Typically, a pilgrimage is thought of by most as a long journey to a holy place of worship, a traditional, religious trip utilized in many cultures across the world. These journeys can be traced back to early periods in human history, and the same notions that pilgrimages are intended to have are still carried on today. Pilgrimages are not only about the destination, they are also focused on personal growth and eye-opening experiences encountered on the trek. As seen in the collection of stories in Canterbury Tales and travels such as the trip to the Western Wall in Jerusalem, pilgrimages have long since been used as a way to seek answers, pay homage, and discover one’s true identity. Throughout history, these spiritual journeys have been used as a time of reflection and a period for searching the depths of one’s heart.
In the narrative Canterbury Tales, the story is formed around a diverse group of people traveling to a shrine of a martyred saint, thus displaying the ideas of contemplation and reverence found in the idea of pilgrimage. In the prologue of Canterbury Tales, it is stated that many pilgrims begin their journey at the beginning of spring, which is commonly used as a symbol for rebirth. The narrator describes the vitality of springtime as refreshing “sweet showers fall and pierce the drought of March,” which demonstrates the birth of new life, a lively reflection of the change from struggle to redemption and spiritual self-transformation (The Canterbury Tales 1). This freshness of rain relates to a spiritual awakening, which also connects to personal growth and renewal. These trips that these pilgrims embark on allows for deeper thought about their own character as well as their religious beliefs. The flourishing of spring found in the story Canterbury Tales helps identify particular aspects of pilgrimage: the advancement of one’s own knowledge and reflection on personal identity.
The pilgrimage to the Western Wall is a key expedition in Jewish culture. Located in Jerusalem, the “Wailing Wall” is a remnant of the wall surrounding the destroyed First and Second temples of Jerusalem. This holy and authentic history of this site helps “reaffirm that ‘the divine Presence never departs from the Western Wall’,” which emphasizes devotion held by the believers, a reminder of the divine hope reflected in their religious beliefs (“Western Wall”). This trip allows pilgrims to engage with their inner selves more spiritually, pay their respects, and contemplate their own values. The Western Wall trip is yet another journey that helps embody the contemplative characteristics of pilgrimage.
A pilgrimage, as seen in Canterbury Tales and the Western Wall pilgrimage, is an extensive journey to a holy or sacred land that allows for a period of reflection, personal renewal, and reverence. The prologue of Canterbury Tales depicts the beauty of springtime and the aspect of rebirth that it brings. The pilgrimage to the Western Wall in Jerusalem encapsulates the time of prayer and expression of pilgrims’ beliefs. Overall, pilgrimages serve as an example that sometimes the journey is more important than the destination, and it is on these journeys that change and spiritual re-evaluation can occur, thus leading to new discoveries about one’s heart and merit.
The Canterbury Tales. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Literature Grade 12, 2012, pp. 255-289.
“Western Wall.” Encyclopædia Britannica, Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc., 16 Sept. 2020, www.britannica.com/topic/Western-Wall.