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Ascetics, missionaries, and pilgrims, medieval era

Migration A–Z

A

  1. Tillmann Lohse

Published Online: 4 FEB 2013

DOI: 10.1002/9781444351071.wbeghm040

The Encyclopedia of Global Human Migration

The Encyclopedia of Global Human Migration

How to Cite

Lohse, T. 2013. Ascetics, missionaries, and pilgrims, medieval era. The Encyclopedia of Global Human Migration. .

Publication History

  1. Published Online: 4 FEB 2013

Abstract

Every year during the medieval millennium thousands of men and women in Europe, Asia, and northern Africa were on the move for religious reasons. Monks, nuns, and other ascetics traveled many miles to certain confraternities or isolated areas in search of spiritual guidance, theological instruction, solitude, homelessness, and alienation. Missionaries left their homes to propagate their own religious beliefs to strangers in other lands. Pilgrims headed for sacred places to observe religious rules; to do penance; to fulfill a vow; to receive a conditional bequest; to make a request; to seek a cure, an indulgence, fertility, or purification; to pursue meditation; to achieve merit or other (sometimes also rather profane) goals. Thus ascetics, missionaries, and pilgrims may well be distinguished with respect to their specific objectives, but frequently the boundaries between these three groups were rather fluid. Furthermore ascetics, missionaries, and pilgrims were not migrants per se; some of them might be better characterized as travelers, while others never left their homes at all. Therefore, given the current state of global historical research, generalizing statements are difficult to make and each case requires close examination.

Keywords:

  • archaeology;
  • faith;
  • ideology;
  • cultural diversity