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18 May 2021 - 18 May 2021

5:00PM - 6:00PM


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18th May 2021, 17:00, Anne Bailey, Department of History, Oxford University

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View of Durham Cathedral through the trees

The video is available via the IMEMS Facebook page.



How did people travel on pilgrimage in the Middle Ages and how have pilgrims’ travel preferences changed today?

Recent years have seen walking pilgrimages increase in popularity along with the emergence of new and revived pilgrimage trails. These routes and their walkers are often inspired by the Camino de Santiago, the network of paths leading to the Roman Catholic shrine of St James in Santiago de Compostela in northwest Spain. The majority of those tackling the Camino do so on foot, and there is an assumption that long-distance pedestrian travel is the most authentic way to experience pilgrimage.

This talk provides some context for the current popularity of walking pilgrimages. Beginning in the Middle Ages, it looks at the range of transport options open to long-distance pilgrims and asks who walked to places like Santiago de Compostela and why. It also argues that, contrary to some modern expectations, the point of pilgrimage for many medieval pilgrims was not the journey but the destination because ‘place pilgrimage’, as the medievalist Dee Dyas has called it, began on arrival at a shrine.

Today’s emphasis on pilgrimage as a journey on foot is, in many ways, a fairly recent phenomenon, and the article explores how, why and when this change came about. It concludes by considering the impact of the Covid pandemic on pilgrimage and shows how some responses to the recent pilgrimage travel restrictions are not entirely new.

Anne E Bailey: Biography

Anne Bailey is a social and cultural historian specialising in medieval and contemporary pilgrimage. She is based at Oxford University where she is an associate member of the History Faculty and teaches part time at the Department for Continuing Education. Her publications include articles on medieval saints’ cults, hagiography, gender and medicine as well as pilgrimage.

Suggested Reading

Clarke, Catherine A.M. (ed.). 2020. The St Thomas Way and the Medieval March of Wales: Exploring Place, Heritage, Pilgrimage. Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press.

Kempe, Margery. 2004. The Book of Margery Kempe. Barry Windeatt (ed. and trans). London: Penguin.

The Miracles of Saint James. 1996. Thomas F. Coffey, Linda Kay Davidson, and Maryjane Dunn (eds. and trans). New York: Italica Press.

The Pilgrim’s Guide to Santiago de Compostela. 1993. William Melczer (eds. and trans.). New York: Italica Press.

Ron, Amos. S. and Timothy, Dallen J. (eds.). 2018. Contemporary Christian Travel: Pilgrimage, Practice and Place. Bristol: Channel View Publications.

Sánchez y Sánchez, Samuel and Hesp, Annie (eds.). 2016. The Camino de Santiago in the Twenty-First Century: Interdisciplinary Perspectives and Global Views. New York: Routledge.