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Landscape with pilgrims, painting by Karl Friedrich Schinkel
Pilgrim figure in front of the St. Jakobskirche in Rothenburg ob der Tauber
Mantle and staff of a Santiago pilgrim 1571

Pilgrim , also outdated pilgrim ("stranger"), comes from the Latin peregrinus (or peregrinari , "to be in a foreign country"). An individual used to be called a pilgrim's man or woman . In church Latin , Pelegrinus refers to a person who moves abroad for reasons of faith, usually undertaking a pilgrimage to a place of pilgrimage , on foot or using a means of transport.

The occasion of a pilgrimage can be an imposed penance , an effort to gain indulgence , the fulfillment of a vow , a specific cause, spiritual immersion, or the giving of gratitude. The destination is a place considered sacred, such as a pilgrimage church , a temple , a tree sanctuary, etc .; the pilgrimage was and is closely connected with the veneration of relics . In secularized societies, pilgrimage is also practiced as a form of hiking or the word pilgrimage is used in a figurative sense, e.g. B. “Art lovers make a pilgrimage to documenta ”.

More about the etymology

Literally, the pilgrim is someone who, in Latin “per agrum” , that means “over land”, comes from beyond the Ager Romanus , whereby ager does not mean a cultivated field, but the land belonging to the civitas . In this respect, “stranger” is an appropriate translation of the term.

Derived from the term “pilgrim”, the term “Pülcher”, which is derogatory in Austrian colloquial language, means “crook”, “tramp” or “cheater”. The etymological explanation given is that some vagabonds , dodgers , and fraudsters falsely pretended to be pilgrims in rest stops and moved on without paying the bill or the accommodation allowance.

Places of pilgrimage in antiquity

In early times were, among others, certain caves as sacred places, one of the most famous shrines in the Greek world was the Temple of Artemis , but the Apollon - Oracle of Delphi was visited frequently.

One of the most important places of pilgrimage in the world has been Jerusalem since the construction of the first Israelite Temple until today , which became the central shrine of the Jews. Today the city all three monotheistic's world religions sacred: the Jews as well as Christians because of death and resurrection of Jesus Christ , the Muslims visit - except their Hajj pilgrimage named after Mecca and Medina - preferably the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem.

Pilgrimage in India

Jain temple at Palitana

The pilgrimage also plays an important role in Buddhism (cf. Kanischka reliquary and bimaran reliquary ) - for example, as early as the 3rd century BC. A reliquary cult handed down to us, which included both relics of Buddha and the outstanding monks ( arhats ). Later on, Chinese pilgrims such as Faxian (around 400), Songyun (around 520), and Xuanzang (around 630) brought Buddhism to China from their travels through northern India. It is unclear whether Padmasambhava , the semi-mythical founder of Buddhism in Tibet , undertook a similar pilgrimage. Even today, many believers make pilgrimages (mostly in organized group tours) to the four holy sites of Lumbini , Bodhgaya , Sarnath and Kushinagara in Nepal and northern India.

Also the Hinduism has numerous sacred sites; The seven most sacred places are Ayodhya (birthplace of the god Rama ), Dvaraka (capital of the god Krishna ), Haridwar (source plateau of the Ganges ), Kanchipuram (Great Temple of Shiva ), Mathura (birthplace of Krishna) as well as Ujjain and Varanasi . In Ujjain, Haridwar, Nashik and especially at the confluence of the Ganges and Yamuna at Prayagraj , the pilgrimage festival of the Kumbh Mela takes place.

Although the religion of Jainism has no cult of relics , the Jainas also make a pilgrimage naked ( Digambaras ) or in white robes ( Shvetambaras ) in large numbers to their mainly mountain-based sanctuaries (e.g. Mount Abu , Ranakpur , Palitana , Girnar , Shravanabelagola , Parasnath et al.).

Christian pilgrims in late antiquity and the Middle Ages

The spread of Christianity and the building of churches in Jerusalem, Bethlehem and other places in the Holy Land under Emperor Constantine offered Christian travelers new goals to strengthen their faith. The earliest surviving evidence of this is the Itinerarium Burdigalenes , a Latin list of stations recorded in 333 by a traveler from Bordeaux and the report about 50 years later about a trip by Aetheria or Egeria, who came from northern Spain or southern France, to the Holy Land. On site, the travelers' destinations were the places mentioned in the Old and New Testaments , but also in non-Canonical literature , as well as monks and dignitaries who were perceived as exemplary Christians, and later, according to a legend, the cross of Christ identified by Constantine's mother Helena .

