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A pilgrim in Pashupatinath
A Japanese pilgrim doing Iwamoto-ji on the Shikoku pilgrimage

A pilgrimage (from “wallen”, to pull in a certain direction, “drive”, to be on the way), Latin peregrinatio religiosa , is the covering of a pilgrimage route on foot or with a means of transport, at the destination of which a pilgrimage site is visited. It can be made to a religious commandment, a penance or a vow to fulfill, or in the hope of being heard a prayer and as a pilgrimage , pilgrimage , Betfahrt and Islam than Hajj or ziyara referred.

During a pilgrimage, the focus is not on the path, but on the destination, usually a sanctuary . In a procession, on the other hand , the focus is on the process of walking as a “collective gesture of a cult community”, often as pacing or walking around (cf. Pradakshina ).


There were also pilgrimages among the ancient Greeks and Romans , who visited distant temples or holy cities (Greek: Hierapolis ) for religious reasons . The Teutons also organized “forest trips” to sacred groves .

Pilgrimage festivals of Judaism

A tabernacle of the Sukkot festival from the inside

In ancient Judaism, the Israelites celebrated Passover , Shavuot and Sukkot as pilgrimage festivals, as was commanded in the Tanakh . Special provisions for pilgrims can be found in the Talmud in the Chagiga tract . The journey of the prophet Elijah to Mount Sinai is described in the Bible as a personal experience.

The aim of the ancient pilgrimages on the occasion of the Jewish pilgrimage has been the temple in Jerusalem since it was built . At the beginning of our current calendar, pilgrimage was of outstanding importance in Judaism. The pilgrims came from Judea , Galilee , the Mediterranean and the Sea of ​​Galilee - also from Egypt , Ethiopia and Babylonia . Jerusalem, which had 40,000 inhabitants at the time of the Roman Empire, was populated with a multiple number of pilgrims on the three pilgrimage dates and on the seven-day festivals, who often only found shelter in huts in inner courtyards or on flat roofs.

According to the Torah, the male Jews should make pilgrimages to the temple three times a year ( Exodus 23:17  LU ). Four times in seven years the pilgrims were to spend a tenth of the harvest in Jerusalem on sacrifices and feasts. Pilgrims from the area brought lambs with them - other pilgrims bought the sacrificial animals for the burnt offering directly in Jerusalem. In the temple the first male lambs were to be offered to the ewes.

The inner temple building was only allowed to be entered by Jews, a forecourt was reserved for women. The pilgrims gave the sacrificial animals to the priests in front of the temple. The Holy of Holies inside the temple could only be entered once a year by the high priest himself.

The Jerusalem temple was the largest sacred building in Roman times. After the destruction of Jerusalem under Titus in AD 70, the religious center of Judaism and Israel was extinguished and the central pilgrimage site no longer existed. Today only the western wall (wailing wall) of the plateau of the former second temple remains of the temple. Visiting the Western Wall (see also Temple Mount ) is not understood today as a pilgrimage in the Jewish faith. In the following story, rabbinical efforts sought to displace religious pilgrimage traditions, such as potential worship of saints , idolatry and grave cults.

Nevertheless, the tradition of pilgrimage to smaller Jewish pilgrimage sites has been preserved. These places include special tombs such as those of the tzaddikim in Palestine and around the world, including: Hebron ( Machpelah ), Bethlehem ( Rachel's tomb ), Meron (tomb of Shimon ben Jochai ); Netivot (tomb of Baba Sali ), Uman , Ukraine (tomb of Rabbi Nachman ); Silistra , Bulgaria (tomb of Eliezer Papo ); Damanhur , Egypt. The Al-Ghriba Synagogue in Djerba in Tunisia is also one of the Jewish pilgrimage destinations.

Pilgrimage Customs in Christianity

By adopting the culture of Jewish journeys to Jerusalem at the time of the pilgrims' feasts, and in its modification, Christians also traveled to the holy places since the early Middle Ages. Christian pilgrimages are used, for example, to experience religious experiences, especially in the past as a penance to be healed or to pray for special concerns. From the early Middle Ages until the 15th century, Christian pilgrimages had the Holy Land as their destination and were occasionally recorded in travelogues such as those of Felix Fabri .

