English Visitors to Rome in the Middle Ages

M.L. Clarke describes how, from the seventh century onwards, Rome attracted from Britain faithful pilgrims and churchmen with business to transact.

With the decline and fall of the Roman Empire the city of Rome dwindled and decayed. It had owed its wealth and prosperity to political power, and when that power was lost life ebbed away from it. But decayed though it was, it was not dead. It took on a new role as a religious centre. Spiritual power succeeded worldly power; the capital of the Empire became the centre of the Western Church.

In the Middle Ages embassies and individuals came to Rome as they had done in the days of her secular greatness, but now they came on ecclesiastical business. Moreover, Rome was the place of martyrdom of St Peter and St Paul and of numerous lesser saints, the goal of pilgrims hoping to acquire merit and free themselves from the stains of this world.

After Pope Gregory’s mission had done its work, and the Saxons had adopted Christianity, they were second to no other nation in devotion to the see of Rome and to the holy places of the city. Bishops and monks, kings and commoners, undertook the arduous journey across Europe to Rome.

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