Middle Ages

Journey to a holy place to seek supernatural assistance or to complete penance.

Church of the Holy Sepulchre.
Helena identified this site with the burial and resurrection of Jesus

The practice of pilgrimage among Christians was encouraged in the fourth century by Helena, the mother of Constantine. Helena went to Jerusalem to visit what were supposed to be sites associated with the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. Rome early became another destination of pilgrims seeking to visit what was said to be the tomb of Peter and Paul. The growth of devotion to martyrs and other saints caused pilgrimages to increase. Other than Jerusalem and Rome, the most famous place of pilgrimage in the middle ages was Santiago de Compostela, where the relics of St. James, brother of the Lord, were thought to reside. Trondheim in Norway is an example of a place of pilgrimage in the far north of Christendom. The relics of St. Olav reposed there in his shrine at Nidaros Cathedral. Pilgrims sought the favor and help of God through their pilgrimages and sometimes undertook them as acts of penance.


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