Joe Walsh Tours Top 10 Most Popular Shrines of Europe
You want to delve a little deeper into your spirituality, but there are so many religious destinations with interesting and unique offerings. With so many options it can be difficult to decide which destination is best for you...
Our multi centre Shrines of Europe tours provide a fully inclusive itinerary that allow you to visit the most popular pilgrimage destinations throughout western Europe.
We’ve put together a list of the Top 10 Most Popular Shrines of Europe, many of which we visit regularly... Check them out!
1. Fatima, Portugal
The Chapel of the Apparitions is built on the site of a Marian apparition that appeared before three peasant children in 1917. Every year since then on the anniversaries of the apparitions, May 13 and Oct. 13, the streets of Fatima swell with throngs of pilgrims who make their way to the holy site. Fatima (88 miles north of Lisbon) is home to dozens of imposing churches and monuments. Shops selling religious souvenirs, hostels and hotels can be found throughout the city.
2. Santiago de Compostela, Spain
One of the oldest pilgrimage routes in the world (Camino de Santiago) runs through Northern Spain, terminating at the cathedral of Santiago de Compostela. This is the burial site of St. James, whose remains were transported from Jerusalem to Spain by boat. Pilgrimages to the area haven’t ceased since medieval times, and the route has enjoyed revived popularity since the 1980s. If anything, this pilgrimage is more popular than ever with new walking routes being introduced. The most popular route is still to this day, the French Way.
3. Lourdes, France
The largest pilgrimage site in France is Lourdes, which takes in some five million pilgrims a year. Lourdes gains significance from the apparitions of Our Lady of Lourdes and is a site of numerous miraculous healings. The stream unearthed by Bernadette Soubirous in 1858 is believed to have special properties that heal the ailments of sick people.
Tourists stay in one of 270 hotels in the city in order to visit the Sanctuary of Lourdes (commonly called the Domain). The Domain includes the Grotto where pilgrims can dispense Lourdes water from the taps and 22 separate places of worship on 126 acres. Pilgrimages to Lourdes show no sign of slowing down, this destination is still one of the top places to visit on a pilgrimage today.
4. Armagh, Northern Ireland
St. Patrick’s Anglican Cathedral in Armagh is a town with roots in Celtic paganism. When Christianity spread to the region in 400 AD, St. Patrick established his church there and Armagh became the ecclesiastical capital of the island. He decreed that only those educated in Armagh were fit to spread the gospel, so numerous educational institutions were founded.
The seat of both Protestant and Catholic archbishops; Armagh is the most venerated of Irish cities. The main points of interest are St. Patrick’s Roman Catholic Cathedral and St. Patrick’s Anglican Cathedral. St. Patrick’s Trian, in a former church behind the tourist office, has exhibits on city history and St. Patrick’s writings.
5. Einsiedeln, Switzerland
Einsiedeln gained popularity as a religious tourist destination thanks to its Benedictine Abbey; one of the most important pilgrimage sites in Switzerland. More than 100,000 religious tourists visit annually to see the statue of the Black Madonna in the abbey’s lavishly decorated Baroque church. Also on visitors’ agenda is Diorama Bethlehem; regarded as the world’s largest nativity display with 450 hand-carved figures, and Panorama Crucifixion of Christ; a giant circular painting.
The town, about 25 miles southeast of Zurich, is close to many scenic hiking trails in the Swiss Alps. Geneva and Zurich have sites associated John Calvin and Ulrich Zwingli, Swiss leaders of the Reformation.
6. Altötting, Germany
For more than 500 years this Bavarian town has been Germany’s most significant place of pilgrimage venerating the Virgin Mary. More than 1 million pilgrims a year visit the Chapel of Grace and its Black Madonna. As history tells it, a child drowned in a nearby river in 1489 and his mother took his body to the altar at the foot of a wooden statue of the Black Madonna. He was miraculously revived, and the news spread quickly across the country.
The late Gothic, twin-towered Stiftskirche (Collegiate Church) and the Neo-Baroque St. Anna’s Basilica are two of many churches within walking distance of Chapel Square, where Pope Benedikt XVI celebrated Mass in 2006. Across from the Chapel of Grace is the New Ecclesiastical Treasury and Pilgrimage Museum, which is named for the Pope, a Bavarian who has been familiar with Altötting since childhood.
7. Luther Country, Germany
Martin Luther has forever been embedded into history for sparking the Protestant Reformation. Travellers can follow in his footsteps in the states of Saxony-Anhalt and Thuringia, a region deemed Luther Country. Reformation-related sites are located in Eisenach, Erfurt, Lutherstadt Eisleben and Lutherstadt Wittenberg. Luther spent the majority of his life in Wittenberg, the site of the Schlosskirche (Castle Church), where in 1517 he nailed his 95 Theses, or demands for reform, on its doors. He is buried inside below the pulpit.
8. Czestochowa, Poland
Poland has a Christian history more than 1,000 years old, and during that time, the city of Czestochowa has gone through periods of enemy invasions and occupation. The shrine to the Black Madonna in Jasna Gora Monastery, attracting more than four million visitors a year, symbolizes the Poles’ determination to preserve their heritage. The painting of the Black Madonna has been the subject of miracles including bleeding after being struck with a sword during a Hussite attack in 1430. The 800-year-old buildings around the monastery bustle with tourist commerce.
9. Medugorje, Bosnia and Herzegovina
Apparitions of Mary have appeared before six children since 1981 in this Adriatic town and made it a very popular pilgrimage destination. The site annually attracts 1 million people; some of whom have witnessed visions in the sky, including hearts and crosses around the sun. This once tumultuous region now has enjoyed an economic boom, thanks in part to religious tourism.
10. Assisi, Italy
Assisi, an Umbrian hill town north of Rome, is most noted for being the birthplace of St. Francis. His influence is remembered in the Basilica of San Francesco of Assisi, which has been named as a World Heritage Site. This is just 1 of 8 historic churches in the area. Two castles dominate the town, both built in the Middle Ages. In early May, the Festival Calendimaggiore-enacts medieval life with games, processions, dances, flag waving and theatrical performances.
There are many places of religious importance located throughout Europe. Joe Walsh Tours offers regular departures throughout the year to a mix of these magnificent destinations.
Join us on a fully escorted pilgrimage to the Shrines of Europe in 2020. For further information on tours to any of the above destinations get in touch with our team on (01) 241 0800.