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Pilgrim Galley

(1,350 words)

Author(s): Wendell Johnson
In the fifteenth century, galleys, ships propelled by oars, were the preferred means of transportation for pilgrims traveling from Europe to the Holy Lands. While primarily propelled by oars, galleys also used sails and masts for auxiliary propulsion. Early galleys had a single row of oars. Later, shipbuilders added a second tier of oars (creating a bireme) and eventually, a third row (creating a trireme). The trireme is mentioned as the type of galley that conveyed pilgrims to and from the Holy…


(743 words)

Author(s): Wendell Johnson
During the medieval era, fairs represented one of the most important forms of economic activity in Europe. Fairs evolved out of local markets and were held along pilgrimage routes, quite often where uplands intersected with lowlands, and near where pilgrims congregated for religious festivals. (See also Trade and Pilgrimage). The primary function of fairs was the promotion of trade, and historically, they were created to solve problems of distribution. Fairs provided a vital location for conveyi…


(703 words)

Author(s): Wendell Johnson
Medieval pilgrims needed lodging en route, and thus inns, private hostelries and taverns arose to meet the demand for places to stay. Poor pilgrims tended to find lodging in pilgrim hospitals, where sleeping arrangements were usually two or three to a bed and several beds to a room. The beds originally consisted of a simple straw-filled palliasse, later mounted on a frame. The rooms were sparsely furnished. Besides the bed, a room usually had a bench and a chest, and sometimes a table and chair as well. Of course, fleas and vermin infested the bed. In A Manual of French Conversation (written b…


(1,115 words)

Author(s): Wendell Johnson
Medieval pilgrims depended on markets to feed themselves. During their travels, pilgrims could stop at local markets to obtain a wide variety of food, including wine, bread, fish, venison, fruit, and cake.  Markets met once a week in rural areas and more frequently (three to six times a week) in towns and cities.  The production and distribution of food was the most important aspect of the medieval economy, and it is estimated that the majority of medieval people spent at least 60% of their annu…

Horses and Donkeys

(726 words)

Author(s): Wendell Johnson
Medieval pilgrims moved by as many different means as did merchants, soldiers, and other travelers. Many pilgrimages included some travel by sea. But on land, while a journey on foot -- preferably, barefoot -- was considered the greatest penitential offering, pilgrims also moved about on horseback. (See also Barefootedness). The typical medieval road was often little more than a dirt track which turned into a morass of mud after a heavy rain and was churned up by cart wheels and the hooves of horses and donkeys. People traveled either on foot …