Medieval-Style Pilgrimage Is Becoming More and More Popular

Medieval-style traveling is making a comeback. But given that societies are becoming more and more secular, what causes people to still choose to walk these ancient pilgrimage routes?

Travelers Doing the Camino de Compostela
Medieval-Style Pilgrimage Is Becoming More and More Popular

Camino de Compostela, a UNESCO World Heritage Site

Camino de Compostela is unequivocally Europe’s most famous pilgrimage route. It consists of a network of pilgrim’s ways in France and Spain, which lead to the shrine of the apostle Saint James the Great in the cathedral of Santiago de Compostela. In 1972, only 67 pilgrims were recorded to embark on the journey. In 2019, an estimated 348,000 people walked through the paths of Camino de Compostela.

Other lesser-known routes such as Japan’s Buddhist Shikoku or the Via Francigena between Canterbury and Rome are also back in fashion. Furthermore, popular pilgrimages such as the Hindu Kumbh Mela or the Muslim Hajj, which are attended by millions, have also seen significant growth.

Muslim Pilgrims at Mecca
Medieval-Style Pilgrimage Is Becoming More and More Popular

The upward trend for this type of travel is striking. It raises the question of what makes it so attractive to many? Some travelers explain their choice by highlighting their need to reconnect with nature after spending months in a city. Others say that such journeys make the world more human-sized.

Pilgrimage Allows Travelers to Explore the World

Another important aspect of pilgrimage is sightseeing. In the past, visiting a holy place was one of the few reasons people would be allowed to travel. As pilgrim sites become more popular, a whole new infrastructure would grow around them. Even today, when people walk on ancient paths, they have the opportunity to explore various natural and man-made sites that they would otherwise miss while traveling by plane, train, or automobile.

The Basilica della Santa Casa in Loreto, Italy
Medieval-Style Pilgrimage Is Becoming More and More Popular

Finally, medieval-style traveling is a new experience based on old traditions. It challenges the modern understanding of tourism and allows travelers to go on adventures similar to the ones of their predecessors.