What is the purpose of the Christian pilgrimage

Pilgrimage - what is it actually?

The route is the goal

Those who go on a pilgrimage take a journey to a holy place. The pilgrim is on the way for several days or even weeks, mostly on foot. On his hike, the pilgrim would like to forget everyday life and often also reflect on his faith. Pilgrimage is common in many religions: Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Buddhism, and Hinduism.

Nowadays people who are not believers also go on a pilgrimage. The reasons for this can be very different. Most want to forget their everyday life, some make a decision for the future, some mourn someone. Regardless of the reason you decide to go on the excursion, the destination is not important. The long way on which the pilgrim gains experience and undertakes a journey to himself is significant.

Where does the pilgrimage come from?

Pilgrimage is a very old tradition. One of the first pilgrims was probably Abraham, the father of Christianity, Judaism and Islam. In the Middle Ages, pilgrimage was practiced on a large scale. Many Christian pilgrims wanted to get rid of their sins in this way. The great pilgrimage destinations were Rome, Jerusalem and Santiago de Compastelo. At that time pilgrimage was subject to very strict rules and regulations.

Later, during the Reformation, the number of pilgrims decreased significantly. It had to do with the Reformation of the Church. Martin Luther scoffed at the pilgrimage and compared it to the indulgence trade. In some countries it has even been banned.

Pilgrimage in different religions

Christianity: The Way of St. James

The Camino de Santiago is located in Europe and has many pilgrimage routes. The path leads past holy places with the big goal in northern Spain. There are the bones of St. Jacob in the cathedral in Santiago de Compostela. The Way of St. James is marked by a scallop shell. There is a pilgrim pass that is stamped in the various pilgrimage sites. Anyone who walks the last 100 kilometers and has the complete stamps will receive a certificate.

There are many other places of pilgrimage for Christians, such as St. Peter's Basilica in Rome or Wittenberg, the place where Luther put his theses on the church door.


Islam: The Hajj

Once in a lifetime every Muslim should have started a pilgrimage to Mecca - the Hajj. This is a sacred duty that is written in the Koran (the holy book of Muslims). Mecca is a city located in Saudi Arabia. The pilgrims then go to the Kaaba. This looks like a large, black cube. The Kaaba square is very crowded, especially in Ramadan. At this time, over 3 million Muslims from all over the world make a pilgrimage to Mecca.


Judaism: pilgrimages to Jerusalem

For Jews, Jerusalem is a holy place. There were temples on the Temple Mount that were destroyed. Jews make a pilgrimage to a wall called the Western Wall. The Torah (the holy scriptures of the Jews) urges believers to visit this wall during pilgrimage festivals.


Buddhism: The Way of Buddha

No places are considered sacred in Buddhism. But Buddhists also make pilgrimages to places where Buddha was active. The first Buddha was Siddharta Gaudama. His place of birth, the place of his enlightenment, the first place of teaching and the place where he died are destinations for many pilgrims.


Hinduism: Sacred Rivers

In Hinduism there are many rivers, places, and cities that are sacred. Hindus make a pilgrimage there and make offerings. These are mostly fruits or flowers. Hindus worship the Ganges, which is the largest river in India. Many Hindus make pilgrimages there to clean themselves. Most of the holy places are also on the Ganges.

Do you know any other places of pilgrimage? Write them down for us!