Christian pilgrimages were grafted onto older pagan ones. The sacred grove or magical dolmen now became a Christian shrine with a miraculous relic to attract Christian pilgrims.
“Comets in the sky appeared and countless went in pilgrimage. Their numbers were greater than the past age had ever heard of”.
So wrote Radulfus Glaber, Benedictine monk of the abbey of Cluny in his account of his own time in the mid eleventh century, observing an increase in travel to holy places.
In the tripartite feudal order, the pilgrim – temporarily at least, wore the same mantle of sanctity as the monk and cleric. The knightly and labouring castes who lacked the spiritual benefits which were the privilege of the monastic vocation were fearful for their soul’s eternal destiny. As millennial Apocalyptic fears grew, spiritual rewards could be obtained by travelling ever greater distances to the important shrines, which offered the possibility of redemption and a place in Heaven.
As Glaber concluded, “many consulted in these matters about the meaning of this concourse. They were answered that it portended no other than the advent of that corrupt Antichrist, whose coming at the end of this world is prophesied in Holy Scripture”.