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Abstract

Towards the end of 2020, this journal published an issue devoted to the impact of COVID-19. The novel coronavirus was having a devastating effect not only on public health but also on the global religious tourism industry. Places of worship closed, pilgrimage events and activities were cancelled, and travel restrictions limited mobility. A viable vaccination was predicted to be eighteen months away. One contributor even asked, ‘Is this the end of pilgrimage?’

This article re-examines and re-evaluates the impact of COVID-19, taking up some of the themes introduced in the 2020 issue. Focusing on western pilgrimage, with evidence from online English-language articles and social media commentaries, I examine how the global pandemic impacted pilgrimage destinations and their visitors between March 2020 and November 2021.

Online media sources documented the different ways pilgrim destinations and pilgrims adapted to the pandemic, revealing how restrictions imposed on religious sites and events led to alternative ways of experiencing pilgrimage. In highlighting four ‘pandemic trends’ which particularly caught the attention of the media, I show that these seemingly new pilgrimage modes are, in fact, not new at all, but reassert medieval precedents or promote trends already emerging in post-secular culture. After considering two case studies – Lough Derg in Ireland and the shrine of Our Lady of Lourdes in France – I offer some tentative conclusions about the relevance of these pandemic pilgrimage trends in a post-pandemic world.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 4.0 License.

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