The first international lecture of the pre-con events of the international conference on Theology of Pilgrimage was held online on October 16, 2023. At this session, Dr. Elizabeth Tingle, Professor of History at De Montfort University, delivered her speech under the title “Long-Distance Catholic Pilgrimage in North-West Europe in the 16th and 17th Centuries”.
Here is the video of the session accompanied by the written abstract and presentation file:
Pilgrimage was one of the defining features of medieval Christianity. But the practice declined across Europe in the first half of the sixteenth century, a result of criticism by religious reformers, abolition by Protestant regimes and because wars and instability in many regions limited travel. Yet from the 1570s, pilgrimage revived, slowly at first then more rapidly after 1600. This was a result of the Council of Trent’s confirmation of the importance of saints’ cults; the great Roman jubilee of 1575 and the re-adoption of traditional devotional activities by an increasingly confident and militant Catholic Church eager to revive the faith and to thwart Protestantism. But it was not simply a matter of the revival of old practices; there were changes in the Catholic Reformation. The key transformations were threefold: a greater localisation of shrines, based on the parish or neighbourhood; the involvement of religious orders such as Jesuits and Capuchins; and the growing prestige of Rome. Long-distance pilgrimage to sites in north-western Europe also expanded, despite the conflicts with Protestantism that arose in this region. France, the Low Countries, Britain and Ireland, were places of disputation and hostility between confessions; sacred landscapes and journeys came under attack and in some regions, were outlawed by the state. In this research, I explore the motives of pilgrims travelling to and from these regions, both the theology of clergy and the day-to-day motives of pilgrims, which were primarily the search for cures, thanksgiving for graces received and to be close to the saints. I also explore the experience of pilgrims using two contemporary accounts of Rome and Santiago de Compostela. In conclusion, I argue that pilgrimage, that is, the ability to encounter God and the saints in a tangible way by the individual believer, was an important activity in the consolidation and growth of the Catholic Church after the Reformation.