For centuries, people of different faiths, cultures and religious beliefs have traveled near, far and across the world in search of meaningful and spiritually rewarding journeys. The custom of pilgrimage to sacred places brought them closer to their deities, afforded atonement, offered solace and even transformed lives.
Historic pilgrimages from Asia to Europe still attract thousands of travellers today, seeking to press the pause button of busy lives and rediscover themselves and their faith.
These are the three most historic pilgrimages for Catholics and the stories behind them:
Jerusalem and the Holy Land have been a sacred destination for pilgrims of various faiths including Jews, Christian and Muslims for many centuries; and it still is to this day probably the holiest place in the world.
For Christians a pilgrimage to Jerusalem and the Holy Land brings them closer to God and faith, visiting the places associated with the life and work of Jesus and the Disciples, such as the Church of the Holy Sepulchre where Jesus was crucified and later resurrected or Jesus’ birthplace in Bethlehem.
Jerusalem is Judaim’s holy city and home to its most important sacred sites such as the Western Wall, the Tomb of David and Temple Mount. Jews believe the Western Wall or Kotel is the location of the foundation stone from which the world was created and the closest place to pray to the Holy of Holies.
According to the Koran, the Prophet Muhammad was transported from Mecca to Jerusalem during the Night Journey and then ascended to heaven. The Dome of Rock and Al-Aqsa mosque or al-Haram al-Sharif (Noble Sanctuary) is Islam’s third holiest site, after Mecca and Medina.
TOUR DETAILS: PILGRIMAGES TO THE HOLY LAND
CAMINO DE SANTIAGO
Pilgrims have walked the different Camino de Santiago paths, the Way of Saint James, to the city of Santiago de Compostela in Galicia, Northern Spain, for many centuries. According to Catholic tradition, the body of Saint James the Apostle was discovered in a field in the 9th century and a shrine and cathedral built on that very spot.
As word of the discovery spread, pilgrims from all over Europe started to make the journey to Santiago. Such was the influx of pilgrims in the Middle Ages that bridges, churches and pilgrim hospitals were built along the way to secure safe passage for pilgrims to Santiago. Many of them are still in place today reminding modern day pilgrims of all those who travelled these paths before them, all those hundreds of years ago.
In the year 1120 Pope Calixto II would give Santiago the privilege of the Holy Year, which meant each year when the Feast of Saint James (25th July) was a Sunday, the year would be considered ‘Holy’, and pilgrims to Santiago would receive their plenary indulgence.
Also in the 12th century, the Codex Calixtinus would become the first ‘guidebook’ to the pilgrimage to the city of Saint James, describing the route as well as practical tips for pilgrims.
Santiago de Compostela is one of the three historic pilgrimages of Christianity along with the Holy Land and Rome. Today, the Camino as a pilgrimage attracts people of all faiths, backgrounds and cultures; whether travelling for religious reasons, spirituality or as a cultural experience.
TOUR DETAILS: CAMINO DE SANTIAGO TOURS
“Life is a long pilgrimage from fear to love.” Paulo Coelho
As well as being the centre of the Empire that shaped Europe and an extraordinary open air museum, Rome is also the cradle of Catholic faith, the Roman Catholic Church.
It has been home to Popes, Saints and some of the world’s most extraordinary religious art, architecture and shrines. Saint Peter’s Square and Saint Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican are unmissable destinations for Catholic pilgrims and where they can attend a general audience with the Pope.
There are many beautiful historic shrines to admire in Rome, such as the Basilica of Saint Paul Outside the Walls built in the 4th century on the burial place of Paul the Apostle; the Basilica of Saint John Lateran, ‘Mother Church’ of Roman Catholicism and Cathedral of Rome; and the Basilica of Saint Mary Majors with its magnificent mosaics and one of the first shrines dedicated to Our Lady.
TOUR DETAILS: PILGRIMAGE TO ITALY
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