Pilgrimages have become more popular all over the world in recent years. New pilgrimage sites are emerging and in Europe Muslims and Christians are visiting each other’s pilgrimage sites.
European Muslims have increasingly been visiting pilgrimage sites in recent years, and Mecca is not the only one that matters.
“We are seeing new Muslim pilgrimage practices being established in Europe. People are still travelling to well-established pilgrimage sites in Asia and Africa, but new pilgrimage sites are also emerging in Europe and old sites are being renovated.”
Ingvild Flaskerud is a researcher at the Faculty of Theology, University of Oslo. She has edited the book Muslim Pilgrimage in Europe together with her colleague Richard J. Natvig of the University of Bergen. Researchers from several European countries have contributed.
New pilgrimage sites emerging
The researchers have identified a number of trends: in recent years, Muslims have established a number of new pilgrimage sites, especially in Western Europe. This has happened in places where, for example, important religious figures are buried. In this way, Muslim immigrants are continuing old traditions with saints’ graves that can be found in South East Europe, Asia and Africa.
“We are also seeing the emergence of common Christian and Muslim pilgrimage sites. For example, in Brittany in France, a Christian pilgrimage site has been converted to a site for both religions due to the site’s connection to a story that is also found in Islam,” says Flaskerud.
New pilgrimage sites can strengthen the identity of a religious group but can also help build bridges between several groups, like in the example from Brittany.
Christians and Muslims visiting the same sites
In recent years, Muslims have also increasingly visited Christian pilgrimage sites, especially in Southern Europe, but also Nidaros Cathedral in Trondheim. And while Muslims are visiting Christian sites, Christians are also visiting Muslims ones, which can often also be found in South East Europe.