A pilgrim is someone who goes on a journey to a special religious place. When a pilgrim visits the special place s/he hopes to get closer to God, to experience God’s presence in a special way. The journey itself is called a pilgrimage. It is a popular form of worship.

Many people went on pilgrimages in the Middle Ages because they thought the end of the world would soon happen. Before going on a pilgrimage the pilgrim would have to sort out his business affairs, making sure that his family was well provided for and that he had made his will.

Every year millions of pilgrims from many different religions still go on pilgrimages, whether they are rich or poor, male or female, young or old.

Many pilgrims may be in good health, but for some the journey is a journey of hope. Those who are ill may travel to a holy site in the hope of getting better, especially if they have an illness which doctors cannot cure. Long ago, if someone was too ill to go on a pilgrimage, they might have asked a friend to go on a pilgrimage instead of them. There were even people, called Palmers, who spent their life going on pilgrimages on behalf of sick people who could not travel themselves.

Some people who have recovered from an illness may go on a pilgrimage to give thanks to God for their recovery.

At most holy sites there is a well, river or spring of water where the pilgrims can bathe. Water is a sign of purity and when pilgrims bathe in the water they hope that it washes away any badness in them. Many pilgrims like to take a small bottle of holy water home with them as a reminder of their journey and to feel closer to God. They keep this in a safe place because it is special to them.