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«GeoJournal of Tourism and Geosites Year II, no. 2, vol. 4, 2009, pag. 160-168 PILGRIMAGE – A RUDIMENTARY FORM OF MODERN TOURISM Ioana JOSAN ...»

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GeoJournal of Tourism and Geosites

Year II, no. 2, vol. 4, 2009, pag. 160-168




University of Oradea, Department of Geography, Tourism and Territorial Planning – CSAT,

1 Universitatii st., 410087, Oradea, Romania, e-mail: ioanajosan@yahoo.co.uk

Abstract: When we refer to the tourist phenomenon linked to people's belief – expressed both by institutions and management – it has, on the whole, the same points of attraction: edifices of worship, works of art, relicts etc. The characteristic feature of the religious tourism is the pilgrimage, which is to be found in all forms of religious manifestation.

Key words: pilgrimage, religious tourism, holy places, religious edifices, artistical objects of worship ****** Religious or ecumenic tourism?

Why the term of religious tourism and not ecumenic tourism? Because by its definition, religion is a “system of beliefs (dogmas) regarding the sense of deity which binds in the same spiritual and moral community all those who join this system” (DEX).

At the same time, the term of religion refers to the corresponding institutions and organizations. In other words, the term of religion includes all the monotheist or polytheist religions, whilst the term of ecumenism is valid for Christianity only and means investiture with an authority which extends over the entire Christian church.

Religious tourism The nuclei of modern tourism are to be found in the most simple and naïve form of manifestation: pilgrimage. Initially, in Hebrew, the word “pilgrimage” meant “wandering”, in the Old Testament meaning “the country where one is a peregrine” (the country of the wanderers). In Greek, pilgrims are “peregrines and wanderers”.

The concept of pilgrimage towards a certain site, as an act of will or religious obligation is known from ancient times. Any worshipped site was an attraction to pilgrims. Individual or group journeys, to a holy site, were known to all religions: from Egypt, India, China, Japan, Palestina, Arabia, the Roman Empire.

In the period of the New Testament, journeys to Jerusalem (more precisely, to the Temple, which was the most prestigious), in order to attend the repasts stated by the Law, it was a tradition, each of these occasions being defined as “repasts of the pilgrims” (M.

Eliade, 1996).

Christianity took over this practice of pilgrimage, “disciplining and tempering it” (O. Drimba, 1990). According to the medieval belief, the commited sins could be forgiven Pilgrimage – A Rudimentary Form of Modern Tourism by visiting certain sanctuaries. Thus, the Christian church had started imposing pilgrimages in order to repent, beginning with the 6th century. They were the so-called “penitential pilgrimages”.

Another form of pilgimage was the “judicial pilgrimage”, as a lighter punishment for those suspected of heresy. This type of pilgrimage was introduced into the civil legislation starting with the 13th century, under the pressure of the Inquisition. This type of pilgrimage was applied to one person or a colectivity, which were forced to walk long distances (hundreds of kilometres).

Alongside its penitential feature, of spiritual recollection, pilgrimage to a sanctuary had a “worldly” side which consisted of fairs setups, in which the pedlars, comediants, merchants and pious people mingled.

The chroniclers of the time noticed that not all the attendees to a pilgrimage were animated by “the pious reason of penitence”, but by mere curiosity or the pleasure to journey and to see new places.

Starting with the 15th century, when journeys had become easier and safer, more and more people were going on a pilgrimage out of curiosity and the desire to find out new things about unknown places.

In the Holy Land – a site of pilgrimage special to Christians – there were tourist guides beginning with the 12th century, and after the Crusade in the 13th century, the “journey impressions” of certain pilgrims appeared, which contributed to the growth of enthusiasm and interest for new places.

As a result, at the end of the 14th century, real tourist agreements were signed upon.

In Rome, “tourist info offices” appeared, and in Egypt and Palestina consulates for tourists protection opened. In Jerusalem there were authorized guides, and in Venice, official guides were accompanying the tourists, finding accommodation for them and helping them with the shopping (O. Drimba, 1990).

