Encyclopedia of Medieval Pilgrimage

Get access Subject: History
Edited by: Larissa J. Taylor et al.

The Encyclopedia of Medieval Pilgrimage is an interdisciplinary reference work, giving wide coverage of the role of travel in medieval religious life. Dealing with the period 300-1500 A.D., it offers both basic data on as broad a range of European pilgrimage as possible and clearly written, self-contained introductions to the general questions of pilgrimage research.

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(809 words)

Author(s): Damon Kraft
Shipping and pilgrimage routes frequently overlapped in the Middle Ages, and often this was for practical reasons. First, the most likely way for pilgrims to travel abroad was to board merchant vessels (see also Trade and Pilgrimage). For example, Santiago de Compostela was a popular pilgrimage destination, and English pilgrims headed to that destination would use merchant vessels to facilitate their journeys (see also Pilgrim Galley). There were numerous well-traveled routes located along the F…


(835 words)

Author(s): Heike Wetzig
Chronicles provide only a small amount of information on early medieval shipwrecks; for example, the Xantener Jahrbücher tell of fleets damaged in a whirlwind and flood on December 26, 839. Mass transportation by sea became available to pilgrims by the eleventh century. (See also Shipping). Travel by ship was faster than overland pilgrimage routes but it was also dangerous. (See also Hazards of Pilgrimage). The natural waterfront, coastal areas and river mouths were feared for their whirlpools, reefs and shallo…

Shrine of the Three Kings, Cologne

(848 words)

Author(s): Jamie Blosser
Cologne was established on the Rhine River as a Roman city in 50 AD. After Cologne became an archiepiscopal see in 785, its archbishop, whose diocese included the imperial palace, became one of the seven electoral princes of the Holy Roman Empire. The city's location on the Rhine placed it at the intersection of major trade routes between east and west, the cause of its economic growth. When a ninth-century Carolingian cathedral of five aisles burned down in April of 1248, an opportunity was seized to build a grander structure, suitable for holding the relics o…

Shrines, Decoration, Textiles

(806 words)

Author(s): Margaret Goehring
Textiles have long been an important component of church and shrine furnishings as liturgical objects, decorations and protective coverings. The justification for this practice comes from both the Bible (Exodus 26:1-37, 36: 8-37, 38:9-18) and Roman imperial ceremony. The wealth of textile donations listed in the Liber pontificalis shows abundant evidence of the primary importance that was placed on luxury textiles in the decoration of early Christian churches. In addition to being a principal component of altar furnishings, textiles in the f…

Sicily and the South

(730 words)

Author(s): Sarah Davis-Secord
Southern Italy Throughout the Middle Ages, streams of Christian pilgrims passed through southern Italy traveling between Rome and Jerusalem. Many of these long-distance pilgrims took the opportunity to worship at regional shrines. Local monasteries, such as San Vincenzo al Volturno, may have collected relics in order to take advantage of this traffic. One very popular pilgrimage route through southern Italy followed the ancient Via Appia from Rome to Capua: one branch passed near the coast and ano…

Silver Altar, Pistoia Cathedral

(809 words)

Author(s): Flavio Boggi
The Silver Altar of Saint James in Pistoia’s cathedral of San Zeno is a magnificent ensemble of embossed silver plaques and numerous statuettes, many of them gilded, which increased in size and complexity between the late thirteenth and the fifteenth century. For the many pilgrims who deviated from the Via Francigena, the road to Rome, to visit the town, the altar was the sumptuous focal point of the now-destroyed Chapel of Saint James the Greater in the cathedral. Constructed in the western end…

Silver Images

(801 words)

Author(s): Kerr Houston
Classical temples had long acted as storehouses for gifts made of precious metals, but it was only in the fourth century that Christian churches seem to have begun to display large amounts of silver visibly, thus potentially affecting the experiences of pilgrims. The Liber Pontificalis reports that Constantine gave seven 200-pound silver altars to the Lateran basilica, and later popes also offered considerable amounts of silver to the Roman basilicas. Most of these early donations involved liturgical furniture, but silver figures and deco…