How will these resources help you?

Pilgrimage is a common topic in the RE classroom. From the Ganges to Jerusalem, Mecca and Amritsar, Bodh Gaya, The Vatican, Stonehenge, Canterbury or Iona, RE can transport students to places far outside their everyday lives, illuminating the lived experiences of religious people around the globe. However, we do not expect our classrooms to be filled with pilgrims carrying their own personal experiences and spiritual journeys far afield. The purpose of this list is to expand the definition and discussion of pilgrimage by considering its place in the modern world. In British society, which is becoming increasingly diverse, and secular, it is important to consider how pilgrimage offers relevance for many worldviews – religious and non-religious. 

Religious pilgrimage: Past and present

Pilgrimage: Past and Present in the World Religions

by Simon Coleman and John Elsner, published by Harvard University Press, (1997), 9780674667662

This book can function as a teacher textbook for studying pilgrimage as an expression of the world’s major religions. Coleman and Elsner offer a historical survey, which journeys through pilgrimage and its development in different traditions, offering moments of comparison and juxtaposition throughout. Both authors use their different backgrounds in anthropology and art history to weave together an anthropological analysis with rich illustrative content. 

What is a pilgrimage?

Modern Pilgrimage and the Quest in the Guest

by George Greenia, published by TEDx Talks, (2020)

This TEDx Talk is delivered by George Greenia, the founder of the William and Mary’s Institute for Pilgrimage Studies. In an accessible and entertaining TEDx Talk, Greenia uses his experience on the Camino de Santiago to show how pilgrimage is a practice shared by many – in and out of religion. 

Pilgrimage in the modern world

Shrines and Pilgrimage in the Modern World: New Itineraries into the Sacred

by Peter Jan Margry, published by Amsterdam University Press, (2008), 9789089640116

This book challenges the conventions of pilgrimage as it focuses on destinations outside of the major religious traditions. Instead of Mecca or Jerusalem, the edited volume dedicates chapters to Graceland and Glastonbury. This challenging of conventions can provide a fresh and unexpected perspective on pilgrimage practice, which may provide an intriguing comparison to longer-standing places of pilgrimage or offer opportunities for reflection on students’ own meaningful journeys. 

Reframing pilgrimage

Reframing Pilgrimage: Cultures in Motion

by Simon Coleman and John Eade, published by Routledge, (2004), 9780415303552

This book contains a series of essays that encourage the reader to ‘reframe’ their idea of a pilgrimage to a more inclusive vision of motion and displacement. Using a diverse selection of religious and non-religious examples, such as Sufi pilgrims in Senegal and veteran motorcyclists’ journeys to Vietnam war memorials, Coleman and Eade intertwine each selection into an encompassing definition of pilgrimage well-suited for the religious and non-religious diversity found in Britain.
The introduction is available here.

Audiovisual clip

Sacred Rivers with Simon Reeve - A meeting with a holy man 

published by BBC Two, (2014)

A Hindu holy man is interviewed prior to beginning his pilgrimage from start to end of the Ganges River.

Further Materials

Image and Pilgrimage in Christian Culture by Victor and Edith Turner, published by Columbia University Press, (2021), 9780231157919 Find this book
Pilgrimage in Greco-Roman and Early Christian Antiquity: Seeing the Gods by J. Elsner and I. Rutherford, published by Oxford Scholarship Online, (2007), 9780199237913 Find this book
“The Stone the Builders Rejected”: Liturgical and Exegetical Irrelevancies in the Piacenza Pilgrim by Scott Johnson, published by Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection, (2016) Find this book

Natalie Smith completed her PhD in the History of Christianity in 2022. Her research focused on the city of Jerusalem and its development in late antiquity through the disciplines of anthropology and geography, comparing the architectural development of the city in comparison to the textual and ideological image promoted by its visitors. Natalie is an RE teacher.

Text © Natalie Smith, 2023