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Military Pilgrimage: Practices and Discourses (Part 2/2)

Panel Chairs: John Eade, Mario Katić | Monday, August 24, 3:30-5:30 p.m.

Although pilgrimage places have always been connected to nationalism, politics and the military from the Middle Ages (crusaders) to contemporary practices (e. g. Australian pilgrimage to Gallipoli or Western visitors to memorials from the First and Second World War), this connection has not been extensively investigated. Discussions have been largely framed within debates concerning ‘secular pilgrimage’, heritage and the relationship between pilgrimage and tourism. In this panel we want to broaden the theoretical and substantive focus. We have gathered scholars and case studies from around the world to analyse practices and discourses connected to Christian and non-Christian military pilgrimage in local and global contexts at national and trans-national levels. We want to observe military pilgrimage in both synchronic and diachronic perspectives and in relationship to politics and nationalism, as well as to individual pilgrims and/or different (secular and religious) agents connected with the establishment and organisation of different military pilgrimages.

Kamila Baraniecka-Olszewska

Sanctified History: On Pilgrimage to Memorial Sites with Polish Re-enactors

2014 was the year of the 70th anniversary of many important battles of WWII in which Polish soldiers took part. Historical re-enactors who recreated the history of military units fighting in WWII battlefields organized in 2014 several pilgrimages to memorial sites significant for Polish history. In the paper, I focus on pilgrimages of groups enacting Polish Armed Forces in the West and on travels of some of their members to Monte Cassino in Italy (May 2014) and Arnhem/Oosterbreek/Driel in Holland (September 2014). Although they are not WWII soldiers, re-enactors experience certain connection to heroes from the past, they honour them and try to recognize the past through their ‘microhistories’. Their pilgrimage route reflects the combat trail of Polish Armed Forces in the West and is marked – ‘sanctified’ to use re-enactors’ term – by the blood of Polish soldiers. Human history becomes sacral, is perceived as such by pilgrimage participants and finally can also be analyzed in terms of religion. It becomes an element of constructing personal and national identities.

Anna Fedele

About Templar Knights and Warriors of Light: Military Imagery in Alternative Pilgrimages to Catholic Shrines

This paper is based on fieldwork among pilgrims with a Christian background who have embraced contemporary spirituality (often described as New Age) and visit Catholic shrines in France related to Mary Magdalene and to dark Madonna statues. They do so to tap into the healing energies they believe to be present there. In this paper I will analyze the pilgrims’ strategies to test the efficacy of “spiritual” military figures as positive masculine models in their efforts towards a more spiritual, peaceful and sustainable society based on the equality of men and women. Analyzing the parallels my interlocutors drew between the spiritual warrior and the pilgrim I will also reflect about the influence that the stereotype of the medieval male Christian pilgrim still has even for these spiritual travelers that are so self-consciously fighting against patriarchy. In this context the Templar Knights provided a positive model of masculinity because they appeared as the exponents of a secret “medieval esoteric chivalry” and an “underground Church” promoting equality between men and women.

John Eade, Mario Katić

Theoretical and Substantive Approaches to the Study of Military Pilgrimage

This paper will review the development of research concerning military pilgrimage around the world and draw out the key theoretical perspectives and substantive themes. It will suggest new directions which research may follow based on the other papers presented in the panel. It will also relate these suggestions to the authors’ knowledge of two European pilgrimage centres – the international Marian shrine at Lourdes and more local shrines in Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Participants: Kamila Baraniecka-Olszewska, Anna Fedele, John Eade, Mario Katić


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Thematic Outline

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