Stasis in the Medieval World EMICS conference: April (2013)
This paper examines the phenomenon of ‘spiritual’ or ‘imagined’ pilgrimage in Medieval Europe. An analysis of the contemplative processes encountered in physical pilgrim travel precedes an examination of the culture of contemplation on Heavenly Jerusalem in both the cloistered and domestic spaces. Labyrinth pavements and devotional images are addressed a tools for spiritual pilgrimage, and the crypt at Hexham Abbey is also briefly addressed. The symbolism of gesture, iconography and the imagination all play a role in the interior journey towards Jerusalem, in both it’s physical and heavenly representation, and allowed the Medieval laity to move closed to the sites encountered in biblical scripture without necessarily having to embark in travelling across continents.
Long distance pilgrimage was unarguably one of the great socio-religious phenomena in Medieval Christendom, and is popularly contextualised as physical travel to a shrine. Whilst for many this was the reality of pilgrimage, along with strenuous conditions, poor food and exploitation by innkeepers, another facet of pilgrimage was its mental engagement, which was also open to those who wereotherwise unable to make the physical journey yet yearned for a deeper communion with God. This process of mental ‘journeying’ towards a notion of God, through practices such as prayer orcontemplation, was usually a highly individual experience, although as demonstrated below in relation to the use of labyrinths, not exclusively so. Whilst the term ‘pilgrim’ is often autom atically highly contextualised to refer to a specific ‘character’, that of the wandering layman, staff in hand, wrapped in a cloak and wearing souvenir badges from various shrines, ‘pilgrimage’ as a concept can, and should, be expanded to address certain contemplative activities within static environments, such as religious institutions or cathedrals/churches, often aided by sculptural/artistic motifs andshrines. In this paper I will briefly explore how certain aspects of devotional art and the labyrinthmotif aided the physically static process of ‘spiritual pilgrimage’; but firstly it is necessary to dissectthe term ‘pilgrim’ to understand the process we are addressing