In the Middle Ages, pilgrimages became a testimony to faith, especially because the ways to the pilgrimage sites were often long, arduous and possibly dangerous. Therefore the pledge to undertake a pilgrimage within a certain period of time (Votum peregrinationis) was of great importance. This vow was especially common on long-distance pilgrimages. The pledge was a central element, especially during pilgrimages of thanksgiving. In order to deliver this effectively, it was spoken in the presence of friends in a loud voice and on their knees with hands raised to heaven. This was followed by extensive preparations to finance this long journey, with real estate often being sold with the right to repurchase in the event of return, and wills were usually drawn up, which made provisions in the event that one did not return.

However, pilgrimages did not become a mass phenomenon until the 11th century, when the incursions of the Vikings ceased and the safety for land travelers increased. Since then, pilgrimage has also been regulated and protected by the rulers. Protection provisions for pilgrims to the grave of Olav the Holy in Nidaros have been handed down from the 12th century . In 1164 King Magnus Erlingsson prepared a letter of privilege for pilgrims to Nidaros. Pope Celestine III reiterated this letter of privilege when it established the rights of the Church of Norway on April 15th. In Swedish landscape laws, theft lawsuits, land disputes, and oaths were deferred until the pilgrims returned. Assaults on pilgrims resulted in severe church punishments and the refusal of church burial. The protective provisions were also repeated in later agreements between the church and the king. In 1273 the penal provisions were extended to spies (exploratores) who pretended to be pilgrims. This seems to have been a greater temptation; because King Håkon Magnusson dealt once again in 1303 with thieves and robbers who pretended to be pilgrims. The popes also issued their own letters of protection, for example Benedict XII in 1336. for Swedish pilgrims from Ångermanland and Hälsingland to Nidaros. The King of Castile John II made provisions in 1434 and Queen Isabella I in 1479 for pilgrims from Sweden, Norway and Denmark on their way to Santiago de Compostela. The pilgrims did not rely on these general rules, but carried letters of protection from the local clergy with them.

The Holy Cross of Stromberg is erected for pilgrimage
Pilgrims from Kaarst- Büttgen on their way through the Eifel to Trier
Mountain mass at the Bartholomä pilgrimage

At the beginning of a pilgrimage there is often a mission service, usually a Holy Mass or a service of the Word .

You didn't necessarily have to make a pilgrimage yourself, you could have others make a pilgrimage for you for a fee. The so-called pilgrim signs from the destination should prove that the representative had actually been there. This has often been undermined by forgeries. The pilgrims had a special costume: long coat, wide-brimmed hat , pilgrim bag, drinking bottle and pilgrim's staff .

The accommodation of pilgrims was one of the works of mercy and shared in the fruits of the blessings of pilgrimage. The income from the pilgrims benefited the countries of transit, the orders of knights (who sold protection) and the places of the pilgrimage destinations (comparable to the income generated by tourists today). The respective church institutions also achieved not insignificant income.

Large pilgrimage churches had special facilities for the sick who seek healing from the relics. This is how hospitals developed and, from them, real medical centers. Archaeological research at the pilgrimage church in Æbelholt (Denmark) showed that one of the most advanced medical treatment centers with surgical operations had developed there. The miracle reports that emerged on site mention nothing about this.

As a special form of pilgrimage accompanied by violence ("armed pilgrimage"), the crusades also developed indirectly , with political and strategic importance. When the Christians had to withdraw from the Holy Land and the places of pilgrimage there were difficult to reach for centuries, the graves of saints with their relics , which could be more easily reached, came to the fore in the Western Church . There were also pilgrimage sites and calvaries such as the Sacri Monti .

