Travelling in the Middle Ages

Following in the Pilgrims’ Footsteps

Following in the footsteps of the European idea – Trips on the European cultural TRANSROMANICA route

The thought of a common European consciousness is older than most people are aware of. First beginnings can already be found on the routes of the Middle Ages. It was especially during the Age of Romanesque that people were extremely mobile. Thousands of people travelled along the land and water routes of Europe. One of the most popular ways of travelling was by making a pilgrimage. During their pilgrimage people would often come across new ideas which they would take back home with them and use. Pilgrims returning home would quite often cause craftsmen or architects to carry out work which was similar to what they had seen or to inform themselves at the original site. Traces of the wealth of experience which was shared in this manner can be found on the cultural TRANSROMANICA route. Cloisters, churches and other buildings in various regions offer tourists an insight into the architectural style and the spirit of the Age of Romanesque.

Contemporary pilgrimages

Although tourists travelling on the TRANSROMANICA route will not be following a firmly established path, they will nevertheless be able to see themselves as being legitimate followers of the pilgrims of the Middle Ages. This is because “pilgrims” have symbolised mobility throughout the ages. The routes of the TRANSROMANICA regions extend beyond all existing borders from Saxony-Anhalt and Thuringia through the Austrian province of Carinthia and on into the Italian provinces of Piedmont, from Modena, Parma and Ferrara to Slovenia and beyond to Serbia, with the regions of northern Spain and France also having joined the TRANSROMANICA route. Their common Romanesque style in art and architecture has connected these regions on a European level for centuries now.

Whereas the pilgrims of the Middle Ages were mainly interested in the spiritual enrichment of their journey, today’s tourists are more interested in satisfying their personal curiosity, relaxing and enjoying themselves or in educating themselves away from home. The stops along the TRANSROMANICA route link the past with the demands of the present depending on what the individual traveller is looking for: either a quiet stop at a collegiate church in Carinthia, the imposing sight of the cathedral in Modena or the feudal atmosphere of Podsreda castle in Slovenia. Fascination, faith and reverential awe are all experiences which are common to these and many other places. Those wishing to take a few steps on a real pilgrims’ path can of course also do this with the scope of the TRANSROMANICA route, for example either on the Hemma pilgrims’ path in Carinthia ( or in Italy on the Via Francigena which leads from Canterbury to Rome.

Experience the Romanesque and Middle Ages

Special offers such as a “Temporary Cloister Residence” allow travellers to link the experience of the Romanesque and Middle Ages with contemplation, e.g. at Gurk cathedral, Helfta cloister or also Drübeck cloister. For those who would really like to know what it feels like to be a modern pilgrim, we recommend the great medieval pilgrims’ paths – the St. James Way, also known as the Camino de Santiago trail, which leads to Santiago de Compostela and crosses the TRANSROMANICA route in Saxony-Anhalt and northern Spain.

A Pilgrimage through History

The idea of a common European awareness is older than many would believe. Society in the Romanesque era was very mobile, and many thousands travelled through Europe by land or using waterways. The most common travels were pilgrimages.

St. James’s Way is the most famous pilgrimage road in the world. It is a UNESCO World Heritage site, and was the first cultural road to be recognised by the Council of Europe. In the Spanish region of Castile and Leon, TRANSROMANICA and St. James’s Way intersect. During his travels, the pilgrim will come across numerous Romanesque churches which lie along the Camino Frances, the main medieval traffic route leading from the Pyrenees to St. James’s tomb in Santiago de Compostela. Burgos and Zamora are important stops along the route; here lie the Monastery Santo Domingo de Silos and the Cathedral of Zamora – two of the best examples of Romanesque architecture in Spain and places of reflection for the pilgrims. Side-roads to St. James’s Way lead through Portugal (starting in Lisbon, along the Atlantic coast), leading through Carinthia, Austria (via Lavamund and Lienz) and the German federal state of Saxony-Anhalt (through Jerichow, Magdeburg and Naumburg). It is up to the pilgrim to choose one of the various routes, and to greet fellow pilgrims with the call of “Ultreia!” along the way. For those who don’t want to brave the long pilgrimage route immediately, there are several shorter paths along TRANSROMANICA that invite you to relax your body, soul, and spirit. The 32-kilometer Harz Monastery Hiking Trail leads you along nature trails to the monasteries of Drubeck, Ilsenburg, Woltingerode and Grauhof near Goslar. Pilgrimages are for those seeking meaning, with a thirst for culture and a desire for simplicity – no matter where their travels take them!