The only other Americans we’ve met in our little town are a lovely retired couple from Texas. The husband, Mark, has made two pilgrimages to Mont St. Michel. He walked from Argentan all the way there, and it took him about 10 days each time. Did you know Mont St. Michel is one of the top 4 pilgrimage sites in Christendom? (I learned that from Rick Steves. : )

I love the idea of making a pilgrimage to a holy place. It would be so different visiting the island abbey as a pilgrim instead of a tourist. I imagine myself approaching, tired and contrite, taking in the views from the top, meditating in the cloisters and keeping open to spiritual enlightenment. When Laura Mayes and I visited Mont St. Michel last month, she commented that she felt a connection there and that it was “one of her places“. That’s such a great feeling. I think Laura should come back to France and take a walk to Mont St. Michel.

How about you? Have you ever wanted to make a pilgrimage? Where would you go? How would you get there?

P.S. — We visited Mont St. Michel again this morning, and the weather was so lovely that we spent most of our time exploring the mudflats all around the island. We saw lots of jellyfish — the first ones I’ve seen in real life!

51 thoughts on “Pilgrimage”

  1. Five years ago, I hiked the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu. Thirty miles in four days, so it is by no means a comparison to pioneers or a real ‘pilgrimage.’ But I can definitely say that the people who hike to Machu Picchu feel something different for that magical city than those that take a train and tram. Especially because the Trail was the original path to the city, the way the city was meant to be discovered and what kept it hidden for centuries from the Spanish and Peruvians too. When I walked through the Sun Gate and gazed down at that huge stone city, I cried. And when I sat down and read Pablo Neruda’s famous poem about Machu Picchu, I swear to you I felt this spiritual/physical connection. It was amazing. Life changing.

    However. While I am a huge advocate to hike there, if I ever do go back to Machu Picchu, I’ll be taking the train! =)

  2. I find this fascinating. Aren’t people cool? I marvel in the thought that on any given day somewhere someone is embarking on a pilgrimage and another is at work at their desk. Or a family descends on a new country and a new place called home and another starts a new preschool down the street.

    thanks for sharing!

    post script: don’t forget, navy + black are the perfect pair.

  3. oh I love Mont Saint Michel…. its so beautiful and I could spend so much time there …in the little streets, the beach around or just watching the people passing by!

    and about the pilgrimage… oh to be honest… not my thing, I want action :)

  4. Went to the Hermitage (Eremo delle Carceri) on the slopes of Mount Subasio near Assisi, Italy. St Francis often went there for prayer and penance. A beautiful place, very peaceful. It was a very moving experience for me.

  5. I read a story in GUIDEPOSTS several years ago about a couple who did a pilgrimage from France, through Andorra (!) to Santiago de Compostela. I wasn’t really familiar with the concepts of pilgrimages before that but I love the idea. How humble one must be!

    My spiritual goal: I really want to be baptized in the River Jordan.

  6. Oh I’d love to visit there even just as a tourist!

    I am Jewish but really only through tradition rather than spirituality. I’ve never been to Israel (though I’m hoping to go soon!!!) but I have been to many gorgeous Christian landmarks. I went to a Palm Sunday service at Westminster Abbey which was lead almost entirely by their boys’ choir. While that did not really make me feel any closer to God, I did feel an immense awe. I think what strikes me most is the idea that so many people dedicate their lives to it.

    I think I could get as much satisfaction as many pilgrims do.

  7. I completely agree with Michelle above! My husband and I also hiked the Inca Trail and what an amazing experience it was. I think the “process” of getting somewhere can really add to the spiritual element felt when you finally reach your destination. Imagining the Incas walking along the same path, their feet walking on the same stone paths, was really something special. It wasn’t an easy trip either and to imagine them carrying all their things for days to finally reach the end… pretty amazing.
    Mont St. Michel is on my list!!!

  8. Raised Catholic but have been embedded in a strong circle of Jewish friends, I would love to go to Israel. To visit the many places that are symbols in both of my lives would be very powerful.

  9. My husband did El Camino de Santiago de Compostela by himself on a bike the summer before I met him. Yep, pretty much fell in love right away with this pilgrim. I want to travel it again with him someday! Apparently he earned some time off purgatory–which I’m sure would be helpful if we were Catholic. ;)

  10. Thank you for writing about this. Mont St. Michel looks absolutely beautiful and almost “other worldly.” What a blessing that you were able to go there! I have never made a pilgrimage per se, but I used to live in New Mexico (which is one of my places!) and I visited the El Santuario de Chimayo. El Santuario is a place where many healings have been reported. When you go there you see crutches and walkers and all sorts of things that the pilgrims have left behind (no longer needed). The faithful make pilgrimages there during Holy Week, many walking as far as 100 miles. While I did not walk there, my life was forever changed starting with the beauty of the landscape on the drive from Santa Fe, as well as by the spirit I felt while in the Sanctuary.

  11. I’ve done a week of the Camino de Santiago (northern Spain) twice- absolutely gorgeous and humbling experience! Highly recommended!

  12. I’ve never done a multiple-mile walking pilgrimage but very much want to! My husband has been to Mont St. Michel and it was one of his favorite places when he lived in Europe.

    I have, however, done many “mini” pilgrimages… which I consider to be any trip made to a significant spiritual site for spiritual reasons.

    One interesting fact that many do not know is that the Stations of the Cross, which are found in most Catholic Churches, were started for pilgrims who couldn’t make it to the Holy Land to walk the Via Dolorosa (the route Christ walked on this way to his crucifixion). So, “mini” stations were created for Christians to be able to walk around a church meditating on the events depicted in each station. (I’ve seen some outdoor Stations of the Cross as well, which is a nice way to do it.)

