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The Pilgrim Journey: A History of Pilgrimage in the Western World
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The Pilgrim Journey: A History of Pilgrimage in the Western World (Hardback)

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The Pilgrim Journey tells the story of pilgrimage in the Western world over the course of two millennia: how pilgrimage was born and grew in antiquity, how it blossomed in the Middle Ages, how it faltered over subsequent centuries only to reemerge stronger than before in modern times. From the legendary journey of the Magi all the way to pilgrimages in the Americas--Chimayo in New Mexico, Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico, and Sainte-Anne-de-Beaupre in Canada--the book describes the pilgrim routes and sacred destinations, the pilgrims, the many hazards of travel, and the spiritual motivations and rewards. At its heart, pilgrimage is a transformative journey through which the traveler is seeking to fulfil a strong spiritual desire, such as a strengthening of faith (e.g. at Rome, Santiago, and Canterbury), a physical cure (e.g. at Lourdes in France and Knock in Ireland), or spiritual and emotional healing (e.g. at Glastonbury, Walsingham, and Iona in Britain). There are other reasons for going on a pilgrimage, but the two crucial elements are the journey itself and the hope to experience a profound transformation--spiritually, emotionally, or bodily.

The Pilgrim Journey also puts Western pilgrimage into a global context by outlining the practice of sacred journeys in prehistoric and ancient times--including Greece and Rome--as well as in some of the major religions of the world, namely Judaism, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, and Shinto. In prehistoric Europe, megalithic monuments such as Stonehenge and sacred sites featuring mountains and springs might have been pilgrimage destinations. And in antiquity, the healing sanctuary of Epidaurus and the oracle of Delphi would have been sacred destinations. Pilgrimage in the Western world is more popular now than at any time since the Middle Ages. Paths, tracks, bridleways and roads once again hum to the feet of pilgrims on the move who seek out grand cathedrals, roadside chapels, ruined abbeys, mountain shrines, sacred wells, and holy islands. Some sanctuaries, such as Santiago de Compostela in Spain and Croagh Patrick in Ireland, are frequented as much for the journey they demand of their visitors as for the ancient, spiritual aura they radiate.

Some, such as the cathedrals of Canterbury in England, Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico, and Sainte-Anne-de-Beaupre in Canada combine inspirational foundation stories with magnificent architecture; while others, such as Lourdes in France and Chimayo in New Mexico, are witnesses to the continuing power of the spirit. Pilgrimage has been a path leading to the spiritual heart of the Western world seemingly forever. The Pilgrim Journey is both the riveting chronicle of innumerable pilgrims past and present traveling across mountains and plains, through thick woods and open fields in the hopes of finding heaven on earth, and a concise guide for today's spiritual travelers seeking the sacred in the everyday.

James Harpur is a Cambridge-educated author who has published a number of books, including Love Burning in the Soul, Revelations: The Medieval World, The Gospel of Joseph of Arimathea, and The Atlas of Sacred Places. He is also an award-winning poet. A passionate walker and traveler to sacred sites, he lives in the west of Ireland.

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