Pilgrimage (Lat. peregrinatio; Ital. pelle-grinaggio), a journey undertaken from devout motives to some holy place. The history of Christian pilgrimages belongs chiefly to the middle ages, though from the earliest times the faithful resorted to Palestine. This practice was adopted from motives of personal devotion, and not unfrequently was imposed as an atonement for public sins. Eusebius, St. Basil the Great, St. Gregory of Nyssa, Jerome, and others, attest the frequency of these pilgrimages and mention the great number of pilgrims. The dedication of the church of the Resurrection at Jerusalem, built by Constan-tine, attracted an immense concourse from east and west. The empress Helena also went thither as a pilgrim, and built many churches. The subsequent increase of this devotion remained unchecked till Palestine and Jerusalem passed into the possession of the Mohammedans. Still the hardships which this conquest threw in the way of pilgrims served rather to stimulate their fervor. Their departure from western Christendom was attended with peculiar religious solemnities.
Each pilgrim on setting out received from the priest a scrip and staff, together with a coarse woollen gown marked with a cross; a blessing was pronounced on him, and he was accompanied by a procession as far as the next parish. He carried neither money nor arms, but had to show a passport from his sovereign and a letter of communion from his bishop. He was received by all Christians with ready kindness; for next in merit to being one's self a pilgrim was accounted the providing for the safety and comfort of the wayfarers. Hospitals and monasteries were built for their reception along the most frequented routes and in the city of Jerusalem, and Christians residing there exposed themselves to great dangers in order to go and meet them on the road. Female pilgrims were received by religious communities of their own sex. The merchants of Amalfi, Venice, and Genoa, and the princes of the West, bore most of the expense of supporting these hospitals, and every year monks of Palestine came to Europe to collect alms for the same purpose. When the pilgrim arrived at the holy city he prepared himself by fasting and prayer, and then visited the sepulchre covered with a robe which he afterward preserved to be buried in.
He viewed Mount Zion, the mount of Olives, the valley of Je-hoshaphat, Bethlehem, Mount Tabor, and the other principal places associated with the miracles of Christ; and having bathed in the Jordan, he gathered in the territory of Jericho a palm branch, which on his return home he presented to his priest to be laid upon the altar in token of the completion of his enterprise. From this circumstance the pilgrims to Palestine were called palmers. The Mohammedan caliphs treated the pilgrims alternately with cruelty and kindness; but under the Seljuk Turks, who conquered Palestine about 1076, they were subjected to violent persecution. About this time the archbishop of Mentz, with the bishops of Bamberg, Utrecht, and Ratis-bon, undertook a pilgrimage to the Holy Land, and the multitude of their followers amounted to 7,000 persons, of whom fewer than 2,000 reached home again in safety. A few years later the miseries of the pilgrims and Christian inhabitants of Jerusalem gave rise to the crusades, which may be considered as armed pilgrimages on a large scale. (See Crusades.) Besides relics of saints and precious remains of Christian antiquity, the pilgrims brought back the industrial and artistic products of the East; French and Italian merchants established warehouses in Jerusalem, and every year on Sept. 15 a fair was opened on Mount Calvary, where the Franks and Moslems exchanged their goods.
In the present century a society was organized in France for promoting yearly pilgrimages to Palestine. Some pilgrims travelled as far as Egypt, and penetrated to the solitudes of Memphis and the Thebaid, inhabited by the disciples of St. Anthony and of St. Paul of Thebes, the first hermit. - The tombs of St. Peter and St. Paul at Rome were reckoned only less sacred than Palestine, and Loreto on the E. coast of Italy was famous for the Virgin Mary's house (see Loreto), as well as Assisi for the tomb of St. Francis. But the greatest crowds of pilgrims were drawn to Rome by the devotions of the jubilee, which at first was celebrated the last year of each century, was held with increased solemnity by Boniface VIII. in 1300, was fixed for every 50th year by Clement VI., for every 33d year by Urban VI., and for every 25th year by Paul II. As the indulgences granted for the jubilee can, by permission of the pope, be gained by Roman Catholics at home on certain conditions, the influx of pilgrims to Rome on such occasions ha3 been diminished.
In Germany, the church of St. Peter and St. Paul at Treves boasted from 1190 the possession of the seamless robe worn by Christ. During the middle ages pilgrims flocked thither from every country in Europe; and this devotion, which had almost died out since the reformation, revived in 1810, and grew to such a degree that in 1844 1,100,000 pilgrims visited the city. Cologne, with the supposed tomb of the three kings, and the shrine of St. Ursula and her companions, was next in popularity. Next came Oetting, Celle, and Einsiedeln in Switzerland. The tomb of St. John Nepomuk in Prague was a devotional centre for Bohemia. In Spain the most famous shrines were those of St. James the Apostle at Compostela and of the Virgin Mary at Monserrat. The former ranked with the pilgrimage to Rome, and almost rivalled that of Jerusalem. After the 16th century Loyola in Guipiizcoa, the native place of St. Ignatius, became a favorite resort of numerous pilgrims from the Iberian peninsula, France, and Italy, among whom were many crowned heads.
