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The Pilgrimage in Medieval Ages

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Pilgrimage is a journey of moral and spiritual truth that is to a shrine or other locations where people attribute spiritual importance such as the place of the birth or death of Saints or the place of people's connection with Divine and locations where miracles were witnessed or performed. And an inner spiritual change results in usually at the end. When we consider the concept of Pilgrimage in the middle Ages and question the reasons for it, it is well known that in that era, people were exhorted to make pilgrimages by Church by which the lives of the medieval people were dominated. They used to go to shrines such as the tomb of Thomas Becket at Canterbury Cathedral , Walsingham in Norfolk where there was a sealed glass jar that was said to contain the milk of the Virgin Mary and so on. Walsingham in Norfolk where there was a sealed glass jar that was said to contain the milk of the Virgin Mary. Furthermore, they used to go to see the belongings of Christian Saint, their teeth, bones, nails. What were their purposes? They made pilgrimages. Since it was believed that when people prayed at shrines or other places attributed spiritual importance, their sins would be forgiven and they could go to heaven. Addition to these, some were going to shrines with the hope of getting cure for illnesses they suffer from. Is it really what Pilgrimage is? I argue that it is not. Pilgrim is a wanderer with purpose, so pilgrimage should not be seen just like a journey what is expected to be done by church or religious books, or should not be regarded a divine place to ask for cure and forgiveness. Macrina Wiederkehr defines what it is in a successive way. He says

A pilgrimage is a ritual journey with a hallowed purpose. Every step along the way has meaning. It is a transformational journey during which significant change takes place. New insights are given. Deeper understanding is attained. New and old places in the heart are visited. Blessings are received and healing takes place. On return from the pilgrimage, life is seen with different eyes. Nothing will ever be quite the same again. (Wiederkehr, 11)

Therefore pilgrimages can hold variety of purposes in the middle ages than visiting a shrine. Sometimes it is the search of a new perspective and ways to reverse the destruction of life, sometimes meditation, or a road to question one's life purpose, desire to calm their minds and find peace, moreover it can be the willing to be in harmony with the natural world or an exile, or a spiritual journey in one's mind.

To begin with the pilgrimage as a journey to a shrine, Chaucer's Canterbury Tales is a good example to this kind. He paints a good portrait of his time, how or where pilgrims used to go in a realistic way by giving places names to the readers but certainly tell the pilgrims in a sarcastic way . As I mentioned, the tomb of Thomas Becket at Canterbury Cathedral was very popular shrine that people used to go. Even it is where pilgrims of Chaucer's work travel to. Not only where they go but also how they go correspond to reality of those times. In the middle ages, people made pilgrimages in a group due to being alone on the way could be quite dangerous. Journey used to take much time and tell stories to eachother to pass the time. This is why much of the early literature of Europe was travel diaries or traveling stories told during pilgrimages, a collection of stories told by pilgrims traveling together. In Chaucer's work, we observe pilgrims do the same. Twenty-nine pilgrims, a diverse group are on their way to Canterbury and tell stories to each other. Hence it is clear that Chaucer in his work reflects his era successively in this respect. When we consider of the pilgrims and their tales, we witness his brilliant talent to use the tales that pilgrims tell eachother and the descriptions of the characters to paint an ironic and critical portrait of English society at the time, especially of the Church. The Tales reflect diverse views of the Church in Chaucer's time. The characters mostly become like a mirror reflecting the curroption in the middle ages. The Pardoner and the Summoner, who normally suppose to apply the church's secular power, are both deeply corrupt, greedy, and abusive. Additionally In The Friar's tale one of the characters is a summoner who is shown to be working on the side of the devil, not God. The Clergy men,the Monk, the Prioress, the Nun's Priest, and the Second Nun are indulged in worldly matters. Even pilgrimage sacred journey becomes something to mock of. Apart from being something religiouse, we sense that it is in this work more like a vacation. It has a carnavalesque atmosphere. Donald C. Howard in this article"Carnival and Pilgrimage" says that

But The Canterbury Tales ends with the image of the cathedral on the horizon, symbol of the Heavenly Jerusalem. It is the reverse of the banquet image of carnival tradition, the prize supper at the Tabard that has until now been the presumed destination. Carnival mocks official culture on certain licensed occasions; but pilgrimage reverses forever the pilgrim's sense of his true destination and ultimate home.The material world is the focus and the lower stratum is by no means ignored. (Howard, 2)

Hence pilgrimage and pilgrims are used to demonstrate the corruption of society more than a chance in pilgrims life. We can not assert any transformation happens. As it does in Dante's Divine Comedy.

Besides journey to a shrine, spiritual journey is also names pilgrimage as well. During the middle ages, exile was not only a physical but a destructive banishment to men's souls which plagued medieval society. Upon being exiled, men were forced to travel alone. Their fragmented hearts and solitude left them with the hope of nourishing their souls, finding the true path in their lives. Therefore



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