Pilgrimage and England's Cathedrals

Project dates: 
October 2014 - February 2018

Project Overview

The interior of Canterbury Cathedral

This innovative three-year research project analysed the role of pilgrimage in the past and its renewed popularity today, exploring parallels with the decline and revival of interest in England’s cathedrals.

The £806,000 Art and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) funded project was based in the Centre for Pilgrimage Studies, an international, interdisciplinary centre within the History Department at the University of York. 'Pilgrimage and England's Cathedrals, past and present' involved researchers from York, the Open University and the University of Toronto and was led by Dr Dee Dyas, Director of the York Centre for Pilgrimage Studies (and also Director of the Centre for the Study of Christianity and Culture).

The project was centred on historical and contemporary case studies of four cathedrals – Canterbury, York, Durham and Westminster – chosen to represent a range of historical, geographical and social settings.

Using a ground-breaking combination of methods, researchers examined pilgrimage and engagement with sacred sites in England from the 11th to the 21st centuries, assessed the growing significance of England’s cathedrals as sacred/heritage/tourist sites today, and suggested ways to enhance visitor experiences in the future.

This project is set against the background of the worldwide growth of pilgrimage and the increasing importance of sacred sites. Today’s cathedrals are increasingly refocusing on and reinstating shrines, reflecting an international multi-faith phenomenon in which an estimated 200 million people across the world are undertaking various forms of ‘religious’ pilgrimage annually.