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Journey to a shrine or other sacred place undertaken to gain divine aid, as an act of thanksgiving or penance, or to demonstrate devotion. Medieval Christian pilgrims stayed at hospices set up specifically for pilgrims, and on their return trip they wore on their hats the badge of the shrine visited. The chief attractions for pilgrims in the Middle Ages were the Holy Land, Santiago de Compostela in Spain, and Rome, but there were hundreds of local pilgrimage sites, including the tomb of St. Francis of Assisi and that of St. Thomas Becket in Canterbury. More recent pilgrimage sites include the shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico (1531), Lourdes in France (1858), and Fátima in Portugal (1917). The tradition of pilgrimage is also important in Buddhism, with sites including Bodh Gaya, where the Buddha received enlightenment, and Varanasi, where he delivered his first sermon. In Islam all members of the faith are enjoined to perform the hajj, the pilgrimage to Mecca, at least once in their lifetime.
This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise. For the full entry on pilgrimage, visit Britannica.com.