It is not therefore surprising that moralists of the time,
especially the Lollards, strongly objected to pilgrimages. The
Lollard William Thorpe's decscription of pilgrimages sounds
very much like Chaucer's, complete with bagpipes and bells on
She hadde passed many a straunge strem;
At Rome she hadde been, and at Boloigne,
In Galice at Seint-Jame, and at Coloigne.
She koude muchel of wandrynge by the weye.
Pilgrimages began as exercises in penance, as defined in
The Parson's Tale:
William Wey's Itinerary.
Compared to the trip to Jerusalem, the voyage to Compostella was
brief, but it was by no means easy:
A Sea Voyage to Compostella
Such credit accrued to those who made such journeys that professional
pilgrims were soon making the journey, returning with relics, badges,
and pilgrim symbols (such as the palm for one who had made the
trip to Jerusalem) and often with tall tales of the places they had
visited. Chaucer's House of Rumor (in The House of Fame)
charcaterizes pilgrims with "wallets stuffed with lies:
Was ful of shipmen and pilgrimes,
With scrippes bret-ful of lesinges.
(House of Fame 2121-23) Langland says much the same in the Prologue to his Piers Plowman.
To seek Saint James · and saints in Rome.
They went forth on their way · with many wise tales,
And had leave to lie · all their life after.
I saw some that said · they had sought saints;
Yet in each tale they told · their tongue turned to lies
More than to tell truth · it seemed by their speech.
The abuses Langland describes were fairly common; fake pilgrims were suitably punished:
False pilgrim condemned to the pillory.
For many (including, apparently, most of Chaucer's pilgrims)
a pilgrimage was more a holiday, complete with sightseeing at the
shrine; this is the case in the
The Prologe to The Tale of Beryn
where the pilgrims spend much time in acting like tourists and no
time in prayer.
William Thorpe on Pilgrimages
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Last modified: July 9, 2006
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It is not therefore surprising that moralists of the time, especially the Lollards, strongly objected to pilgrimages. The Lollard William Thorpe's decscription of pilgrimages sounds very much like Chaucer's, complete with bagpipes and bells on the horses: