Short or long, there are so many great routes for pilgrimage in Europe. I feel like I could write for a month straight and not cover them all.
Although Christianity is growing more rapidly in Asia and Africa in modern times, Europe was the cradle of Christian civilization. That’s why we think of this essentially Middle Eastern faith as a Western religion.
As such, you’ll find an abundance of some of the world’s most beautiful cathedrals here. You’ll also discover relics of the saints and their stories — interesting and sometimes inspiring, even if you’re not Catholic.
And since pilgrimage was a tradition in the Christian church virtually from the beginning, you’ll also find a plethora of pilgrimage paths wandering toward some of these holy sites.
In the Middle Ages, pilgrims took to the road to seek out saints’ relics or penance. They also went, then as now, to gain a deeper faith by following in the footsteps of Jesus or the saints. To remember their journey and what it meant.
But whether you go on pilgrimage for transformation, or walk the paths for your own reasons, there is no shortage routes for pilgrimage in Europe.
The scenery is terrific and, often, the paths are well supported by hostels and other helps along the way … like vending machines in unexpected places. (Who doesn’t smile for Haribo??) Sometimes you can also hire someone to drive your goods from the place you are to the place you’re going.
That means you don’t have to carry everything with you for pilgrimage in Europe, as you usually would for a regular through-hike in the United States. And in larger towns (particularly along the Camino de Santiago), there may be two or three hostels to choose from.
Some pilgrimage hostels are like shared rooms while others are more of a large open dormitory where everyone sleeps. If you’re someone who wants/needs more solitude and privacy, you might want to factor that in and, occasionally, go for an ordinary inn or B&B.
Regardless, the hostel (and the road) is a place for community — part of the shared journey. And some of the hostels are quite nice and cared for by volunteers who commit for a couple of weeks at a time as an act of ministry.
Often, long pilgrimage routes in Europe cross borders – for instance, the Via Francigena and the famous Camino de Santiago (Way of St James). These longer routes are actually networks of paths that don’t entirely belong to any one country. So they’ll eventually find a home on this section of the site as my own journey grows to include them.
What do the Emperor Hadrian and papal Rome have in common? Answer: the Castel Sant’Angelo ! Find out how a mausoleum-fortress becomes a place of pilgrimage.
Pilgrimage is more than just a hike. It's a journey with intention. Transformation. Even searching. The reason you’re going makes a difference in how you prepare yourself and what you carry with you.