The going of believers to holy places for worship has been known since ancient times. The centers of pilgrimage in ancient times were the temples of Amun in Egyptian Thebes, Osiris in Abydos, Apollo in Delphi, etc. For Christians, the pilgrimage began in the 4th century. to Palestine, where the divine deeds of the Savior took place.
Each pilgrim receives many impressions of the wonderful signs and unusual coincidences that occurred to him during the pilgrimage. However, St. Gregory of Nyssa condemns the excessive enthusiasm for pilgrimage, believing that pilgrims often travel out of idle curiosity, fall into indecent stories and temptations. Many Orthodox believe that in any church you can partake of the Body and Blood of Christ (the Highest Shrine itself), and it is better to give out the money collected for the pilgrimage to the poor.
Among the Orthodox monks, retreat (from the temptations of the world) was welcomed, and the pilgrimage and religious processions were allowed to strengthen (collective cohesion) members of the Church who were still not strong in faith. In the Middle Ages, along with Palestine, a pilgrimage was undertaken: among the Orthodox – to Constantinople, on Mount Athos (Greece); among Catholics – in Rome and Loreto (Italy), in Lourdes (France). The western church distinguished: the great pilgrimage (peregrinationes primariae) – travels to the Holy Sepulcher in Palestine, to Rome (Limina apostolorum), Santiago de Compostela (see Way of St. James) and Loreto (see House of the Virgin); small pilgrimage (peregrinationes secundariae) – a visit to local domestic shrines.
Modern pilgrims At the end of the fifteenth century. pilgrimage required the prior permission of the ecclesiastical authorities, which was given on condition that the fee was paid in favor of the Pope. Venice (later Marseille) served as a departure point, where pilgrims stocked up with a guidebook, let go of their beards, and put on pilgrimage clothes — Kaligi, a brown or gray cloak, a Greek hat with very wide brim, usually decorated with shells; a stick, a bag and a bottle (hollowed pumpkin) complemented the pilgrimage outfit. Pilgrims attached a red cross to the cloak and hat.
In Venice, the pilgrim entered into a contract with a convoy (patron), who undertook not only to transport him to the Holy Land and back, but also to accompany him on wanderings to holy places, to deliver him food and protection all the way, to pay taxes to the Muslim authorities for him and etc. Gradually, further mitigations began to be allowed: a noble lord could send in his place a servant or a mercenary. Even secular workshops of professional mercenary pilgrims (in Germany called Sonnweger) were formed, which soon multiplied greatly, since this kind of fishing proved to be very profitable.
In the XVI century. the pilgrim could be sent from the whole community at its expense. Since 1881, France began to organize annually a pilgrimage caravan to the Holy Land, giving it the character of a repentance for the crimes of the republican government against the church; such a caravan, the number of which often reached 300-400, included white clergymen and prosperous people of ultramontane mood. Since the late 1870s, the same German caravans are arranged by the Franciscans in Vienna and Munich.
Some travel companies have also been actively involved in this process. According to the Russian Spiritual Mission in Jerusalem, Orthodox Christians from Russia, Ukraine and Moldova who come to this city to make a pilgrimage make up about half of the spiritual wanderers from around the world. Outside of Russia, Russian pilgrims in addition to Palestine visit the Greek Athos, the Italian city of Bari, where the relics of St. Nicholas the Wonderworker, the Montenegrin capital Cetinje, where the right hand of John the Baptist and other Christian shrines are located.
Despite the apparent external similarity of the pilgrimage to sightseeing tourism, their inner essence is very different: while sightseeing tourism aims at visiting interesting places, the pilgrimage involves preliminary spiritual work, “cleansing the soul”, before visiting the shrine. However, pilgrimage is often replaced by sightseeing tourism, when people are simply guided through “sightseeing sites”, without prior internal, spiritual, preparation.
Therefore, back in the spring of 2003, the Interreligious Council of Russia submitted a proposal to the State Duma of the Russian Federation on the delimitation of the concepts of “pilgrimage” and “tourism” at the legal level.
The meaning of pilgrimage
To promote the pilgrimage, numerous guidebooks (itinerary) were compiled, many of which, like the descriptions of the pilgrimages themselves, subsequently became important historical sources. Descriptions of the “walks” to the Holy Land, compiled by some pilgrims, played a huge role in Russia in the dissemination of legends and apocryphal literature. Religious motives often served as cover for trade and predatory purposes. For example, the pilgrimage played a significant role in the preparation of the Crusades.