France counted many famous shrines from an early date. ' The most celebrated were: Mont St. Michel on the coast of Normandy, St. Martin at Tours, St. Anne d'Auray in Brittany, the churches of Ste. Genevieve and St. Denis in and near Paris, La Vierge Noire at Chartres, the churches of Notre Dame at Liesse near Laon and at Fourvieres near Lyons, and that of Notre Dame de la Garde at Marseilles. In our own times Paray-le-Monial, Lourdes, and La Salette have acquired a sudden and remarkable celebrity. (See Paray-le-Monial.) Lourdes, a little town in the department of Hautes-Pyrenees, has become famous since 1858 for the reported apparition of the Virgin Mary to Bernardette Soubirous, and La Salette, in Haute-Loire, for a similar apparition to two shepherd children. A monumental church has been erected at Lourdes, and the waters of an adjoining spring, reputed as possessing miraculous healing powers, are drunk by the pilgrims and sent to every part of the world. Pontigny also, where St. Thomas a Becket lived in exile among the Cistercian monks, and which contains the shrine of his exiled successor St. Edmund Rich, archbishop of Canterbury, was in the middle ages resorted to by many French and English pilgrims; and on Sept. 2, 1874, 500 English pilgrims, headed by Archbishop Manning and Lord Edmund Howard, went thither to invoke the intercession of St. Edmund in favor of the church in Italy and Germany. In May, 1874, American pilgrims to the number of 120 left New York for Paray-le-Monial and Rome. England numbered many celebrated shrines of the Virgin Mary, the most ancient of which was Glastonbury, and the most renowned Walsingham. The shrine of St. Cuthbert at Durham, and still more that of St. Thomas a Becket at Canterbury, were frequented by numerous pilgrims before the reformation.
St. Winifred's chapel at Holywell, in northern Wales, has been a favorite place of pilgrimage since the 12th century. Iona, off the west coast of Scotland, was long famed as a place of pilgrimage. In Ireland there were a great number of such places, the principal being the shrine of St. Patrick at Downpatrick, St. Patrick's Purgatory, an island in Lough Derg, and Croagh Patrick, overlooking Clew bay in Mayo. In America the most noted places of pilgrimage are Guadalupe near the city of Mexico and St. Anne near Quebec, which is yearly frequented by crowds from every part of Canada. - The Russian Orthodox church has also fostered the zeal for pilgrimages. Besides Jerusalem and the monastery of Mt. Athos, there are famous shrines at Kiev, the lavra (high monastery) of the Holy Trinity about 30 m. from Moscow, and St. Alexander Nevskoi near St. Petersburg. - Among the Mohammedans the pilgrimage most in repute is that to Mecca. (See Hadji.) The favorite shrines for the Persians are Mesjid Ali, the burial place of the caliph Ali, and Kerbela, where Hussein, son of Ali by Mohammed's daughter Fatima, was slain.
The Persians also make visits to Mecca and Medina. In Hindostan there are innumerable holy places to which devotees resort, the most celebrated of which are Juggernaut, Benares, Hurdwar, Dwarka, and Nassick. The pilgrimages are generally at festivals lasting several days, a part of the time being passed in religious rites, a part in amusements, and a part in business. Thieving, lewdness, and all forms of villany are then especially rife. Some of the pilgrims lose all their means and have to beg their way home; others resort to such places for the purpose of ending their existence, for it is believed that those who die at certain of these holy spots are exempt from future suffering and metempsychosis. Many of the devotees in proceeding on a pilgrimage prostrate themselves on the ground at every step, repeating each time the name of the god or the place to which they are going. The Mongols have a strong taste for pilgrimages, and their country abounds with places of reputed great sanctity, generally Buddhist monasteries, to which at certain times vast crowds are attracted. A rite greatly in vogue at such times consists in making the circuit of the monastery in a series of prostrations, the body being extended at full length and the forehead touching the ground at every step.
As the monasteries with their outbuildings are often very large, it is frequently difficult to accomplish the feat in a single day. The Japanese of the Shinto sect make pilgrimages to a famous temple in the province of Isje, which every one is obliged to visit at least once in his life. The journey is made generally in the spring and on foot. Other devotees, usually in companies of two or three, travel about the empire to visit the chief temples. They are dressed in white after a peculiar fashion, and obtain their bread by singing from house/to house, many of them having no other occupation, but passing their lives in perpetual pilgrimage. In the coldest weather pilgrims journey to certain temples with no-covering but a little straw about their waists. They receive no charity, live poorly, and run nearly all the distance. The Sinai of the Japanese Buddhists is the volcano of Fusi-yama near Tokio (Yedo), and a yearly pilgrimage to it is the duty of every one.