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Response to Father Christopher Howse’s article in the Telegraph on the pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela


I am pleased to see someone underlining the risk of spiritual pride that a pure works-religion thing like a pilgrimage can bring. If my understanding is not wrong, pilgrimages started in Spain after the moors got cleared out and the common people needed to be appeased as that was one thing they had appreciated under Islam – a bit like the way in East Europe newly westernised states keep the communist holidays but rename them, as the communists did previously in some cases to the religious ones. The charm of pilgrimage in the mediaeval times was that it was the one time the feudal system was cast aside, and both serf and master would tread a road together. Relieved from their onerous chores and welcomed with refreshments along the way, the medieval pilgrimage was the nearest thing they had to the company outing, and the fashion spread out across the Catholic world from Spain.

In other words, Catholics actually got it from the Muslims, and even those which echo crusader routes were islam related. It is not something that Jesus or the apostles ever stated we need to do. The Hajj is a requirement in Islam, and spilt over to Christianity so that Christians didn’t feel any worse off.

But Islam itself got it from the Pagan pre mono-theistic religions of the region. Initially I understand that Mohammed intended scrapping the pilgrimage to the black stone, for being pagan and idolatrous. When confronted with the reality that that would put his friends and neighbours from his own city out of business and seriously affect his support, he reinterpreted the old pilgrimage and made it essential for Muslims to do in their lives. Of course, this wasn’t really ever a requirement of God, as we can see now – God having foreknowledge would not put a requirement to go to a place that physically is unable to accommodate the number of Muslims needing to go their in their lives, and hence only a minority ever actually get to fulfill the terms of their own man-made and poorly-planned religion.

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