Medieval Pilgrims and Modern Tourists

Walsingham (England) and Meryem Ana (Turkey)


  • Carole M. Cusack University of Sydney



Walsingham, Meryem Ana, Virgin Mary, pilgrimage, sacred waters, tourism


This article examines the Marian shrines of Walsingham (England) and Meryem Ana (Turkey). Walsingham was a popular pilgrimage site until the Reformation, when Catholic sacred places were disestablished or destroyed by Protestants. Meryem Ana is linked to Walsingham, in that both shrines feature healing springs and devotion to the cult of the “Holy House” of the Virgin Mary. Walsingham is now home to multi-faith pilgrimages, New Age seekers and secular tourists. Meryem Ana is a rare Christian shrine in Islamic Turkey, where mass tourists rub shoulders with devout Christians supporting the small Greek Catholic community in residence. This article emerged from the experience of walking the Walsingham Way, a modern route based on the medieval pilgrimage in 2012, and visiting Meryem Ana in 2015 while making a different pilgrimage, that of an Australian attending the centenary of the Gallipoli landings. Both shrines are marketed through strategies of history and heritage, making visiting them more than simply tourism. Both sites offer a constructed experience that references the Middle Ages and Christianity, bringing modern tourism in an increasingly secular world into conversation with ancient and medieval pilgrimage and the religious past.


Download data is not yet available.

Author Biography

Carole M. Cusack, University of Sydney

Carole M. Cusack is Professor of Religious Studies at the University of Sydney. She trained as a medievalist and her doctorate was published as Conversion Among the Germanic Peoples (Cassell, 1998). Since the late 1990s she has taught in contemporary religious trends. She is the author of Invented Religions: Imagination, Fiction and Faith (Ashgate, 2010).


Abraham, Heather 2008 The Shrine of Our Lady of Ephesus: A Study of the Personas of Mary as Lived Religion. Master of Arts diss., Georgia State University.

Carroll, Michael P. 2010 Pilgrimage at Walsingham on the Eve of the Reformation: Speculations on a “Splendid Diversity” only Dimly Perceived. In Walsingham in Literature and Culture from the Middle Ages to Modernity, edited by Dominic Janes and Gary Waller, 35–48. Farnham and Burlington, VT: Ashgate.

Cohen, Erik 1979 A Phenomenology of Tourist Experiences. Sociology 13: 179–201. 10.1177/003803857901300203

Coleman, Simon 2000 Meanings of Movement, Place and Home at Walsingham. Culture and Religion: An Interdisciplinary Journal 1(2): 153–69.

Digance, Justine 2003 Pilgrimage at Contested Sites. Annals of Tourism Research 30(1): 143–59. https://

----- 2006 Religious and Secular Pilgrimage: Journeys Redolent with Meaning. In Tourism, Religion and Spiritual Journeys, edited by Dallen J. Timothy and Daniel H. Olsen, 36–48. London: Routledge.

Gallagher, Amelia 2016 Mary’s House in Ephesus, Turkey: Interfaith Pilgrimage in the Age of Mass Tourism. Vincentian Heritage Journal 33(2). Online: (accessed 25 December 2016).

Granella, Oriana 2011 Meryem Ana: Visitor’s Guide to the Meryem Ana Sanctuary and the Christian History of Ephesus. Fidenza: Edizione Eteria.

Hall, D. J. 1967 English Medieval Pilgrimage. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul.

Heimann, Mary 1995 Catholic Devotion in Victorian England. Oxford: Oxford University Press. https://doi. org/10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198205975.001.0001

Hobsbawm, Eric J., and Terence Ranger (eds) 1992 The Invention of Tradition. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press [1983].

Hole, Denis (with Colin Stephenson, Alan Carefull and Christopher Colven) 1990 Walsingham: England’s Nazareth. Fakenham: Iceni Press [1969].

Hostler, Ethel 1999 The Charlotte Boyd Connection. In Walsingham: Pilgrimage and History, edited by A. Williams, 97–116. Fakenham: Lanceni Press.

Jansen, Willy, and Meike Kühl 2008 Shared Symbols: Muslims, Marian Pilgrimages and Gender. European Journal of Women’s Studies 15(3): 295–311.

Kass, John 2012 Izmir Bears Testament to the Procession of Civilizations. Chicago Tribune, April 13. Online: 20120413-column.html (accessed November 29, 2016).

