Why do Christians go on pilgrimages?

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Christians go on pilgrimages in the quest for personal spiritual growth and greater connection to the divine.

Christianity has a long tradition of associating certain places with the divine. These are often cathedral sites, where bones, body parts, or relics of saints are held. These are understood as liminal spaces, places where the "veil" between the material world and the spiritual world is thinner. In these places, it is felt by many Christians that one can find closer access to the divine source and be transformed or healed on a soul level.

To this day, Christians make pilgrimages to certain sites in quest of physical and mental healing from illnesses. Many, too, understand the physical journey—the step by step travel—of the pilgrim to be a form of spiritual transformation, the body growing closer to God as it journeys and the mind more conformed to the will of God as it contemplates the divine during its travels.

For many years, Christians were counseled to bolster their faith with a journey to the Holy Land or a major shrine. As has been rediscovered in recent decades, medieval cathedrals such as Chartres had installed labyrinths, a way for those who couldn't travel to take a short pilgrimage walk for spiritual renewal and contemplation. This attests to the importance of pilgrimage in traditional Christian thought.

Pilgrimage is often contrasted to tourism. Tourists travel to see and consume a different culture, not to have their souls transformed. Pilgrims journey to change themselves so that they can become better servants of God.

Last Updated by eNotes Editorial on

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