Pilgrimage Routes, Sacred Places, and Contribution to Territories’ Sustainable Development

A special issue of Religions (ISSN 2077-1444).

Deadline for manuscript submissions: 31 October 2024 | Viewed by 2366

Special Issue Editor

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Guest Editor
Tourism, Heritage and Culture Department, Portucalense University, Dr. António Bernardino de Almeida Street, n.º 541/619, 4200-072 Porto, Portugal
Interests: humanities and social sciences, with a focus on archaeology; cultural heritage; preventive conservation; heritage management and spatial planning and sustainable development; impacts and threats to cultural heritage; heritage interpretation and enhancement; museology; universal accessibility; accessibility of heritage; cultural tourism; religious and accessible tourism; pilgrimages
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Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

The history of pilgrimage routes and sacred places is intertwined with the history of humanity and has played a crucial role in the development of territories over the centuries. These routes have been responsible for creating many localities and settling territories, creating sustainability that has made them last for generations.

Pilgrimage routes have ancient roots and are common in many religions. The first records of pilgrimage date back to pre-classical and classical times, from ancient Egypt through Persia, India, China, and Japan. Greeks and Romans consulted their local gods and oracles, such as that of Delphi. Hebrew pilgrims travelled to such diverse locations as Dan, Bethel, and Jerusalem. This pilgrimage was an ascetic religious practice in which the pilgrim moved to sacred places, trusting totally in Divine Providence in search of healing, spiritual guidance, and religious experiences.

During the Middle Ages, pilgrimage routes reached the height of their importance. Itineraries such as the Camino de Santiago in Spain and the Hajj, the pilgrimage to Mecca, have become iconic, lasting until today. These routes led to the construction of churches, monasteries, inns, and hospitals to accommodate pilgrims.

During the colonial era, indigenous cultures' religions and spiritual practices were often integrated into the religious practices of the colonisers, giving rise to new sacred places and pilgrimage routes.

Over the past few hundred years, pilgrimage routes have continued to evolve, becoming more accessible with the advancement of transportation and technology. New routes emerged, often combining historical and spiritual elements such as Catholic sites associated with saints, visions, and miracles such as Lourdes or Fatima.

Pilgrimage routes and the worship of holy places have a significant economic impact on the territories they cross. Pilgrims and tourists spend money on transportation, lodging, food, and souvenirs, creating jobs and stimulating local economies. Pilgrims acquire local handicrafts and products, providing a market for local artisans and preserving traditional skills.

Many sacred places also represent an important cultural and historical heritage. The preservation of these sites contributes to the conservation of the cultural and historical identity of the communities. They encourage cultural exchange as people from different backgrounds encounter local traditions and customs, enriching the region's cultural fabric.

Holy places often attract people from different religious backgrounds, promoting interfaith dialogue and mutual understanding, which can contribute to social cohesion and peace.

Increasing the number of pilgrims leads to investments that benefit visitors and residents. Local communities themselves often organise events, festivals, and services for pilgrims, creating a sense of unity and shared purpose.

Many pilgrimage routes pass through natural areas and sensitive ecosystems. This can raise awareness of environmental conservation and lead to support for protecting these areas.

Pilgrimage routes and sacred places offer spaces for reflection, meditation, and spiritual growth, contributing to visitors' and residents' emotional and spiritual well-being.

Properly managing pilgrimage routes and holy places is critical to ensure these benefits are sustainable and equitable. This includes responsible tourism practices, local community involvement, and responsible development, avoiding overcrowding, environmental degradation, and improper commercialisation of local culture. The sustainable development of these routes and sites must be carefully planned to preserve their long-term value.

There is still a scarcity of scientific literature on these and other related topics. With this Special Issue, we aim to fill these gaps by encouraging researchers from different areas to explore the possibilities of research on these themes in a multidisciplinary, interdisciplinary, diachronic and/or synchronised, and transversal way.

Prof. Dr. Fátima Matos Silva
Guest Editor

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  • religious places and regional planning
  • sacred sites and sustainability
  • universal accessibility in religious places
  • universal accessibility in routes and trails
  • religious routes and trails and sustainability
  • pilgrims and sustainability
  • religions and cultural heritage
  • resilience pilgrimage and motivations
  • sacred sites and evolution ecumenic
  • places of worship and religious tourism
  • cultural and religious routes and trails
  • the transformational potential of visiting holy sites
  • inner/outer experiences
  • secular/non-confessional trails
  • religion and commerce
  • religion and museums
  • religion and historical art

Published Papers (1 paper)

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37 pages, 5165 KiB  
Religious Tourism and Pilgrimage in Vâlcea County, South-West Oltenia Region: Motivations, Belief and Tourists’ Perceptions
by Ionuț-Adrian Drăguleasa, Amalia Niță, Mirela Mazilu and Emilia Constantinescu
Religions 2024, 15(3), 294; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel15030294 - 26 Feb 2024
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 1196
Vâlcea County in the South-West Oltenia Region, Romania, has a great diversity of tourist destinations and boasts an impressive number of monasteries, churches and places of worship. This research aims to comprehensively investigate how tourists perceive the main reasons for visiting religious settlements [...] Read more.
Vâlcea County in the South-West Oltenia Region, Romania, has a great diversity of tourist destinations and boasts an impressive number of monasteries, churches and places of worship. This research aims to comprehensively investigate how tourists perceive the main reasons for visiting religious settlements and the frequency in Vâlcea County, situated in the South-West Oltenia Region, by employing a two-stage methodology to understand the interplay of demographic variables, travel behaviors and individual motivations, while utilizing GIS and SPSS for spatial and quantitative analysis. The two stages are: (1) the analysis of the specialized literature to identify the motivations, beliefs and tourists’ perceptions regarding religious tourism and pilgrimage and (2) statistical analyses and interviews with internal stakeholders (residents), which present their tourist and religious perspective on Vâlcea County. The research questions aim to provide a comprehensive understanding of the intricate interplay between demographic variables, travel behaviors and individual motivations within this distinctive context. The research significantly contributes to furthering our understanding of the behavior of participants in religious tourism and pilgrimage in Vâlcea County, highlighting that certain variables, such as gender, education level and occupation, may or may not significantly impact their preferences and choices. Geographical Information System (GIS) software was used to map the study area and, at the same time, the main places of worship that were visited by tourists. The SPSS (version 15.0) program was used to investigate and analyze the quantitative research data. The results reveal that, in Vâlcea County’s religious tourism and pilgrimage, gender, age and education level do not significantly impact travel choices or visit durations. However, occupation emerges as a crucial factor influencing transportation preferences, while respondents’ place of origin shows no significant association with the presence of accompanying individuals during religious visits. The current research was limited by its focus on a single case study of Vâlcea County in the South-West Oltenia Region and the scarcity of previous studies on religious tourism and pilgrimage in Vâlcea County. Full article
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