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Pilgrimage Destinations

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Among the many pilgrimage destinations, three stood out among them all according to Rudolf (2004). These were Jerusalem, probably because it is where Christ died and was buried, or Rome which was a host of the remains of a myriad Christian martyrs including Peter and Paul (Rudolph, 2004). The third was Santiago de Compostela due to varied reasons but primarily the remains of Saint James the Greater, brother to Saint John the Evangelist.

According to Rudolph, the remains of Saint James the Great could have been chief among the reasons for pilgrimage in Santiago de Compostela but he adds that there were other equally motivating factors. He mentions the exotic image of Spain held by Northern Europeans who cited their interest in the strange land whose distance was not far enough to discourage them. He also notes that the Cathedral of Santiago and monasteries vigorously promoted pilgrimage to their coveted sites.

Compostela was probably derived from a multifaceted phenomenon; Campus Stellae (Campo de Estrella in Spanish) meaning field of the star or from Compostum meaning the cemetery of great men (Rudolph, 2004).   Reasons for pilgrimage ranged from personal to public. Criminals would visit the pilgrimage site to expiate some great crime while murderers would do it with the weapon of murder chained to their bodies as a punishment. Differences in religious beliefs and opinion forced people into penance for imposed ‘heresy.’ Rudolph also added that the sick and dying would pilgrimage to fulfill a vow or to attain religious beliefs that come with pilgrimage. Pilgrims also aimed at addressing, persuading and even experiencing the divine immediately. Yet others were curious and aimed at entrenching their thirst through travelling.

The church in Santiago needed constant reconsecration because blood was shed in several occasions. The pilgrims were very tough, thus numerous cases of stabbing amongst the pilgrims were reported prompting one medieval Pope to grant the exclusive special privilege of unusually brief reconsecration to the church (Rudolph, 2004).

‘Pignores’ though lacking in equivalent explanation, could be equated to relics and were viewed as a point of closeness to the Saints thus a chance to rise early by being awoken by the owner of the relic during the general resurrection. This was basically aimed at remaining in touch with divinity, itself a particular reason for pilgrimage.

Relics, the tangible proof of the existence of the men followed, were considered "more valuable than precious stones and more to be esteemed than gold,"  thus they were enshrined in vessels, or reliquaries, crafted of or covered by gold, silver, ivory, gems, and enamel (Rudolph,2004). Reliquaries are the containers that stored and displayed relics and they were themselves precious objects of major form of artistic production across Europe and Byzantium throughout the middle Ages.

Being more than mementos, relics of less responsive saints were accorded far less respect that the others yet others bequeathed much respect hoping for the sole consideration. The rich would even purchase burial ground near them so as to be the first to rise. Being more than just pilgrims, art was used to satisfy the curiosity of the eager to travel as well as add aesthetic values to the pilgrimage.

To conclude, the author notes that the co-existence of the profane with the sacred life served as an inherent contradiction as the rich were accorded the privileges of a better treatment and nearness to divinity. This does not justify the teachings of the gospel that all are equal and the author views them as inherent contradictions in the act of pilgrimage.

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