Travel During the Middle Ages – Early Medical Tourism & Pilgrims

Travel during the middle ages.  During the Middle Ages how on earth did people travel.  Just what were there conveyances, how did they travel what did they see and visit, was it safe and where did they stay?  How did the people of the middle ages travel if at all?

During the middle ages, pilgrimages were undertaken for a variety of purposes.  Some individuals traveled to religious sites for the forgiveness of their sins, others to receive a “divine” cure for their health problems.  While religion was the primary purpose for pilgrimage travel, adventure, learning and merriment were also on the trip venue and agenda.

Santiago de Compostela

Several shines or churches shaped a common itinerary.  The most popular sites included Santiago de Compostela in Spain , the famous churches of  Paris France, the seat of the Roman Catholic Church in Rome, and the Holy Land – especially of course Jerusalem.  Since the pilgrim was in search of forgiveness or indulgence (years of forgiveness), proof had to obtain.  This was often provided in the form of a pendant or pin – in essence a kind of “holy souvenir”.

Travel was by foot or horseback; when possible pilgrims traveled by boat or horse-drawn coach or coaches.  The mass pilgrimages required communities nearby the shrines or along popular routes to provide accommodations for these spiritual or “medical tourism “, (of its day) travelers and wayfarers.  Some inns catered only to particular nationalities and clienteles; others varied by location and in terms of resources of the travelers and the traveler’s groups and groupings.  Very popular sites had an array of inns and hostels to accommodate weary travelers in search of salvation or specialized medical care for those in desperation of medical and health care – not available in their local areas and locales.   No doubt in addition earthly pleasures and curiosities were provided by the “service and hospitality “industries.

Canterbury Cathedral

Lastly people traveled in groups to guard against robbers and muggers on the roads. They did this also for comfort and merriment.   For example in the “Canterbury Tales” Chaucer captures the atmosphere of a merry, unique band of travelers on their way and enroute to Canterbury in the British Isles – specifically England.   It can be said that although all types of people made pilgrimages, that this specific journey and most trips of this time period – that is the “Middle Ages” were by the far the most pleasant for those of means.

Its amazing that even comparing travel currently to the Middle Ages themselves, that the more things change, the more they stay the same.  The travel and tourism industry today can be summarized no clearly and succinctly than that.

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