Pilgrimages are about moving forward. About facing difficulties, and even making vows in order to overcome them. They happen mostly outdoors, and they don’t need many preparations. Therefore, they are very well-suited for a medieval event during the current pandemic. May 14th is the holiday of St. Corona. Let us all go on a pilgrimage then!
This project will be a decentralized event, taking place where ever people are willing to participate: at home, in their regions or countries. Our goal is, to create a unique experience and unite in the virtual world by sharing pictures, movies and sounds like a community via social media.
The event will take place during the weekend of 14th to 16th May 2021.
Who can participate?
Everyone can participate. Company members, guests, friends, and reenactment groups everywhere in the world are invited, to form small local groups. The event is not limited to late 15th century groups.
Registration is not required.
Form a small, local group of reenactors (members, guests, friends, strangers) in your country, or region, where you live. Get in touch with others from your region through this Facebook group.
Do some research on pilgrimage in your region, find an old pilgrims route, and go on a pilgrimage of one, two or three days. Your route can follow an ancient, traditional pilgrims route, even if this means walking through a modern environment. Or, it is possible to chose a route with as little modern civilisations insight, as possible. A mix of both is also possible. Where ever restrictions may prevent you from wandering freely, chose a route within the current legal limits.
We expect you to wear pilgrim clothes.
What about COVID?
The event will be accomplished without crossing borders, and in compliance with all current Covid-19 measures taken by your local government. All participants are responsible for complying with local regulations.
What does a pilgrim wear?
In the contemporary illustrations from the 15th century, pilgrims are often seen and it is easily recognizable with their hats, staffs and cloaks. Some illustrations also show scrips, rosarys and costrels. Generally pilgrims wear loose-fitting everyday clothes and we recommend using our clothing guides for men and women for the basic requirements. These things constitute the basic equipment of the pilgrim:
The hat should be made our of thick wool felt and have a wide brim to protect against rain and sun. The upturned brim of the hat is adorned with pilgrim badges or a scallop shell. The hat is worn by both men and women, but women always with a veil and wimple underneath.
The staff should be made out of wood and have a height between 140-180 cm. In the 15th century the most common shape seems to have been a staff with two or three carved or turned balls on the upper part, sometimes equipped with a metal hook to hang things from, but also plain sticks seems to have been used. To give extra grip an iron spike was often added to the bottom of the staff.
The cloak should be made out of thick and warm woollen cloth and in the shape of a full circle or at least 2/3 of a circle. Typical pilgrims cloaks are long enough to reach the knee or the calf. Sometimes a small 20-30 cm long white pilgrims staff (either painted or applied fabric) is seen at the upper part of the cloak to identify the pilgrim to strangers from a distance. The cloak can also serve as a sleeping blanket. A pattern can be found in here.
The scrip should be made out of linen canvas, woollen cloth or leather. These bags show a great deal of variation in the contemporary illustrations from the 15th century when it comes to design. Common to them all is that they have a flap and no pilgrim badges or a scallop shell attached to them like in the earlier centuries.
The rosary could be made out of different material and its length and the number of beads may vary. The rosary is sometimes seen hanging from the belt and if not it must be assumed that it is stored in scrip.
The costrel should be made out of wood, ceramic, leather or a gourd attached with a strap of rope or leather so that it can be worn over the shoulder along with scrip.
Of course, the pilgrim also brought with them one or two pairs of shoes, a wooden bowl, an eating knife, some money, extra bags and probably some food supplies for the day.
Start the preparations of your equipment in good time. It doesn’t take much to put together a pilgrims kit and if you look into the sources you will be able to find and add more details.
Leaving the ancestral home and going on a pilgrimage was a risky undertaking. It could be done for various reasons: As a voluntary form of doing penance or to thank god for great relief from a difficult situation. As an atonement, imposed by clerical or secular authorities, or for reasons of pure delight. Many pilgrims took on the burden of poverty (voluntarily or enforced), beggars also tried to improve their difficult economic situation by begging as pilgrims, moving from town to town. Others went on their pilgrimage on a horse, with an entourage, mastering the challenges of the road even with a certain amount of luxury – and, by publishing their itinerary after their return – some went on a pilgrimage even with commercial ideas in mind. However, pilgrimages remained, to a certain extent, inconvenient, and there also remained the dangers of the road.
The “peregrinationes maiores”, were the big three, most important destinations for pilgrimages (Jerusalem, Rome, Santiago de Compostela). From 1291, with the fall of the crusader states, Jerusalem became more difficult to reach, so Rome and Santiago became even more important. In the late medieval period, shorter regional and trans-regional pilgrimages attracted large numbers of pilgrims: Aachen, Beatenberg, Canterbury, Einsiedeln, Köln, Mont-Saint Michel, Padua, Thann, Wilsnack etc. – to an extent, where the sheer amount of – partially not so pious – pilgrims became an imposition to local societies. While many different pilgrimages still exist, the image of Jacobean pilgrims on Saint James’ way to Compostela remains the most iconic one (probably, because Saint James, among others, is often shown as a Jacobean pilgrim on altarpieces).
Bieri, A.: Die spätmittelalterliche Pilgerherberge im Pflasterbach (Gem. Steinmaur). Archäologie im Kanton Zürich 2009. Dübendorf 2009, p. 137-148.
Blick, S.: Bringing Pilgrimage Home. The Production, Iconography, and Domestic Use of Late-Medieval Devotional Objects by Ordinary People. Religions 10:6. 2019, p. 1-26. (online)
Haasis-Berner, A.: Pilgerzeichenforschung. Forschungsstand und Perspektiven. Spätmittelalterliche Wallfahrt im mitteldeutschen Raum. Berlin 2002, p. 63-85. (online)
Häbler, K.: Das Wallfahrtsbuch des Hermannus Künig von Vach und die Pilgerreisen der Deutschen nach Santiago de Compostela. Strassburg 1899. (online)
Hermann, K.: Die strasz vnd meylen tzu sant Jacob auß vnd ein in warheyt gantz erfarn findestu in dysem buchleyn. Leipzig 1521. (online)
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Herzog, H.: Ein Präsenzzettel von Pflasterbach. Anzeiger für schweizerische Altertumskunde 2, 4. Zürich 1900-1901, p.264-265, Tafel XIV. (online)
Klussmann, A.: In Gottes Namen fahren wir: Die spätmittelalterlichen Pilgerberichte von Felix Fabri, Bernhard von Breydenbach und Konrad Grünemberg im Vergleich. Historica occidentalis et orientalis 1. Saarbrücken 2012. (online)
Lubin, H.: The Worcester Pilgrim. Worcester Cathedral publications 1. Worcester 1990. (online)
Ohler, N.: Reisen im Mittelalter. Zürich 2002.
Ohler, N.: Pilgerstab und Jakobsmuschel. Wallfahren in Mittelalter und Neuzeit. Zürich 2003.
Kunera (Database with late medieval badges and ampullae) (online)
Simonsen, M.F.: Medieval Pilgrim Badges. Souvenirs or valuable charismatic objects? Charismatic objects from Roman Times to the Middle Ages (ed. M. Vedeler, I. M. Røstad, S. Kristoffersen, Z. Tsigaridas Glørstad). Oslo 2018, p. 169-196. (online)
Spencer, B.: Pilgrim Souvenirs and Secular Badges. Medieval Finds from Excavations in London 7. London 1998.