The effect of such “modernizations” consisted in the change of the people's views on the miracles, they becoming more down-to-earth, and the pilgrimages turned into tourist journeys.

“From the pious feature, these journeys get a modern characteristic, the blatancy and the luxury of the rich. At the same time one can notice an increasing number of women, which was unusual in the previous centuries when women were excluded from the pilgrims” (O. Drimba, 1990).

The answer to the question why religious tourism was and still is so intense is given by Mircea Eliade (1990): “Culture is based either on religion – whose mystical experience is NISUS FORMATIVUS, the catalyst and structure of the spiritual balance – or on didacticism.

The impact of religion upon the culture of a nation gave birth to such cultures as Brahman, Buddhist, Islamic and so forth.

Attractors of religious tourism Since religion is the external manifestation of faith, not in its contents, the main tourist attractors were and are still represented by the ways of its manifestation. The common feature of these tourist attractors is, firstly, their holiness. Each religion distinguishes between holy and unholy, and the religious man is the one for whom something is holy. This means the detachment in the sense of a divine use of a person or object, from what is common or unholy. Every thing, person or holy site is considered as being set aside by God, and man as well.

Holy places The term “holy place” is applied to a specific place where there is a divine association with it. The place is holy because at a particular time, it was the place of a Ioana JOSAN divine revelation. Generally, regardless of the religion, the holy places constitute a powerful point of tourist attraction, combining the achievement of certain spiritual satisfactions with the discovery of new places, habits etc. Annually, millions of people head that way, and the rules set for the people in order to respect their holiness, are thoroughly applied.

One of the most important holy places is the Jerusalem. Here one can find the sanctuaries of the most important monotheist religions: the Holy Sepulchre Christian, the Wailing Wall, Jewish and the Dome of the Rock, Islamic.

For Christians, the holy places are the land where Jesus Christ lived and preached.

In a larger sense, Jerusalem is a holy place for Christians because the biblical texts mention it as being the place where the most important moments in the life of Jesus Christ happened. Within its area there is a series of holy places strictly related to a moment or an event in His life: the Holy Sepulchre, the Golgotha, the Mount of Olives etc.

Annually, these places are visited by millions of Christians, and tourism is highly developed, getting more intense with certain events related to either the birth of Jesus or His Death and Resurrection.

For Jews, the holy place in Jerusalem is represented by the Saint of Saints, the sanctuary of the Old Temple and the Wailing Wall, a relic of the Great Temple dating back to the time of king Herod.

The Noble Sanctuary on the Mount of the Temple (Al-Haram al Sharif) occupies one- sixths of the area of the old city. Replacing king Solomon's old temples, today one can find the Dome of the Rock with a golden cupola there.

Every year, in the world of the Islamic calendar intended for pilgrimage, thousands and thousands of pilgrims from all over the world head to Mecca, to kiss the Holy Black Stone (Hadja Hadscar).

The Islamic religion imposes that each believer should go, at least once in his lifetime, to Mecca, except for the poor and the sick. Inside the Holy Mosque there is the Kaaba, a stone of basalt, like a fetish sent from above which is locked inside a cube with the side of 15 metres, in order to protect it. Muhammad induced the worship of the Kaaba in his teachings, saying that the stone had been lifted by Abraham and his son Ishmael.

Starting with 624, when the prophet Muhammad asked the Muslims not to head to Jerusalem anymore but to Mecca, the Arab world has a temple, the edifice being called “the House of Allah”. The yearly pilgrimage poses Saudi Arabia with issues regarding management because the number of pilgrims exceeds one million.

In Mexico, the Sanctuary of Teotihuacan (“where people become gods”) dating back to the time before Jesus Christ, in the 20th century it re-established itself as the Mexican Mecca of the tourists.

Mount Fuji-San – the same as Mount Olympus of the Greeks – has an aura of divinity from ancient times. The mount is holy to the most important of the Japanese religions, Shinto. Pilgrims climb the mountain wearing straw sandals and white gloves to keep the holiness of the mountain unspoiled. Tradition says that during summertime, Shintoists must climb Mount Fuji-San at least once.

