How many went on pilgrimage?

I am wondering about the extent of pilgrimage in the High and Late Middle Ages. Does anyone know what proportion of the populace would have gone? At what age, and what social classes? And how many were going all the way to Rome or the Holy Land rather than to a nearby shrine (eg Canterbury?)

It seems improbable that a peasant could drop everything and stroll to Jerusalem - but on the other hand a great many poor Muslims make the Hajj nowadays - might it have been similar back then?

I ask because pilgrimage seems to have been fairly common, yet many authors talk about the Medieval commoner as an intensely parochial sort, without any knowledge of or interest in the world beyond the village borders - it does not jibe.


Could you by any chance be confusing pilgrimages and crusades. For instance an Englishman could have gone to Canterbury on a pilgrimage, but going to Jerusalem would have been done during a crusade.

There are better means of transportation for a poor Muslim to use today than for a peasant during the middle ages had at his disposal.

You have a point about modern transport, kniz, but no, I mean pilgrimages, which certainly were made to Jerusalem.

Sadly, I don’t know the answer to your questions, but I’d guess that any recent biography of Margery Kempe would probably contain some of this information. Here are a few titles you might want to check out.

Goodman, Anthony, Margery Kempe and Her World.

Collis, Louise. Memoirs of a medieval woman : the life and times of Margery Kempe.

Atkinson, Clarissa W. Mystic and pilgrim : the Book and the world of Margery Kempe.

I’ve read the Collis and Atkinson books,and I’m pretty sure one of them contained a long section about conditions of pilgrimage, but it was a couple of years ago and I can’t remember any more details. Hope this is of some help, anyway.

BTW, kniz, people did indeed go on pilgrimage to Jerusualem, carefully supervised by the Muslims who held the city (who essentially invented the package tour, and made quite a tidy bundle by herding groups of pilgrims around the major holy sites. Kempe, in one of her rare moments of cross-cultural tolerance, was impressed by the good looks and manners of her Muslim tour guide.)

Thank you kindly, Fretful P, I will definitely give those books a look :slight_smile:

Whatever I said was mainly in an attempt to save this thread that was on page 3 with 0 posts. So I guess this will be my second bump.

[ul]:wink: [sup]However, I still maintain that those poor people mentioned by Lost Goat had only one hope of getting to Jerusalem and that was not via pilgrimage.[/sup][/ul]

Where I live in north Essex is directly on the pilgrimage route to two mediaeval shrines . These were the last resting place of Saint Edmund , The Saxon king murdered by the Vikings , and the shrine of Our Lady of Walsingham located on the north Norfolk coast. There must have been many pilgrims on this route because in Braintree there is a whole street of former inns that catered for these pilgrims breaking their journey between the south of England and the shrines.