The tombs of the Apostles Peter and Paul in Rome , the tomb of the Apostle James in Santiago de Compostela and the sites of the Holy Land are of particular importance as a Christian pilgrimage site . Pilgrimages to these destinations are considered by the Catholics as main pilgrimages, trips to less important places as secondary pilgrimages. In addition, pilgrimages develop to places that are not recognized as places of pilgrimage by the Holy See or the local bishop , above all Medjugorje in Bosnia-Herzegovina .

Traditional pilgrimages are still taking place today, during which relics that are otherwise invisible or accessible are shown to the faithful. Examples include the seven-annual Aachen Pilgrimage to the Aachener sanctuaries from the Marienschrein of Aachen Cathedral are brought, which take place at irregular intervals pilgrimages to the Holy Coat of Trier and the pilgrimage to the monastery Andechs . Pilgrimages to images of grace or apparitions etc. are also of great importance. Ä. the Virgin Mary , such as Altötting , Fátima or Lourdes . A place of pilgrimage like Sayn with the arm reliquary of St. Apostle Simon Zelotes visited around 22,000 pilgrims on pilgrimages like that of 1509.

Examples of places of medieval pogroms and murders by Christian communities and cities, which through reinterpreting legends became places of pilgrimage or pilgrimage to which miraculous properties were attributed, are the pilgrimages to Deggendorfer Gnad , to Anderl von Rinn or to Heiligenblut from southern Germany. They refer to the defamatory ritual murder legends of host sacrilege by medieval Jewish communities.

There are tens of thousands of Christian pilgrimage sites. The world's largest annual pilgrimages are to the Basilica of the Virgin of Guadalupe (approx. 20 million pilgrims) and to the pilgrimage sites of Rome (approx. 18 million pilgrims). Other important pilgrimage sites are San Giovanni Rotondo in Italy (approx. Seven million pilgrims), Aparecida in Brazil (approx. Eight million pilgrims), Lourdes in France (approx. Five million pilgrims), Czestochowa in Poland (approx. 4– 5 million pilgrims), Fátima in Portugal, Padua in Italy, Assisi in Italy, Santiago de Compostela in Spain, Mariazell in Austria and Loreto in Italy. A well-known pilgrimage destination of the Anglican Church is the grave of St. Thomas Becket in Canterbury .

Pilgrimages in Islam

Pilgrims in Mecca

In Islam there is the Hajj , the pilgrimage to the Kaaba in Mecca which is prescribed once in a lifetime for every wealthy Muslim as one of the five pillars of Islam , which is often combined with a visit to the tomb of Muhammad in Medina . While the Hajj is carried out at a certain point in the Islamic festival calendar, the small pilgrimage, the umrah , offers the opportunity to make a pilgrimage to the holy places in Mecca throughout the year. In addition, pilgrimages are made to other places called Ziyāra (plural Ziyārāt) and include the godly visit to holy tombs ( Qubbas ) . Several saints such as the Seven Saints of Marrakech can be visited on a circular pilgrimage. In popular Islamic currents, organized pilgrimages (Mausim, plural Mawāsim) to the graves or places of activity of saints are also common. The visit of particularly venerated saints (regionally different Wali , Pir , Sidi or Marabout ) or a certain number of such pilgrimages can be considered as a substitute for a Hajj.

The Shiites also know regular pilgrimages to the places where their imams worked , for example to the holy city of Mashhad in Iran. Of fundamentalists pilgrimages to saints' tombs as idolatry fought.

Baha'i pilgrimages

Baha'u'llah ordered the Bahai in Kitab-i-Aqdas to make a pilgrimage to his home in Baghdad in Iraq and to the house of Bab in Shiraz in Iran . After the death of Baha'u'llah, Abdul-Baha added the Shrine of Baha'u'llah in Acre , Israel, and Shoghi Effendi, the Shrine of Bab in the Baha'i World Center in Haifa , Israel, to these two "holy houses" . In the current circumstances of the persecution in Iran and the Iraq war and occupation of Iraq since 2003 , the Baha'i can only make pilgrimages to the Shrine of Bab and the Shrine of Baha'u'llah.

