Oxted  District History Society - Article
Oxted  District History Society

Dr. Catherine Ferguson, senior research fellow at Roehampton University, gave an illustrated lecture to the Oxted & District History Society on ‘Medieval Pilgrimages’.

Medieval pilgrimages were key activities for 1300 years, starting with Jerusalem from 170 AD and by 1200 there were major pilgrimage sites all over Christendom.  These needed relics such as body parts or clothing of martyrs or fragments of the true cross to be considered authentic.  The relics transmitted holy power and to visit them reduced the time needed in Purgatory.  The ownership of relics created importance and economic advantages for the shrine, such as that of Thomas a Becket in Canterbury.  The importance of the body of St. James in Santiago de Compostela gave impetus to the expansion of Christian Spain at the expense of the Moors.

Pilgrimages were abolished by Acts of Parliament in 1536 and 1538.  Shrines and relics were destroyed and valuables removed.  Pilgrimages also ended in Protestant Europe and even in Catholic countries they declined and buildings used by pilgrims fell into disuse.  Only with the discovery of new shrines as at Lourdes and the revival of old ones in the 19th and 20th Centuries have pilgrimages revived such as to Santiago de Compostela.

Medieval Pilgrimages by Dr Catherine Ferguson