Monday, February 15, 2010

Pilgrimage: A Cultural and Spiritual Journey

A recent book by St Andrews University academic Rev Dr Ian Bradley, which offers a history of the pilgrimage over the past two millennia, is to be translated into Arabic.

Pilgrimage: A Cultural and Spiritual Journey, which came out last year, sets out common routes in Ireland, Scotland, England, Wales, Norway, France, Spain, Italy, Bosnia-Herzogovina, and Poland and brings them to life through vivid personal accounts and prayers from pilgrims.

Dr Bradley, who is Reader in Church History and Practical Theology at St Andrews University and Associate Minister of Holy Trinity Church, said that the news of the Arabic translation came as a complete surprise but reflects the resurgence of interest in pilgrimage across the world. The book has already been published in Norwegian and Danish editions in the past few months.

The practice of pilgrimage, understood as a departure from daily life on a journey in search of spiritual wellbeing, is a central feature of all the world's major faiths.

Christian pilgrimage reached its zenith in the Middle Ages with thousands travelling for many months to Rome, Santiago de Compostela, St Andrews and other shrines thought to house the relics of Apostles and martyrs.

The book explores the phenomenon pilgrimage from its origins in the Exodus and wilderness experience of the Jews; the medieval times when millions of pilgrims spent months travelling across Europe; and the modern revival which has blurred the lines between pilgrimage and tourism and made places such as Iona, Taizé and Santiago di Compostella destinations for contemporary seekers and travellers.

"As church attendance has plummeted," Dr. Bradley explains, "more people are travelling the old medieval pilgrim routes across Europe or visiting shrines old and new."

Dr Bradley is actively involved in the project to create a long-distance pilgrim way between Iona, through Highland Stirlingshire to St Andrews, about which he writes at some length in his recent book.

Dr Bradley said, "It would be wonderful if the appearance of my book in Arabic brings pilgrims from the Middle East and the Arab world to Scotland, and especially to St Andrews."