The Vatican – the residence of the Pope – is one of the most important sites of pilgrimage for the entire Christian world, especially the Catholic one, being at the same time a tourist attraction for people all over the world. This center of the Christian world was founded in the 5th century by emperor Constantine the Great who offered Christians the Lateran Palace as a residence where the Popes lived till the beginning of the 14th century. The same emperor founded the church of San Giovani in Laterano, which is today the most important Catholic church in the world. In the heart of the little state of Vatican is St. Peter's Square and Basilica, the Sistine Chapel which host priceless works of art and numerous relics.

Pilgrimage – A Rudimentary Form of Modern Tourism For the Orthodox Christians a holy place is Mount Athos with its 19 monasteries, but women are not allowed here.

Religious edifices No matter whether they are temples, churches or mosques, they are structures built by men in which one can worship gods or God.

Nowadays, beside this designation, religious edifices represent a special tourist attraction by their architecture, works of art under the form of paintings and sculptures.

Temples are edifices intended for the practice of religious cults for some populations in Ancient World (Egyptians, Greeks, Romans); today for Mosaics, Buddhists etc.

They are the oldest constructions made by man, intended for the worship of a deity.

Beside their religious function, in ancient times, some temples were used as the State treasury, being emptied in order to pay the tribute or filled with war trophies.

In the Old Testament, the tower of Babel is mentioned as being the first structure in which there was a temple.

The ruins of some old temples or the grandour and the extravaganza of others atract tens of thousands of tourists annually. Of the numerous religious sites of the kind, we can mention only a few, the most representative ones.

Acropolis – a mountain-temple – represented the sanctuary of the goddess Athena, is today the main tourist attraction of the Greek capital city.

In Java – the most important site of pilgrimage is Borobudur. The mountaintemple built here was supposed to be a replica of the mythological mount Meru, around which – according to Hindu faith – revolves the whole world. For the pilgrims the brownyellowish temple of Borobudur (“the one thousand Buddha”) is one of the holy miracles of the world. The temple is adorned with hundreds of statues of Buddha, the biggest ones being in the 72 stupa (stone constructions in the shape of bells).

Another temple representative for Buddhist tradition is the Temple of the Emerald Buddha. The statue of Buddha in Wat Phra Kaeo was declared a holy symbol in 1874. But the biggest and most modern Buddhist temples in the world are at the foot Mount FujiSan, in the area called Taisekiji.

The tourist attractions are most visited during one of the three annual ritual ceremonies: of the rainy season, the cold and the hot season.

Of the Hindu temples, the ones in Mahabalipuram (India) are the most famous.

Carved in rock, their walls are adorned with bas-reliefs representing god Vishnu.

Just as interesting are the cave-temples in Ratha, adorned with sculptures carved in one block of stone.

Of the Inca Temples the most representative one is the Temple of the Sun in Machu-Picchu with its monolith called Intihuatana or “sun-tier” - the sacred stone of the Incas. Another temple of the same kind is located on the peak of the Pyramid of the Sun in Teotihuacan in Mexico.

Considered one of the Wonders of the World, the Temple in Ephesus was a sanctuary for the worship of Mother-Earth and the goddess of fertility, Cybele. Pliny the Elder considered it “the noblest, biggest and the most important holy place on Earth.” Today only the ruins of one of the most impressive edifice of worship in the Roman Empire are left – the Temple of Jupiter in Baalbeck. Similar, but smaller is the Temple of Venus. In both architectural styles one can find the Phoenician, Hellenistic and Roman styles.

Churches (in Romanian, the term “church” derives from the Latin word “basilica”;

the Greek term “ekklesia” designates a local assembly of Christians and not a building, a material construction).

Church (kyriakos) is the “House of Lord”, that is a place where the divine service takes place and where relics and religious works of art are kept. It is also a site of worship for Christians.

Ioana JOSAN The development in time of the churches was due to the growth of population, to the continuous intensification of pilgrimages and of the cult of relics and icons.

Seen as places where man is closer to God, churches – as material constructions – settled in time by their grandour, architectonic style, by their ornaments and cult accessories. All these constitute today an important tourist attractor which explains why churches – like other sites of worship – are special tourist points.

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