“In Our Time” Interview: Medieval Pilgrimage

Wednesday, February 24, 2021

At this time of collective stasis, when most of us are homebound and getting fidgety, a discussion about medieval pilgrimage might move our imaginations, and possibly even our bodies!

On the newest BBC 4 “In Our Time” series — which explores the history of ideas — host Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the idea and experience of Christian pilgrimage in Europe from the 12th to the 15th centuries, which figured so strongly in the imagination of the age. For those able and willing to travel, there were countless destinations from Jerusalem, Rome, and Santiago de Compostela to the smaller local shrines associated with miracles and relics of the saints. Meanwhile, for those unable or not allowed to travel there were journeys of the mind, inspired by guidebooks that would tell the faithful how many steps they could take around their homes to replicate the walk to the main destinations in Rome and the Holy Land, passing paintings of the places on their route. 

The image above is of a badge of St. Thomas of Canterbury, worn by pilgrims who had journeyed to his shrine. 

With Miri Rubin, Professor of Medieval and Early Modern History at Queen Mary, University of London 

Kathryn Rudy, Professor of Art History at the University of St. Andrews 

Anthony Bale, Professor of Medieval Studies and Dean of the School of Arts at Birkbeck, University of London 

Producer: Simon Tillotson

Go to this link to listen to the discussion: https://www.bbc.co.uk/sounds/play/m000s9qp

Read the brand new special issue in the Journal of Medieval and Early Modern Studies, Pilgrimage and Textual Culture in Late Medieval and Early Modern Europe: Production, Exchange, Reception, edited by Anthony Bale and Kathryne Beebe.