Soon women like the noble Roman widow Paula with her daughter Eustochium , who belonged to the circle around Hieronymus , as well as Melania the elder and her granddaughter Melania the younger settled in the Holy Land. Rome then acquired a similarly great importance as the burial place of the apostles Peter and Paul . From the 9th century onwards, Santiago de Compostela was added, which became a leader in the Middle Ages mainly because of its excellent infrastructure with a wide-ranging network of hostels managed by monasteries . Many participants in the crusades to the Holy Land also saw themselves as (armed) pilgrims.

Pilgrimage and Reformation

Together with other reformers such as Zwingli and Calvin , Martin Luther also turned against the overwhelming pilgrimage of his time , associated with superstition and indulgences . Even Thomas a Kempis had in his following Christ noted critically: Who pilgrimage lot is rarely holy. After Norway to Protestantism assumed was there, the pilgrims in 1537 even under the death penalty asked.

Pilgrims of the modern age

Modern pilgrims on the Spanish Way of St. James
Path marking on a pilgrimage route, here a stylized scallop shell in Spain
Example of a pilgrim pass, a Spanish Credencial del Peregrino with numerous stamps
Sculpture in Pfullendorf with pilgrim hat , pilgrim staff , cape , pilgrim cloak and pilgrim bag

In contrast to the Protestants, the Catholic Church held fast to the custom of pilgrimages to shrines and promoted them. Ignatius of Loyola , for example, describes his pilgrimage to Jerusalem and Rome in his pilgrimage .

The Pilgrim Fathers were a group of Puritan dissidents from England who sailed to America to establish a colony where they could freely live their faith.

In the last two centuries, Marian shrines such as Lourdes and Fátima have been added to the old pilgrimage destinations . The Camino de Santiago has increasingly been rediscovered in recent decades . In addition to these, there are countless other places of pilgrimage . Occasionally, religiously motivated visitors to places that are not recognized as places of pilgrimage , such as Marpingen , Heroldsbach or Međugorje , are referred to as pilgrims.

Today's pilgrimage is also the subject of empirical research.

