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Pilgrim Trains in the 19th and 21st Century

Panel Chair: Gábor Barna | Tuesday, August 25, 1:30-3 p.m. | Venue

The spread of public transport in the mid-19th century changed people’s travel habits. It also brought change in travel for religious purposes, enabling a new form of religious mass tourism to emerge. As the railways grew into a European network, distant shrines became more accessible. Long-distance pilgrimages were revived and grew to a mass scale, reviving or augmenting the popularity of some shrines. Special trains were organised for pilgrimages within individual countries too, enabling new trends to flourish. Ethnological research and anthropology of religion have paid little attention to this form of mass pilgrimage that is still alive and has ‘traditional’ forms in many countries of Europe. The papers for this panel should analyse the past and present organisation and itineraries of pilgrim trains and their influence on the shrines, as well as the spread of devotional forms, votive objects, songs and religious souvenirs, identity-building both within specific countries and internationally.

Marion Bowman

Railways, Rivalry and the Revival of Pilgrimage in Glastonbury

When formal pilgrimage to Glastonbury resumed in 1895 after 350 years, the advent of the railway there enabled 1500 Catholic pilgrims to arrive from all over Britain to celebrate the beatification of the Glastonbury Catholic martyrs Whiting, Thorne and James. In 1897, the 1300th anniversary of St Augustine’s arrival in England was commemorated by ‘an international pilgrimage’ of 130 Anglican bishops to Glastonbury Abbey, led by the Archbishop of Canterbury after the 1897 Lambeth Conference. The Bishops were able to make a day trip from London on the train. This paper examines the role of railways in the revival and conduct of pilgrimage to Glastonbury, highlighting both ’diverse processes of sacralization of movement, persons and/ or places’ and the idea of ‘meta-movement – the combination of mobility itself with a degree of reflexivity as to its meaning, form and function’ (Coleman and Eade’s 2004:18).

John Eade

Railways and the Development of Lourdes: Meaning and Movement in a Changing Europe

During the second half of the 19th century the development of Lourdes from a small frontier town into a bustling, international pilgrimage centre was intimately bound up with W. Europe’s rapidly expanding railway system. The railway acquired more than an economic significance – it was symbolically important in political and cultural terms. Mobility was combined with a variety of meanings (Coleman and Eade 2004) concerning different collectivities, i.e. the Church, nation, pilgrims, tourists etc. Since the 1950s, however, the iconic status of the railway has weakened as road and air transport has expanded. Individual choice has increased undermining established meanings. Current discussions about the shrine’s future anxiously refer to the vast majority of visitors, who appear to be tourists, highlighting the complicated relationship between pilgrimage and tourism, religious and non-religious motivations, modern and post-modern/post-secular processes.

Gábor Barna

Pilgrims and Identity-building

Pilgrimages serve not only religious but simultaneously secular (wordly) aims. Since the middle of the 14th century, the rich donation of the Hungarian King, Louis the Great for Mariazell the place was regarded as national shrine of Hungarians which was strengthened by the second cult-object, the Schatzkammerbild, the donation of the Hungarian king, too. The Virgin Mary of Mariazell is called as Magna Domina Hungarorum. The cloister of Czestochowa was founded by Hungarian Pauline monks supported by the Hungarian King, Louis the Great and is rich in Hungarian memorials until our days. The Pauline Order is the only Roman Catholic religious order founded by Hungarians. The third place of pilgrimage, Csíksomlyó where pilgrim trains regularly visit is situated in Szeklerland (Transylvania) in a homogeneous Hungarian region, occupied by Romania after the WWI. To visit these three shrines means to build and cultivate not only the Catholic faith, catholicity but to strengthen the Hungarian historical roots in Central-Europe, to keep up the traditional friendship between Poles and Hungarians and to promote the cultural and historical connections with Hungarians living outside of the today Hungary.


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