Christian Pilgrimage in the Late Middle Ages

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Map Code: Ax02406

Throughout the Middle Ages Christians sought to engage in arduous physical travel to achieve a spiritual goal If possible, they visited the actual places in the Holy Land where Jesus and the apostles had lived, or they ventured to Rome, the scene of Christian martyrdoms. After the Christian sites in the Holy Land fell under Islamic rule, the pilgrimage maps were reorientated and Santiago de Compostelo in Galicia, where bones believed to belong to Saint James were unearthed, became an important destination. Pilgrims often walked along the route barefoot, wearing a scallop shell, the symbol of Saint James. Pilgrim churches appeared along the route to Spain. In France alone there were four main routes and four cities on these routes – Le Puy, Arles, Paris, and Vézelay – became pilgrimage sites in their own right. Major sites became wealthy from pilgrim revenues, and competition for valuable relics was fierce. The military orders formed in conjunction with the crusades all assisted pilgrims. The Knights Templar provided security for pilgrims while travelling, safe custody for their possessions during the long absence and offered letter of credit secured against their chattels: the genesis of modern banking.

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