What is Pilgrimage?
Pilgrimage has always been an important part of Christian faith. The desire of Christians to grow in their relationship with God is often described as a journey and going on pilgrimage is a way of letting the outward journey of our bodies enrich and enabling the inner journeys of our hearts and minds.
The mode of travel can be important. Some walk, finding the slower pace helps them to notice and engage with the world around them as well as their inner self and God. Others run, cycle, ride on horseback or use other methods of transport.
The destination is significant too. Most pilgrim routes are ancient, taking people to places made holy by events that have happened there, in the footsteps of those who have gone before them or the presence of shrines or relics of holy people.
Canterbury Cathedral has been a major pilgrimage destination for many centuries and it was the murder of Archbishop Thomas Becket in 1170 and his subsequent canonisation in 1173 that made Canterbury Cathedral the third most important site of Christian pilgrimage in the world, after Jerusalem and Rome.
Pilgrims continued to visit the Cathedral in great numbers until the reformation and the destruction of the shrine of St Thomas in 1538.
A Modern Welcome
Canterbury Cathedral welcomes thousands of people every year, both setting out on, and finishing, their journey of pilgrimage.
The Cathedral is the destination for those who travel along the pilgrim paths from Winchester and Rochester. It is also the beginning of the Via Francigena route to Rome. If you are planning to complete the Via Francigena, please check with your chosen ferry company in advance of travelling whether they accept foot passengers or require advance booking.
Whatever the reason for your pilgrimage, we’d like to mark it with you. Priests are available throughout the day to offer a pilgrim blessing to those who are setting out and to offer prayers of thanksgiving for those who are arriving.
If you know in advance when you will be at the Cathedral, please get in touch with the Visits Office so that arrangements can be made. If you’re unable to do that, please ask a member of staff when you arrive and we’ll do our very best to find a priest to meet you.
Pilgrim’s Pass and other printed pilgrimage materials are distributed to pilgrims who come to the Cathedral.
May your journey be in peace and safety, may you have good company on the way and joy in your arriving. And don’t forget – the end is also a beginning!