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Why Are Pilgrimages Taken Around the World?

During the pilgrimage, you will be out in God’s beautiful creation, and it will constantly remind you of God’s glory. Pilgrimages are wonderful experiences to behold, but they cannot provide salvation, supernatural healing, forgiveness, or divine favor.

Contributing Writer
Published Jun 10, 2022
Why Are Pilgrimages Taken Around the World?

I was recently inspired by pilgrimages after watching the film The Way (2010). In this film, a father sets off on the pilgrimage of a lifetime. The pilgrimage the father goes on is the Camino de Santiago, which starts in February and ends in Spain.

In English, Camino de Santiago translates to the Way of St. James. After watching this film, I became very interested in pilgrimages across the world; therefore, I did some research. Here are five pilgrimages around the world that you may be interested in experiencing for yourself.

1. Glastonbury Tor, United Kingdom

A popular pilgrimage from across the world is the Glastonbury Tor in the United Kingdom. The Glastonbury Tor is a short pilgrimage that will take most individuals less than half a day to complete. During this pilgrimage, travelers journey to a hill atop the roofless St. Michael's Tower.

Those who have gone on this pilgrimage in the past have reported it as a place of “new birth.” This trail is a great place to see if you are in the United Kingdom, as it can help you reconnect with Christ during your pilgrimage to St. Michael’s Tower.

2. St. Olav’s Way, Norway

St. Olav’s Way in Norway is another popular Christian pilgrimage site in the world. This pilgrimage is much more challenging than other pilgrimages because it is 400-miles and it's extremely frigid in Norway.

The ending point of this pilgrimage is at the tomb of St. Olav in Trondheim at the Nidaros Cathedral.

I personally would love to take all of the pilgrims I’ve listed here, but the St. Olav’s Way is especially appealing to me because of the length and the overall journey of the St. Olav’s Way. It is reported that the strenuous work of the trail brings about a spiritual fulfillment to pilgrims (Ibid.).

3. Croagh Patrick-County Mayo, Ireland

Another major pilgrimage around the world is the pilgrimage of Croagh Patrick-County Mayo, Ireland. The Croagh Patrick pilgrimage is known for being the place where St. Patrick spent 40 days and 40 nights praying and fasting over the country of Ireland (Ibid.).

Those who take this pilgrimage often take the pilgrimage on foot, although it is challenging whether you are wearing shoes or not. The climb is a steep hike up the 2,509-foot mountain, and it normally takes a little over two hours to complete.

Pilgrims take this trail to follow in St. Patrick’s footsteps and to travel the same pilgrimage St. Patrick would have during his life. This is another pilgrimage that is high on my to-do list whenever I have the privilege of traveling to Ireland.

4. Sanctuary of Atotonilco, Mexico

Sanctuary of Atotonilco is a pilgrimage site in Mexico that is well worth the trip. The pilgrimage to the ending location of San Miguel de Allende is a strenuous but beautiful pilgrimage that begins at midnight.

About 5,000 to 10,000 individuals partake in this pilgrimage every 30 weeks (Ibid.). The walk takes roughly six and a half hours to complete; however, the pilgrimage is filled with beautiful sites.

By the end of the pilgrimage, pilgrims will have the privilege of seeing the beautiful sanctuary designed by Antonio Martinez de Pocasangre. The Sanctuary of Atotonilco took about 30 years to complete, and it is adorned with artworks depicting the crucifixion of Jesus (Ibid.).

Temperatures in Mexico can rise to be quite warm, but since this pilgrimage starts at midnight, most pilgrims finish by the morning hours before it gets too warm.

5. Camino de Santiago 

A final pilgrimage I will include in my list is the Camino de Santiago. As I stated earlier, this pilgrimage starts in France and ends in Spain; however, there are many different starting places on the Camino de Santiago, yet the ending destination is the same.

This is the pilgrimage that first caught my attention as it is shown in the film The Way. Throughout the pilgrimage, the film shows how the main characters change and grow because of the pilgrimage.

In the real-life pilgrimage of the Camino de Santiago, the pilgrimage takes you to the ending destination of the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela in Galicia, which is in Northern Spain.

The Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela is a popular pilgrimage place because it is supposed to contain the remains of St. James. The pilgrimage of the Camino de Santiago is said to be a place of remarkable beauty as well as remarkable spiritual growth.

Pilgrimages for Christ

Each of these pilgrimages is supposed to help you grow in your Christian walk and focus more on God. Within Catholicism, it is taught that pilgrimages should be done to see holy artifacts, or they believe pilgrimages are a form of penance.

Biblically, we know pilgrimages do not cause us to be forgiven of our sins, nor do they cause us to obtain divine favor from the Lord.

Holy artifacts have never been proven to heal anybody either; thus, it is best to take pilgrimages to grow in your walk with God, not to obtain supernatural healing, forgiveness, or favoritism.

If a person needs to be forgiven of their sins, all they have to do is accept Jesus as their Lord and ask for His forgiveness. The Bible tells us that if we ask for forgiveness, God will forgive us (1 John 1:9).

Furthermore, we do not obtain supernatural favoritism because we partake in a pilgrimage. God already loves us as we are. There is nothing we could do to merit divine favoritism from the Lord. He loves us exactly as we are, and He wants us to grow in our walk with Him.

I have never personally been on a pilgrimage, but I would like to partake in one in the future if not more than one. Maybe you are interested in taking a pilgrimage too, or you’ve already been on one, going on another.

Whether we take a pilgrimage or not, the act in and of itself of walking a pilgrimage does not mean we will draw closer to God unless we take the incentive to draw closer to Him not only during the pilgrimage but after the pilgrimage too.

What Does This Mean?

The whole purpose of a pilgrimage is to bring your attention to God and to draw closer to Him. A pilgrimage is supposed to be life-changing. Pilgrimages should not be done out of selfish or impure motives.

If we partake in pilgrimages just to appear “religious,” we have already missed the entire point of the pilgrimage. If you are considering taking a pilgrimage, examine yourself and talk with God in prayer.

Whichever pilgrimage you choose to walk is up to you, but you must focus your attention on God throughout the pilgrimage. During the pilgrimage, you will be out in God’s beautiful creation, and it will constantly remind you of God’s glory, mercy, and love if you look for it.

The gentle breeze, the warm sun, and the companionship of others will all point you back to God and the beauty of His love. If you are considering going on a pilgrimage, I highly encourage you to go. If you are not sure if you want to take a pilgrimage, that’s okay too.

Pilgrimages in and of themselves do not bring us closer to God, nor can they give us forgiveness. Only by focusing on God and spending time with Him can anyone draw closer to Him, and only by asking for forgiveness can we be forgiven.

Pilgrimages are wonderful experiences to behold, but they cannot provide salvation, supernatural healing, forgiveness, or divine favor. 

For further reading:

Finding Hope in the Light of the World

What Is the Oldest Religion?

Why Did Humanity Search for Religion?

Photo Credit: ©iStock/Getty Images Plus/margouillatphotos

Vivian BrickerVivian Bricker loves Jesus, studying the Word of God, and helping others in their walk with Christ. She has earned a Bachelor of Arts and Master's degree in Christian Ministry with a deep academic emphasis in theology. Her favorite things to do are spending time with her family and friends, reading, and spending time outside. When she is not writing, she is embarking on other adventures.

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