Shrines and Pilgrimages Before the Reformation

During the Reformation, writes Christine King, Tudor agents demolished many venerated shrines, and made great use of the frauds and trickeries that they claimed to have detected.

There are a few modern books on the shrines of medieval England; and, given the fascination of the subject, it is perhaps surprising there are not more. Such sacred places of pilgrimage may be divided roughly into five categories. First came those founded before the Conquest. Often built on an ancient holy spot, they usually contained the bodies of missionaries, bishops, founders or martyrs.

Of shrines of saints founded after the Conquest there were two groups, those enclosing the relics of canonized saints, and those containing the bones of uncanonized unofficial saints like Simon de Montfort, whose cult was unsuccessfully attacked by both Church and Crown. The shrines of the Virgin Mary, the most important being at Walsingham, belonged to the fourth category. The fifth, which I discuss here, held relics of a miscellaneous kind.

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