Pilgrimages in other religions

Sikh pilgrims on the way to Manikaran
Pilgrimage to Lhasa

Pilgrimages are also known to other religions. In Hinduism , believers make pilgrimages to places like Badrinath , Kedarnath , Gangotri , Yamunotri , Rishikesh , Haridwar , Varanasi , Vrindavan and many others. Trips to the first four locations form the Chardham, which is believed to be particularly easy to bring Moksha , the liberation from the cycle of death and rebirth.

The Buddhism has four holy sites as targets of pilgrimages: Buddha's birthplace Lumbini (now in Nepal), Sarnath , where he taught for the first time, Bodhgaya , the place of his enlightenment and his place of death Kushinagar . In the Buddhist countries themselves, pilgrims often go to special temples or monasteries that are outstanding due to their age and tradition (e.g. Sanchi ).

The Shinto , the indigenous religion of Japan, knows pilgrimages ( Junrei ) to the Ise large shrine . But there are also Buddhist pilgrimage routes, such as the Shikoku pilgrimage route with its 88 temples.

Once a year, the Mexican people of the Huicholes send a delegation on a 550-kilometer journey to collect an annual ration of peyote cacti (not native to the settlement area) at their destination , which they can use in various religious ceremonies thanks to a special permit from the Mexican government. Therefore it does not seem appropriate in this context to apply the term pilgrimage to the Huichol. Rather, one of their more important journeys within ritual geography - which is also known as "peyote hunt", which follows mythologically guaranteed content ("the first hunt") and serves to fulfill ritual content - is to be called a "collecting journey".

Secular use of the term

The originally religious term has expanded over time to include the secular area. In the age of Romanticism and its cult of genius, "pilgrimages" began to celebrated visual artists such as Ingres in Paris , Thorvaldsen in Copenhagen and Overbeck in Rome . In the context of today's pop star cult, the press also says that fans of Elvis Presley , for example , “go on a pilgrimage” to a devout tour of his Graceland home in Memphis , Tennessee , USA . Tombs of famous personalities often become “pilgrimage sites” for their fans. B. the graves of John Bonham or Jimi Hendrix for drum or guitar players or the grave of Wolfgang Güllich in the climbing scene.

