European Medieval Pilgrimage Project -  Welcome and Introduction
In a world of limited communication and faced with the difficulties and dangers of travel, the life of medieval people was very insular and their world was very small. Undertaking a pilgrimage was one of the rare occasions that allowed the peoples of medieval Europe to experience communities different to their own. The word “pilgrim” actually comes from the Latin word “pelegrínus”, meaning “stranger”. In itself, the word says much about the close, closed nature of medieval society. A person was born and baptized, married and died within the shadow of the parish church. Many would never experience being anywhere else. 
Pilgrimage was a spontaneous, popular movement. It involved people from many different classes and from all the nations of today's Europe. The reasons for undertaking pilgrimage varied from person to person;  but the motive usually had something to do with sin and a desire to avoid the spiritual consequences of having committed it. There is evidence of pilgrimages taking place as early as the 4th century, from Bordeaux to Jerusalem; but pilgrimage was most important from the 11th to the 14th century. During this time, pilgrims travelled to holy sites all over Europe.  They visited the places where religious heroes had lived and died, where miracles had been performed and where physical evidence of both heroes and miracles (relics) remained. It was perhaps the first truly European experience.

It may seem strange that so many people would journey such great distances, at such great personal risk, for the sake of conviction. To better appreciate the motivation, we must have both a clear view of the power of the medieval church but also we must also begin to understand the mentalité of people so willing to believe the legends and myths of the time.

This is a project with long-term ambitions. We have begun by constructing this skeletal website that introduces the school student to the world of the medieval pilgrim.  There are links to other 'pilgrimage' websites and eventually there will be  a range of activities. For now, students across Europe are invited to explore the pilgrimage traditions of their own communities and to share their research with a wider European learning community. Students and teachers may wish to send us their contributions, or better still, make their own website to which we can place a link. In time, we hope that this project might become an empathetic entry point into medieval life; a virtual journey through the eyes of the pilgrim. But it will always be an opportunity for real communication between schools in different parts of Europe in the 21st century. 


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