A pilgrim's progress
Religious-themed travel and religious pilgrimages in Europe
The church of Sant'Ambrogio in Milan was founded by Saint Ambrose himself in the 4th century, when he was Bishop of Milan and Milan was, briefly, capital of the Western Roman Empire
Religious convictions and an interest in the roots of one's faith
are an important part of many people's trips to Europe, whether it's a full-blown
pilgrimage or merely lighting a candle and offering a prayer in each
church you visit.
Whether it's paying respects to St. Francis at his basilica in Assisi, hearing the Pope give mass at St. Peter's in Rome, visiting Lourdes or Fatima, or walking the Camino to Santiago de Compostela across northern Spain, thousands of visitors to Europe are there, at least in part, to honor their God and make worship a part of their travel experience.
The resources and books listed below can help point you in the right directions to find the best tools to make your pilgrimage (or just the religious aspects of your trip) as memorable as possible.
Here is a personal tip: don't miss
the 6:45pm Sunday mass at St. Mark's in Venice. It's the only time
you get to see the glittering gold mosaics that cover nearly every
inch of the walls and ceilings the all lit up.
(Note that, though currently this section is devoted to Christian travelers, I'll be doing up separate ones for Jews and Muslims soon.)
Resources for Religious Tours & Pilgrimages in Europe
Even nuns go on vacation—this group is visiting the shrine of St. Domenic (whose tomb was partly sculpted by a very young Michelangelo) in the Basilica di San Domenico in Bologna, Italy
InfoHub (www.infohub.com) - Some five to ten religious and spiritual tours in each of more than dozen European countries (and around the world), from walking the Camino de Santiago to religious retreats in Assisi.
Religious Resources.org (www.ReligiousResources.org) - The travel page has around three dozen outfits, tour companies, and other resources, a goodly half of them devoted to Europe.
Villes Sanctuaires (www.villes-sanctuaires.com) - The major pilgrimage cities and shrines in France—Chartres, Lourdes, Nevers, Mont-Saint-Michel, Rocamadour, Le-Puy-en-Velay, Paray-le-Monial, Lisieux, and Ars—all banded together in one Website.
Economy Travel (www.economytravel.com) - A well-regarded budget airfare booking site that has a special section devoted to missionary and pilgrimage consolidator fares on ten airlines as well as a groups department adept at helping missionary groups (of 10 or more people) arrange their trips.
Overseas Express (www.ovex.com) - Travel agency specializing in missionaries, church employees, and humanitarian and relief workers.
Unitours (www.unitours.com) - Well-established (1957) Christian tour and pilgrimage company for both Catholics and Protestants, offering dozens of tours and trips, mostly in Europe and the Holy Land.
Journeys of Faith Christian Tours (www.joftours.com) - Monthly, Protestant tours to England, Scotland, and France.
Art to Heart (www.arttoheartweb.com/christian_travel.htm) - Religiously-themed tours of Europe with an emphasis on art (plus on God, of course).
Glory Tours (www.glory-tours.com) - Tour company specializing in overseas religious tours and pilgrimages.
Christus Rex (www.christusrex.org) - A nonprofit devoted to sharing with the world images of art and architecture from churches, cathedrals, and monasteries around the globe. Pretty much since the Web's inception, it's been the best (albeit unofficial) website about the Vatican—including its museums. Plus, in the "Splendors of Christiandom" section, there are links to lots of churches and cathedrals (largely in France and Italy, but also a few in the Netherlands, Ukraine, and Mexico).
Christian Travelers Guide (www.christian-travelers-guides.com) - Website run by Irving Hexham—a professor of Religious Studies at the University of Calgary—with a sampler of sections from his "Chrisitan Travelers Guides" books to Italy, France, Germany, and Great Britain (see below).
Books and guides to religious tourism in Europe
- The Christian Travel Planner by Kevin J. Wright (2008)
- Catholic Shrines of Western Europe: A Pilgrim's Travel Guide by Kevin J. Wright (1997)
- Catholic Shrines of Central and Eastern Europe by Kevin J. Wright (1999)
- A Catholic's Guide to Rome: Discovering the Soul of the Eternal City by Frank J. Korn (2000)
- Christian Travelers Guide to Italy ed. by Irving Hexham (2001)
- Christian Travelers Guide to Great Britain ed. by Irving Hexham (2001)
- Christian Travelers Guide to France ed. by Irving Hexham (2001)
- Christian Travelers Guide to Germany ed. by Irving Hexham (2001)
- The Spiritual Traveler: The Guide to Sacred Sites and Pilgrim Routes in Britain by Martin Palmer & Nigel Palmer (2000)
- The Traveller's Guide to Sacred England by John Mitchell (2003)
- The Traveller's Guide to Sacred Ireland: A Guide to the Sacred Places of Ireland, Her Legends, Folklore and People by Cary Meehan (2002)
- Spiritual Traveler: The A Guide to Sacred Sites and Pilgrim Routes: Spain by Beebe Bahrami (2009)
- The Madonnas of Europe by Janusz Rosikon (2001)
Guidebooks to religious lodgings
Monasteries and convents in Europe
- Europe's Monastery and Convent Guesthouses: A Pilgrim's Travel Guide by Kevin J. Wright (buy it)
- Good Night and God Bless: A Guide to Convent and Monastery Accommodation in Europe, Volume I (Italy, Austria, Czech Republic) by Trish Clark (buy it)
- Good Night and God Bless: A Guide to Convent and Monastery Accommodation in Europe, Volume II (France, U.K., Ireland) by Trish Clark (buy it)
- Good Night and God Bless: A Guide to Convent and Monastery Accommodation in Europe, Volume III (Spain, Germany, Eastern Europe) by Trish Clark
- Bed and Blessings Italy by Anne and June Walsh (buy it)
- Lodging in Italy's Monasteries by Eileen Barish (buy it)
- Lodging in Spain's Monasteries by Eileen Barish (buy it)
- Lodging in France's Monasteries by Eileen Barish (buy it)
- Lodging in Britain's Monasteries by Eileen Barish (buy it)
Monasteries and convents in the United States
- Monastery Guest Houses of North America: A Visitor's Guide by Robert J. Regalbuto (buy it)
- Sanctuaries, The Complete United States: A Guide to Lodgings in Monasteries, Abbeys, and Retreats by Jack Kelly and Marcia Kelly (buy it)
Books on the Camino to Santiago
- The Pilgrimage by Paulo Coelho (1995)
Road to Santiago by Kathryn Harrison (2003)
- Walking the Camino: A Modern Pilgrimage to Santiago by Tony Kevin (2009)
- Following the Milky Way: A Pilgrimage on the Camino De Santiago by Elyn Aviva (2001)
- The Roads to Santiago: The Medieval Pilgrim Routes Through France and Spain to Santiago de Compostela by Derry Brabbs (Photographer) (2008)
- Pilgrimage to Santiago (Lost and Found Series) by Edwin Mullins (2000)
Father, My Daughter: Pilgrims on the Road to Santiago by
Donald & Maria Schell (2001)
- A Pilgrim's Guide to the Camino de Santiago [in sections] by John Brierley (2009)
Planet Walking in Spain by Miles Roddis (2003)
- The Pilgrimage Road to Santiago: The Complete Cultural Handbook by David M. Gitlitz & Linda Kay Davidson (2000)
Stories: On and Off the Road to Santiago by Nancy
Louise Frey (1998)