They are usually associated with funerary rites and often with the cult of relics The earliest purpose-built crypts date from the fourth century and provided limited access and room for movement; a case in point is the crypt of Saint-Maximin (Var), a compact, barrel-vaulted chamber of rectangular ground plan, with a small apse and single narrow entrance. The allowa…