Thomas Devaney: Pilgrimages: Place-making and Storytelling

Dr. Thomas Devaney (University of Rochester) will give a talk on pilgrimages on Thursday 22 April 2021 at 2PM (Zoom).

The title of the presentation is Pilgrimages: Place-making and Storytelling

Pilgrim shrines are physical places full of meanings. They are places of convergence. In them, divine and mortal, past and present, the living and the dead, and so much more come together. We can perhaps easily picture some of the more famous pilgrimage destinations (such as the Holy Sepulchre, Rome, or Assisi) which were linked to scriptural events or to saints. But how did other, sometimes seeming arbitrary, places come to be associated with the power of God in the world? The early modern world was replete with such shrines, often located in remote or otherwise obscure places. This talk will explore the ways in which people used stories—of shrines’ origins and of wondrous miracles—to explain the celestial relevance of these sites and to connect local communities with cosmic forces. But stories did much more than this, and the talk will also look at how they structured the ways in which pilgrims experienced holy spaces. Through stories, people learned where to go on pilgrimage, what they might hope for, how to behave, and what to feel. In other words, stories conditioned how people interacted with their environments. Place and space, heavenly and earthly, wilderness and civilization—this talk will delve into the many ways in which storytelling reimagined the physical world.

To participate, please, send an e-mail to – we will send you the Zoom link.

Photo: Domes of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre (Creative Commons, israeltourism)