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pilgrim

pilgrim, one who travels to a shrine or other sacred place out of religious motives. Pilgrimages are a feature of many religions and cultures. Examples in ancient Greece were the pilgrimages to Eleusis and Delphi. Pilgrimages are well established in India (e.g., to Varanasi, or Benares, on the sacred Ganges River), in China (e.g., to Mt. Tai), and in Japan (e.g., to Uji-yamada and Taisha). The Temple at Jerusalem was the center of an annual pilgrimage of Jews at Passover. Every Muslim tries to make the pilgrimage to Mecca once in his life; this is the pilgrimage (Hajj) par excellence and has had a remarkable effect in unifying Islam. A favorite Shiite shrine is Karbala. The Christian pilgrimage to the Holy Places of Jerusalem, Bethlehem, and Nazareth, already well established, received great impetus in the 4th cent. from the supposed finding of the True Cross by St. Helena. The Crusades were launched to protect this pilgrimage. In Western Europe the principal shrine is Rome, sacred to St. Peter and St. Paul and the martyrs. Since 1300 the popes have set aside holy years (see jubilee) for special pilgrimages to Rome. Another historic shrine is Santiago de Compostela, NW Spain; one explanation of the origin of the Chanson de Roland connects it with songs sung to entertain the Compostela pilgrims. The chief shrine of medieval England was the tomb of St. Thomas à Becket at Canterbury—its pilgrimage was immortalized by Geoffrey Chaucer. Other English pilgrimages were to Walsingham and Glastonbury. Badges to show what pilgrimages one had made were a feature of medieval dress. Thus, a palm badge symbolized the visit to the Holy Land, and its wearer was called a palmer. Modern Roman Catholic centers of pilgrimage include Rome, the Holy Land, Loreto, Compostela, Montserrat (Spain), Fátima, Lourdes, Ste Anne d'Auray (see Auray), Einsiedeln, Częstochowa, Sainte Anne de Beaupré (Quebec), and Guadalupe Hidalgo (Mexico).

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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