Kim, Hyounggon, and Tazim Jamal 2007 Touristic Quest for Existential Authenticity. Annals of Tourism Research 34(1): 181– 201.

Lyon, David 2002 Jesus in Disneyland: Religion in Postmodern Times. Oxford: Polity [2000].

MacCannell, Dean 1999 The Tourist: A New Theory of the Leisure Class. Berkeley: University of California Press [1976].

Meinardus, Otto M. H. 1996 The Virgin Mary as Mediatrix between Christians and Muslims in the Middle East. Marian Studies XLVII: 88–101.

Merrill, John N. 2003 The Walsingham Way: Ely to Walsingham. Bristol: Wye Valley Press.

Mollica, Marcello 2011 Understanding Determinants: Syrian Orthodox Christians and Security-Related Issues in Diyarbakir and the Tur Abdin. Urban Anthropology and the Study of Cultural Systems and World Economic Development 40(1-2): 109–150.

Mullen, Peter 1998 Shrines of Our Lady. London: Piatkus.

Murphy O’Connor, Jerome 2008 St Paul’s Ephesus: Texts and Archaeology. Collegeville, MN: Michael Glazier/Liturgical Press.

Norman, Alex 2011 Spiritual Tourism: Travel and Religious Practice in Western Society. London and New York: Continuum.

Öter, Zafer, and Mehmet Yavuz Çetinkaya 2016 Interfaith Tourist Behaviours at Religious Heritage Sites: House of the Virgin Mary Case in Turkey. International Journal of Religious Tourism and Pilgrimage 4(4): 1–18.

Pülz, Andreas 2012 Archaeological Evidence of Christian Pilgrimage in Ephesus. HEROM: Journal on Hellenistic and Roman Material Culture 1(1): 225–60.

Rinschede, Gisbert 1992 Forms of Religious Tourism. Annals of Tourism Research 19(1): 51–67. https://doi. org/10.1016/0160-7383(92)90106-Y

Seward, Desmond 1993 The Dancing Sun: Journeys to the Miracle Shrines. London: Macmillan.

Sharma, K. K. 1994 Tourism and Socio-Cultural Development. New Delhi: Sarup & Sons.

Shoemaker, Stephen J. 2016 Mary in Early Christian Faith and Devotion. New Haven, CT and London: Yale University Press.

Singer, Stella A. 2010 Walsingham’s Local Genius: Norfolk’s “Newe Nazareth.” In Walsingham in Literature and Culture from the Middle Ages to Modernity, edited by Dominic Janes and Gary Waller, 23–34. Farnham and Burlington, VT: Ashgate.

Slavin, Sean 2003 Walking as Spiritual Practice: The Pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela. Body and Society 9(3): 1–18.

Sparks, Robert Logan 2015 Adab as Facilitator of Spatial Negotiation in Shared Muslim-Christian Ritual. History of Religions 55(2): 196–221.

Starr, Stephen 2014 Turkey Accused of Turning Blind Eye to the Destruction of Christian Sites. The Irish Times, November 10. Online: turkey-accused-of-turning-blind-eye-to-destruction-of-christian-sites-1.1994442 (accessed November 29, 2016).

Stephenson, Colin 1970 Walsingham Way. London: Darton, Longman & Todd.

Turner, Victor, and Edith Turner 2011 Image and Pilgrimage in Christian Culture. New York: Columbia University Press [1978].

Vengco, Sabino A. 2005 Mary among the Goddesses. Landas 19(1): 119–40.

Walsham, Alexandra 2011 The Reformation of the Landscape. Oxford: Oxford University Press. 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199243556.001.0001

Watkin, Aelred 2001 The Glastonbury Legends. In Glastonbury Abbey and the Arthurian Legend, edited by James P. Carley, 13–27. Cambridge: D. S. Brewer.

Yasin, Ann Marie 2012 Response: Materializing the Study of Late Antique Pilgrimage. HEROM: Journal on Hellenistic and Roman Material Culture 1(1): 261–75. herom.1.10



How to Cite

Cusack, C. (2017). Medieval Pilgrims and Modern Tourists: Walsingham (England) and Meryem Ana (Turkey). Fieldwork in Religion, 11(2), 217–234.




Most read articles by the same author(s)