The Geography of Pilgrimage
Pilgrims were not the only travellers on the highways and waterways of medieval Europe and, as we have seen, they were not alone in shaping routes and the provision of services along them. As road-users merchants and pilgrims alike built on the foundations laid by innumerable generations of previous travellers. Shrines and roads existed in a complex symbiosis. The fact that a city was of major importance or enjoyed an advantageous situation did not of itself guarantee that it would be comparably important for pilgrims, except perhaps as a convenient halt. Conversely, while shrines often derived additional custom from their position on a well-frequented road, that was not normally the sole reason for the appearance of a shrine of major importance. The goals of pilgrimage were set in a variety of historical circumstances and sometimes in curious places. In their efforts to reach them, pilgrims had good practical reasons to try to make their journeys as easy and secure as it was possible for them to be in pre-modern conditions. Wherever they could, they adopted roads which were already viable and offered the best available security and amenities; at the same time, the increased traffic created by pilgrimage sharpened both commercial and charitable incentives to provide and improve support services along those roads, as well as to create, or at least promote, shrines along or within reach of them.
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