See also


  • Iso Baumer : Pilgrimage today . Freiburg 1978, ISBN 3-85764-057-X .
  • Iso Baumer: Pilgrimage as an action game. A contribution to the understanding of religious action . Frankfurt am Main 1977, ISBN 3-261-02129-2 .
  • Stefan Börnchen, Georg Mein (ed.): Secular pilgrimages. On the trail of the real . Munich 2010, ISBN 978-3-7705-4898-9 .
  • Wolfgang Brückner : On the phenomenology and nomenclature of pilgrimage and its research. Words and things in a systematic-semantic context . In: Dieter Harmening et al. (Ed.): Folk culture and history . Berlin 1970, p. 384-424 .
  • Daniel Doležal, Hartmut Kühne (ed.): Pilgrimages in European culture . Frankfurt am Main u. a. 2006, ISBN 3-631-54996-2 .
  • Jaś Elsner , Ian Rutherford (Eds.): Pilgrimage in Graeco-Roman and Early Christian Antiquity. Seeing the Gods . Oxford et al. a. 2005, ISBN 0-19-925079-0 .
  • Marie-Joseph de Géramb: Pilgrimage to Jerusalem and Mount Sinai, in the years 1831, 1832 and 1833 . Kollmann, Augsburg 1837 ( digitized version )
  • Irmengard Jehle: Man on the way to God. The pilgrimage as a religious need of man - demonstrated in the Marian pilgrimage to Lourdes . Würzburg 2002, ISBN 3-429-02475-7 .
  • Christian Krötzl: The nordiska pilgrim cultures under medeltiden . In: Helgonet i Nidaros, Olavskult och kristnande i north . o. O. 1997, p. 141-160 .
  • Oliver Krüger et al .: Art. Pilgrimage / pilgrimage . In: Theological Real Encyclopedia . tape 35 , 2003, p. 408–435 (overview with further references).
  • Christof May: Pilgrims: Being human on the way . Würzburg 2004, ISBN 3-429-02617-2 .
  • Angelika C. Messner, Konrad Hirschler (ed.): Holy places in Asia and Africa. Spaces of divine power and human worship . Schenefeld / Hamburg 2006, ISBN 3-936912-19-X .
  • Michael Rosenberger: Paths that move. A little theology of pilgrimage . Würzburg 2005, ISBN 3-429-02716-0 .
  • Carmen von Samson-Himmelstjerna: German pilgrims of the Middle Ages in the mirror of their reports and Middle High German narrative poetry . Berlin 2004, ISBN 3-428-11556-2 .
  • Markus Schauta : The first centuries of Christian pilgrimages as reflected in late antique and early medieval sources . Frankfurt am Main u. a. 2008, ISBN 978-3-631-56437-0 .
  • 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 : Pilgrimage  - Album with pictures, videos and audio files
Wiktionary: Pilgrimage  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations
Wiktionary: pilgrimage  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations
Wiktionary: pilgrimage  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations
Wiktionary: pilgrimage chapel  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations
Wiktionary: Pilgrimage Church  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations
Wiktionary: Place of pilgrimage  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations
Wiktionary: pilgrimage site  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Wolfgang Brückner : cultural techniques. Non-verbal communication, legal symbols, religio carnalis. Würzburg 2000, quoted by: Dieter J. Weiß : Processional research and history. In: Jahrbuch für Volkskunde NF 27 (2004), pp. 63–79, here pp. 63f., Note 5.
  2. a b c d Gesa Gottschalk: Article In the center of faith . In: Geo Epoche, Issue 45: The Holy Land. Gruner + Jahr, Hamburg 2010, ISBN 978-3-570-19910-7 .
  3. César Mawanzi: Pilgrimage - Marian veneration as a testimony of faith and healing . In: Catholic parishes of St. Egidius Obertiefenbach and St. Marien Niedertiefenbach (ed.): 250 years of the Beselich pilgrimage chapel, 1767–2017 . Beselich 2017, p. 45-50 .
  4. ^ Robert Jütte (1996), p. 72.
  5. Walter Andritzky: On the healing function of the pilgrimage. With the results of a participant observation of the Prümer Echternach pilgrimage. In: Curare. Volume 12, 1989, pp. 201-223.
  6. Krötzl p. 153.
  7. ^ LIT Verlag: Organization and implementation of the pilgrimage
  8. ^ Dispatch for pilgrimage to the Holy City
  9. See also Robert Jütte : Pilgrimages and healing of the sick. In: History of Alternative Medicine. From folk medicine to today's unconventional therapies. CH Beck, Munich 1996, ISBN = 3-406-40495-2, pp. 66–114 ( religious and magical medicine ), here: pp. 68–78.
  10. Cf. Thomas Gregor Wagner: Die Epuchenzzüge der Kreuzzüge. Illness and nursing on the armed pilgrimages to the Holy Land. Würzburg 2009 (= Würzburg medical historical research. Supplement 7). At the same time philosophical dissertation.
  11. Krötzl p. 156.
  12. Manfred Hutter: Handbook Bahāʼī: History, Theology, Relation to Society. Stuttgart 2009, p. 144 ff.
  13. Christian von Sehrwald: In the footsteps of the gods - Peyote and the ethnic groups of Northwest Mexico with special consideration of the ceremonial cycle of the Huichol Indians. Nachtschatten-Verlag, Solothurn 2005, ISBN 978-3-03788-113-2 .
  14. Journal of Swiss archeology and art history , volumes 62–63, 2005, p. 83: “[…] the topos of the artist visit in the 19th century […] whether it took place at Ingres, Thorvaldsen or Overbeck […] the 'Pilgrimage' to celebrated artists [...] was part of the genius cult of the time. "