Christian pilgrimages

To be honest I’m not very Catholic based human being. I mean, I do believe in some kind of higher existence (God), but I don’t really attend masses because I don’t find them meaningful (at least in my parish it’s just terrible unfortunately). But the other day two of my friends decided to go on a Christian pilgrimage (another parish) and they invited me…I was really curious how this will turn out and you know what? It was amazing! We attended a apx. 7km long hike from Zámutov to Juskova Voľa (both located in Eastern Slovakia). The path was divided into 5 sections and in the beginning of each section was a post, where volunteers told us something about faith. It was…interesting. I actually enjoyed it.

The event was called “tourist day” and it takes place annually, each year on a different place but always on May 1st. It was my first…well, let me call it pilgrim. And probably not last, haha.

You know what I was thinking about the other day? Attending Camino de Santiago someday. I follow a girl on Instagram, her name is Joanna Romano (@fitbackpacker) and I’ve been following her camino since the day one. She inspired me to try it on my own. When? When I’ll find a +1 who’d be capable of traveling with me, listening to me and implementing my (sometimes) crazy ideas all day long 😀

Don’t you know what Camino de Santiago is? Well…

The Camino de Santiago (the Way of St. James) is a large network of ancient pilgrim routes stretching across Europe and coming together at the tomb of St. James (Santiago in Spanish) in Santiago de Compostela in north-west Spain.

The most popular route (that I would also absolutely love to try) is the Camino Francés which stretches 780 km from St. Jean-Pied-du-Port near Biarritz in France to Santiago. This route is fed by three major French routes: the Voie de Tours, the Voie de Vezelay, and the Voie du Puy. It is also joined along its route by the Camino Aragones (which is fed by the Voie d’Arles which crosses the Pyrenees at the Somport Pass), by the Camí de Sant Jaume from Montserrat near Barcelona, the Ruta de Tunel from Irun, the Camino Primitivo from Bilbao and Oviedo, and by the Camino de Levante from Valencia and Toledo.

The French Way is the Jacobean itinerary with the most deep-rooted historical tradition. Over 60% of the pilgrims choose the Camino Frances because it is the route where you can get the most of the “pilgrim experience”. There are many pilgrims that you will meet on your journey and there are many facilities that cater to pilgrims. It is also the best waymarked route of all.

The route, which crosses the north of the Iberian Peninsula, became a set itinerary in the late XIth century thanks to the efforts of monarchs like Sancho III the Greater and Sancho Ramirez de Navarra y Aragon. The main routes of the Camino Frances in France and Spain were described in detail around 1135 in Codex Calixtinus, an essential book on Jacobean cultural tradition. This book is a bona-fide medieval guide describing the pilgrimage to Santiago. It enumerates the different stretches of the French Way from the lands of Gaul and offers detailed information on the sanctuaries found along the camino, including comments on the hospitality, the people, the food, natural springs, local customs etc.

This guide, attributed to the French cleric, Aymeric Picaud, reveals the political and religious interest that was behind promoting the sanctuary of Santiago de Compostela and making it easily accessible, yet it also bears testimony to the demand for this type of information.

Over the centuries and with the political and religious avatars in Europe, the physical route of the Camino Frances lost the clout it once had. It was not until the end of the 19th century that a new interest in Jacobean matters arose, continuing into the second half of the 20th century, with the progressive recuperation of the old itinerary, internationally recognized as one of the historical symbols of European unity.

 

Another pilgrimage I would really love to try, also UNESCO declared, is Kumano Kodo in Japan.

For over 1000 years people from all levels of society, including retired emperors and aristocrats, have made the arduous pilgrimage to Kumano. These pilgrims used a network of routes, now called the Kumano Kodo, which stretched across the mountainous Kii Peninsula.

The walk itself was an integral part of the pilgrimage process as they undertook rigorous religious rites of worship and purification. Walking the ancient Kumano Kodo is a fantastic way to experience the unique cultural landscape of Kumano’s spiritual countryside.

Nakahechi – the imperial route to Kumano

The Nakahechi pilgrimage route starts from Tanabe on the western coast of the Kii Peninsula and traverses east into the mountains towards the Kumano grand shrines. It’s the most popular route for pilgrims from western Japan. Starting in the 10th century, the Nakahechi route was extensively used by the imperial family on pilgrimage from Kyoto. This trail has traditional lodgings in isolated villages along the way and is excellent for multi-day walks.

Kohechi – the mountainous route to Kumano

The Kohechi route cuts through the center of the Kii Peninsula from north to south, linking the Buddhist temple complex of Koyasan and the Kumano Sanzan. It is characterized by steep trails that cross over three passes of over 1000 meters elevation along its 70 km length. The Kohechi is an isolated walk on its northern sections and hikers should be well prepared when attempting it.

Ohechi – the coastal route to Kumano

The pilgrimage route runs south from Tanabe along the coast to Fudarakusan-ji Temple. The views from the well preserved passes offer expansive scenic vistas over the Pacific Ocean. During the Edo period (1603-1868), this route was used for both worship and sightseeing, and the beautiful landscape attracted many writers and artists.

Iseji – the Eastern route to Kumano

The Iseji route runs along the east coast of the Kii Peninsula between Ise-jingu Shrine and the Kumano Sanzan. The use of this trail rose dramatically in the Edo period (1603-1868) with the increasing number of pilgrims to the Ise-jingu Shrine. After paying homage in Ise, devotees would continue on the Iseji route to Kumano. To prevent erosion from heavy rains, extensive sections were paved with picturesque cobblestones. This route has a diversity of mountain passes, bamboo forests, terraced rice fields, and beaches.

I wouldn’t be able to choose just one of these four variations…I’d like to try all of them. I’d probably plan a longer trip that time, try to equip visas and stay in Japan for at least a month not only to attend these pilgrimages but also get to know their culture and lifestyle more because honestly, Japanese and Japan itself amaze me. They have their specific culture, for everyone from Central Europe definitely very peculiar one, way different than ours. Maybe (hopefully!) once, after school…don’t know. But it’s surely a must-have in my go-to list!


Well, my first pilgrimage may seem quite short to you. But we all start somewhere, don’t we? 🙂 This was the first time of me trying to do something like this, I’ll certainly look for and attend another ones in here…and someday…Camino and Kumano will happen too!

Have you ever attended a pilgrimage? Did you like it?

a few photos from that day:

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in the end there were stands with refections and some attractions for the kids

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Have a nice day! ❤

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