See also


Christian institutions, rites and customs in pilgrimage

Historical pilgrim marks

Classic pilgrimage festivals and pilgrimage festivals in Judaism





  • Detlef Lienau: Religion on the move. An empirical study of the religious experience of pilgrims . Herder, Freiburg 2015, ISBN 978-3-451-61356-2 .
  • Michael F. Feldkamp : From the Jerusalem pilgrim to the grave knight. History of the Knight Order of the Holy Sepulcher (= Propylaea of ​​the Christian Occident. Volume 1), Heimbach / Eifel 2016, ISBN 978-3-86417-055-3 .
  • Christian Kurrat: renaissance of pilgrimage. On the biographical significance of pilgrimages on the Way of St. James . Lit, Berlin / Münster 2015, ISBN 978-3-643-12950-5 .
  • Patrick Heiser, Christian Kurrat: Pilgrimage yesterday and today. Sociological contributions to religious practice on the Camino de Santiago. Lit, Berlin / Münster 2012, ISBN 978-3-643-11889-9 .
  • Andreas Klußmann: In God's name we drive. The late medieval pilgrimage reports by Felix Fabri, Bernhard von Breydenbach and Konrad Grünemberg in comparison. universaar, Saarbrücken 2012, ISBN 978-3-86223-076-1 .
  • Public Service Office (Ed.): Auf und werden - The spiritual guide for pilgrimage routes . Lutherische Verlagsgesellschaft, Kiel 2009, ISBN 978-3-87503-138-6 (published in cooperation with the parish service of the North Elbian Evangelical Lutheran Church and the pilgrim pastor at the main church St. Jacobi ).
  • Eckart Klaus Roloff : Pilgrimage in a new edition. Notes on a phenomenon between tradition and modernity. In: Communicatio Socialis, issue 2/2008, pp. 192-198, ISSN  0010-3497 .
  • Raimund Joos: Pilgrims on the Way of St. James . 7th edition. Stein, Welver 2013, ISBN 978-3-86686-394-1 .
  • Raimund Joos: Why the shoe gets wider when you walk. The spiritual Way of St. James coach . 2nd Edition. Tyrolia, Innsbruck 2012, ISBN 978-3-7022-2824-8 .
  • Bernhard Kötting: Peregrinatio religiosa. Pilgrimages in antiquity and pilgrimage in the old church . In: Research on Folklore . Issue 33/34/35. Regensberg, Münster 1950.
  • Norman Foster: The Pilgrims. Wanderlust in God's name . Krüger Verlag, Frankfurt am Main 1982, ISBN 3-8105-0610-9 , pp. 303 .
  • The journey of an anonymous nobility to the Holy Land in 1494 . In: Gerhard Fouquet; Tobias Delfs, Thomas E. Henopp (ed.): Kieler workpieces . Series E: Contributions to Social and Economic History , No. 5 . Lang, Frankfurt am Main et al. 2007, ISBN 978-3-631-56777-7 .
  • Ways to salvation. Pilgrims and holy places on the Moselle and Rhine . In: Thomas Frank, Michael Matheus, Sabine Reichert (eds.): Geschichtliche Landeskunde . No. 67 . Stuttgart 2009.
  • Detlef Lienau: Cheating on yourself. Why people go on a pilgrimage . Grünewald, Ostfildern 2009, ISBN 978-3-7867-2757-6 .
  • Pilgrims and places of pilgrimage in the Middle Ages and modern times . In: Michael Matheus (Ed.): Mainzer lectures . No. 4 . Steiner, Mainz 2000, ISBN 3-515-07431-7 .
  • Michael Matheus, Heidrun Kreutzer: Being out and about in the late Middle Ages: as a pilgrim in the Holy Land and in the Michael Shrine on Monte Gargano . In: Franz J. Felten, Stephanie Irrgang, Kurt Wesoly (eds.): Ein filled Willkomm. Festschrift for Knut Schulz on his 65th birthday . Shaker, Aachen 2002, ISBN 3-8322-0600-0 .
  • Christof May: Pilgrimage. Human being on the way . In: Studies on Systematic and Spiritual Theology . No. 41 . Echter, Würzburg 2004, ISBN 3-429-02617-2 .
  • Holy places in Asia and Africa. Spaces of divine power and human worship . In: Angelika C. Messner, Konrad Hirschler (ed.): Asia and Africa . No. 11 . EB, Schenefeld / Hamburg 2006, ISBN 3-936912-19-X .
  • Volker Reichert, Andrea Denke: Konrad Grünemberg - from Constance to Jerusalem. A pilgrimage to the Holy Sepulcher in 1486. Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft WBG, Lambert Schneider Verlag, Darmstadt 2015, ISBN 978-3-650-40063-5 and ISBN 978-3-650-40064-2 .

Web links

Commons : Pilgrims  - collection of images, videos and audio files
Wiktionary: Pilgrims  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Individual evidence

  1. Arnd Krüger : History of hiking. In: A. Dreyer, A. Menzel, M. Enderß (eds.): Hiking tourism. Oldenbourg, Munich 2010, pp. 15-21.
  2. ^ Dpa, AZ: Art lovers make a pilgrimage to Kassel. In: Augsburger Allgemeine . June 9, 2012.
  3. Pülcher . In: Duden.
  4. “Luther didn't think much of pilgrims either. He was sure that one couldn't serve God better in Rome, Jerusalem or Santiago de Compostela than at home. ”( Fasting, pilgrimage, prayer? Being pious according to Luther - for the reformer, prayer was the most important thing ( memento of the original from February 21, 2014 in the Internet Archive ) Info: The archive link has been inserted automatically and has not yet been checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. ) @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot / www.luther2017.de
  5. ^ Daniel Schneider: Pilgrims. In: Planet Knowledge . February 22, 2017, accessed on February 25, 2017 (During the Reformation, pilgrimages decreased significantly. Martin Luther compared pilgrimages in the 16th century to the indulgence trade, in which people hoped to spend less time in purgatory by buying letters of indulgence. He described the pilgrimage as a “fool's work” and scoffed at the Way of St. James to Santiago de Compostela: “Don't run there, you don't know whether Saint James or a dead dog is lying there.” In Norway, pilgrimage was forbidden from 1537 even under death penalty and from The then ruling Protestants denounced as heresy. But the pilgrimage was also reformed: The pilgrims' motives were no longer shaped by compulsion and fixed rules, but were considered voluntary and individual. For example, the route no longer had to be a certain number of days.).
  6. Detlef Lienau: Religion on the move. An empirical study of the religious experience of pilgrims. Herder, Freiburg 2015, especially p. 300 ff.