  13. Wonderful post and picture….
    If I were to go on a pilgrimage…I think I would most enjoy learning more about my family….which started in Scotland and Germany.

  14. Well, on our trip to upstate NY, I don’t know which site my husband would have considered the pilgrimage – Palmyra or Cooperstown for the baseball Hall of Fame. Is it bad if they both were?

  15. In Ireland, thousands of pilgrims climb Croagh Patrick on St Patrick’s Day every year – and some even do it barefoot! I found a really fun vintage bit of BBC footage :

    I’d love to visit all of the churches which have a Cross of Nails (distributed by Coventry Cathedral since WWII as a symbol of peace and reconciliation) – 1 down, 159 to go!

  16. I have always wanted to walk the famous pilgrim’s trail to Santiago de Compostela in Spain. It looks so beautiful and there are always tons of people; what a great way to meet people. Connections that center on shared spirituality are so meaningful!

  17. yes I read a book about people who walked one (I think the spain one?) anyway sounded great even for non religious people. They walked, met lots of lovely people, and stayed in little huts (?) along the way. It was an interesting read and I think would make a lovely slow holiday get to see the scenery and maybe even have a humbling moment or two about the grand scheme of things.

  18. I am so jealous of your family’s oppurtunity to visit so many beautiful places. When I am older, I am only 15 now, I am going to visit France as soon as possible.

  19. The island is beuatiful – but those jellyfish look scary! Thankfully in Holland the jellyfish look nothing like these sea monsters – they more resemble a washed up plastic sandwich bag :-)

    Thanks for sharing, it makes me long for going on a pilgrimage myself…

  20. I just returned from helping lead a weeklong pilgrimage to the San Francisco area with a youth group from my church (an Episcopal church in Washington, DC). We had city and nature adventures, visited several churches, took lots of time along the way for reflection, journaling and discussion. It was fantastic and I think I got as much, if not more, out of the trip than the teens did!

  21. I am fascinated with the idea of a personal pilgrimage. We were introduced to a beautiful pilgrimage in Lithuania in which the pilgrims sing much of the way.
    It takes seven days and a group of ten go together (as I recall). I believe we each
    yearn for a pilgrimage of some kind.

  22. I had the opportunity to make a pilgrimage to the St. Bernard Pass Monastery in Switzerland as a college student. In order to stay the night in the accommodating hospice free of charge you must make a “journey” or pilgrimage in your arrival and departure. We traveled by snow shoe in a wet June snow and were so welcomed by the sweet staff after such a soggy trip. We were fed and kept warm physically and spiritually. I’ll never forget slipping down to their morning meeting in the chapel at the first light of the day and the beautiful sounds of singing and praising that filled that special place. We left them with a hymn of our own (God Be With You Til We Meet Again) and filed that sweet spirit of humility and service away in our hearts forever.

    My pilgrimage (though not one of my own faith) was one I’ll never forget!

  23. In 2002 my wife and I walked the Camino de Santiago from St. Jean Pied de Port in France to the tomb of St. James the Apostle in Santiago de Compostela, Spain. We walked about 500 miles in 40 days. The experience was amazing- challenging and rewarding in physical, mental and spiritual ways.
    Practically speaking, if you have the time to do it, the Way itself is surprisingly accessible. There are plenty of good websites out there to advise on what you may need and where to go, but in reality we found that very few material things are needed for this walk and the things that you do need are often provided to you unexpected ways. You can (and should) go at your own pace- making your days as long or as short as you need to, so even the physical aspect of the Camino can be managed by most. Upon our return, my father (60 years old at the time) was so intrigued by our trip that he and I returned the following year and did the last 150 miles of the pilgrimage in about 2 weeks of walking.
    If anyone is interested in the Camino de Santiago, I’d be happy to try and answer any questions you have- the walk has been a true blessing in my life and encouraging others to do it is the least I could do to pass that on.
    Drew Pistilli

  24. A colleague of mine where I live and work in Germany had a lot of vacation she had to use, so she just up and took a month to do the Camino de Santiago in Spain on a whim. Apparently she lost most of her toenails and met a lot of interesting people. She’s spiritual but not religious and found the trip enlightening. A week after coming back she quit and moved to a job in Spain.

  25. It has been a busy week with school starting last week, so I am just catching up on your post this week. I wonder if Rick Steves would consider SLC and the temple as a pilgrimage for many people. We do not live in Utah, but we have made it a tradition to take each of our children to to the temple grounds the year they turn 8. My husband takes them to the book store and they get to pick out their scriptures, a case, and a picture of the temple for their bedroom.

    1. Kelleyn,
      Although not a true “pilgrimage” in definition, this is a very beautiful family tradition and one that I think we are going to copy! Do you take your 8 year olds to the SLC temple on their birthday, or the temple closest to where you live?

  26. This is fantastic, Gabby. I totally want to do the 10 day thing. I can’t imagine when though. Maybe when Harry is in college? Pilgrimage 2025!

  27. I’ve never been on a pilgrimage, but I have been to Mont St Michel and remember being awed by it. Only my dad and I actually climbed to the very tip top, and it was so worth it. I’d love to go back someday!

  28. I simply love Mont St Michel. My last trip to France was 12 years ago, and while mostly we played in Paris, renting a car to go see Mont St. Michel was a must. I loved the entire experience. Walking up to it on the fresh uncovered road, exploring the quaint town (even if it was covered with trinket/tourists shops), and walking up to the beautiful Abby.
    As much as I loved the Eiffel Tower, Notre Dame, Arc de Triomphe – I think my favorite place is a tie between Mont St. Michel and the Louvre (you can’t be in the Louvre and NOT love it!).

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