What is a pilgrimage?

A pilgrimage is a journey or search of moral or spiritual significance. Typically, it is a journey to a shrine or other location of importance to a person’s beliefs and faith, although sometimes it can be a metaphorical journey into someone’s own beliefs.


Many religions attach spiritual importance to particular places: the place of birth or death of founders or saints, or to the place of their “calling” or spiritual awakening, or of their connection (visual or verbal) with the divine, to locations where miracles were performed or witnessed, or locations where a deity is said to live or be “housed,” or any site that is seen to have special spiritual powers.

Such sites may be commemorated with shrines or temples that devotees are encouraged to visit for their own spiritual benefit: to be healed or have questions answered or to achieve some other spiritual benefit. A person who makes such a journey is called a pilgrim.


Christian pilgrimage was first made to sites connected with the birth, life, crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus. Aside from the early example of Origen, in the mid second century, surviving descriptions of Christian pilgrimages to the Holy Land date from the 4th century, when pilgrimage was encouraged by church fathers like Saint Jerome and established by Helena, the mother of Constantine the Great.

Pilgrimages also began to be made to Rome and other sites associated with the Apostles, saints and Christian martyrs, as well as to places where there have been apparitions of the Virgin Mary.

Popular pilgrimage sites

A popular pilgrimage site in the past and today is Santiago de Compostela, in Galicia, Spain, in reference to the Apostle St. James, The Great. Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales recounts the tales told by pilgrims on their way to Canterbury and the shrine of Saint Thomas Becket.

Saint Andrew’s

The current Rector, The Revd Canon Howard Stoker, is a Guardian of the Shrine of our Lady of Walsingham, and a number of adults and young people from St. Andrew’s regularly attend the National Pilgrimage at the end of May.

In 2013 the Parish Retreat took the form of a pilgrimage to Ampleforth Abbey, following in the steps of the northern saints.



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