Calls for Papers/Sep 27, 2016

Emergence of Sacred Travel

Emergence of Sacred Travel lead image

The Emergence of Sacred Travel: Comparativism and the Study of Ancient Mediterranean Pilgrimage, Aarhus University, May 17–19, 2017

This will be the third and final major symposium, organised under the auspices of the collaborative research project “The Emergence of Sacred Travel (EST): Experience, Economy, and Connectivity in Ancient Mediterranean Pilgrimage” funded 2013-2017 by a Sapere Aude grant from the Danish Council for Independent Research ( and directed by Troels Myrup Kristensen.

The symposium provides a comparative, cross-disciplinary platform for the discussion of ancient pilgrimage. Focus on the act of pilgrimage is reshaping our understanding of the interconnections between the religious traditions of the Mediterranean Basin by linking Jewish pilgrims to the Jerusalem Temple with the theoric interdynamics between major Greek sanctuaries, the power of healing shrines to attract travellers on simultaneously sacred and medically-motivated journeys in Greek, Roman, and other cultural contexts with the explicit 'pilgrimage' traditions of Christian or Muslim holy centres or healing places.

Bridging traditional chronological and disciplinary divisions, the symposium seeks to compare and contrast  'Classical' traditions of sacred travel (set wide to include continental Europe, the Mediterranean, Near East and North Africa during the first millennium BC-AD) with both earlier and later forms of pilgrimage. By acknowledging the emergence of sacred travel within this long-term trajectory, we get a clearer picture of the phenomenon’s later historical development, including Islamic Hajj, Medieval travel to the Holy Land and contemporary traditions of pilgrimage, as well as discovering what structural, social or experiential similarities and differences can be drawn out. By actively seeking scholarly interactions from different disciplines – prehistoric, Classical and medieval archaeology, human geography, theology and religious studies, history, and literary studies – and with a variety of theoretical perspectives – sociological, phenomenological, economic – the symposium aims to illuminate the emergence, place and endurance of pilgrimage as a form of religious behaviour.

We are particularly interested in comparative papers that bridge traditional disciplinary and chronological boundaries.