Traveling to Europe can be a life-changing experience for every Catholic. There are numerous pilgrimage sites in Western Europe, as well as in the Eastern Europe, to visit. These sites not only remind you of the history (both good and bad) and the beauty of Catholicism, but also indoctrinate you on the Catholic teachings and allow you to do deep reflection in life.
The religion Catholicism, or The Roman Catholic church, has a rich history in the Western Europe civilizations and is still very prominent in the modern period in Spain, France, and Italy. The Catholic belief also spread throughout various places more particularly during the colonization period, such as in Philippines, Brazil, Mexico, and United States. As a Catholic from Philippines, living in the Netherlands has been a privilege to visit these Catholic pilgrimage sites. For this blog, I will focus on the top pilgrimage sites in Western Europe.
Best pilgrimage sites in Western Europe
1. Lindesfarne, Northumbria
Lindesfarne, which is also referred as the Holy Land, is located in the Northeast coast of England close to Scotland. Lindesfarne is a center of Christianity in the Northumbrian region of England. The assault of the Vikings in Lindesfarne during the 793 marks the beginning of the Viking period in Europe and had sent shock to the Christianity in England. According to chronicles, the Vikings seized treasures from the Roman Catholics, trampled the bodies of saints in the streets, spattered the church with the blood of priests and plundered everything that they can get in the area. Indeed, it was such a horrible time to live! But nowadays, Lindesfarne is such a peaceful place to visit with monastery or castle in the center of the island. If you spend more days in Northumbria and are interested to know other places close by, you can also visit the city of Newcastle which is more than an hour drive from Lindesfarne. Check my blog on Half-day city tour in Newcastle England to know more.
2. Mont Saint Michel
Mont Saint Michel is a tidal island with a monastery located in Normandy France. This place is a famous pilgrimage destination, with more than 3 million visitors every year. According to a legend, the archangel Michael appeared to the bishop of Avranches and instructed him to build a church on the top of this island. The low tide makes the island to be visible and reachable in the past, but now a hydraulic dam was built in order to remove the accumulated mud and make Mont Saint Michel an island again. Mont Saint Michel as well as the areas surrounding its bay are enlisted in UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
3. Lourdes France
Lourdes France, which lies along the Pyrenees region, is another famous pilgrimage site for many Catholics worldwide. Around four million Catholics per year visit the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Lourdes. In particular, most visitors come to visit the Grotto of Massabielle, a famous apparition area of Mary mother of Jesus to the peasant Bernadette Soubirous. Every day, hundreds of sick and believers come and pray for their healing and wishes. Lourdes France is close to the north of Spain and therefore it is possible to combine your visit with other pilgrimage sites in north of Spain, such as the Camino de Santiago. Also interested on other sites in the south of France, check out my blog on the French cities close to the Spanish border.
4. El Camino de Santiago Spain
El Camino de Santiago, or the route of Saint (Apostle) James, is a popular pilgrimage route in Europe. In fact, the route crosses countries such as France, Spain, and Portugal. There are around 200,000 pilgrims visitor every year. The pilgrim includes 2-weeks (a month or depends on how much time the pilgrim takes place) walking on the trail of St. James. Often with a backpack, knocking on the door of other people’s house or staying in a bed and breakfast before moving to the next destination is a way to survive during the pilgrim. In Spain, the journey allows you to visit many historical and religious sites. Various places to walk through include Pamplona, Navarrete, Leon and Santiago de Compostella.
5. Vatican City
Vatican is an independent state that lies within the city of Rome and is the seat of the Roman Catholic. Even though Vatican is small (in fact the smallest independent state in the world) in terms of size, its power can be felt in various places worldwide throughout the centuries. The pope, which is the head of the Roman Catholic, resides in Vatican. Around 800 people, which include clergies and Swiss guards that guard the life of the pope, live in Vatican. For ordinary person, it is impossible to live in this smallest country of the world. In terms of visitors, around 5000 people come to visit Vatican very year (Grunge.com).
6. Fatima Portugal
Fatima in Portugal is a home to the sanctuary of Our Lady of Fatima. This is another site of apparition of Mary Mother of Jesus, who is also known as Fatima in the place. She appeared in several apparitions with the three peasant children namely Francisco, Jacinta, and Lucia, to spread the godly message of prayer in Rosaries in order to achieve peace. To know about the details of these apparitions, please check the site Portugal.com. Fatima can be reached via a day trip from Lisbon. With a bus, it takes an hour and 30 minutes drive to reach Fatima.