Once upon a time, Europe lived in an age of faith, which found buoyant expression in the massive popularity of pilgrimage. Pilgrimage shrines flourished across Europe, some drawing millions of followers each year, and new pilgrimage destinations emerged regularly to meet the demand. Protestants and liberal Catholics might look askance at the piety practiced at such places (the veneration of mysterious Black Virgins and the ubiquitous healing miracles), but there was no doubt of the faith of the pilgrims.
Current believers might look back enviously at Europe’s golden age of pilgrimage. But in fact the golden age is now.
Philip Jenkins is professor of history at Baylor University's Institute for Studies of Religion and author of The Great and Holy War: How World War I Became a Religious Crusade and The Many Faces of Christ: The Thousand-Year Story of the Survival and Influence of the Lost Gospels.