Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales recounts the journeys of 14th-century pilgrims traveling to England’s Canterbury Cathedral, where St. Thomas Becket was cruelly martyred. Spain’s Camino de Santiago de Compostela, which dates to the 9th century, was one of three pilgrimages that provided pilgrims with a plenary indulgence. The other two were the Via Francigena from Canterbury to Rome, and the pilgrimage to Jerusalem.
Today, pilgrims flock to these locations and many others, including the sites of apparitions of Jesus and Mary, such as Lourdes, France, Knock, Ireland, Akita, Japan, or Kibeho, Rwanda. Penitent pilgrims trek barefoot up Ireland’s Skellig Michael or on their knees to Fatima, Portugal. Curious pilgrims visit the miraculous image of Our Lady of Guadalupe on St. Juan Diego’s tilma in Mexico City, the incorrupt bodies of Saints John Vianney, Bernadette Soubirous and Catherine Labouré, or the Eucharistic miracles in Siena and Lanciao, Italy, or Seefeld, Austria. Many, like me, love to soak up the ambient holiness in cities where saints once lived, like St. Teresa’s Avila, Padre Pio’s Pietrelcina and San Giovanni Rotondo, and St. Francis’ and St. Clare’s Assisi.