Theoretical Perspectives: Tourism and pilgrimage


From a more classic historical view, contemporary tourism is born as a product of industrialization and the new working conditions of capitalism (Corbin, 1989, Towner, 1996, Aron 1999, Lofgren, 1999, Boyer, 2000 and Gyr, 2010). But from another perspective the origin of contemporary tourism is considered to be related to historical pilgrimages (Collins-Kreiner and Gatrell, 2006, Margry, 2008, Sharpley, 2009, Norman, 2011, Norman and Cusack, 2015). Today, tourism trips for religious or spiritual motivation (Norman, 2011) have become so popular that they constitute an important segment of international tourism (Timothy and Olsen, 2006, Margry, 2008, Norman, 2011; Norman and Cusack, 2015, Sousa et al., 2017). According to UNWTO (2014), about 330 million tourists visit religious shrines each year. The relationship between tourism and religion is old. Horne (1984) went on to claim that the contemporary tourist is a modern pilgrim and MacCannel (1976) pointed out that tourism would be the modern lay version of the relationship with the sacred.

In the case of the “Portuguese Inner Way of Santiago de Compostela”, provide some context data (see Baquero Moreno, 1986, Atlantic Axis, 2015). Before the creation of the kingdom of Portugal in the twelfth century there were 184 parishes with the name of Santiago, dedicated to Santiago el Mayor and Santiago pilgrim. Many would then change the name of the patron saint of St. George, but the iconography of St. James the Apostle – Pilgrim (with book, scallop, pumpkin, cane …) continued to be maintained and prevailing over the iconography of Santiago Matamoros (Cunha, 2001; 2011; 2013; 2014). The “Cancioneiro da Ajuda” refers to the existence of more than 100 pilgrims’ shelters in the north of Portugal at the end of the 13th century, where the Jacobean tradition never disappeared (see Marques, 1992, Varela García et al. 2003: 87). Today there are 4377 ecclesiastical parishes in Portugal (see, of which 283 are dedicated to San Pedro, 187 to Santiago and 70 to San Andrés (source: http: //

In Portugal, the ancient Roman roads (see Tranoy, 1981) -ej. Viseu- Vila Real – Chaves – were used by pilgrims in the Middle and Modern Ages (Brochado de Almeida and Brochado de Almeida, 2011: 15; Atlantic Axis, 2015: 64 ff.). The interior Portuguese road (205 km) runs from Viseu to the Luso-Galician border between Chaves – Verín (Vilarelho da Raia) and 182 from the border with Galicia to Santiago de Compostela, using the Via de la Plata. Unlike other roads, this path is two-way, because it allows pilgrims to walk to two great centers of Catholic pilgrimage: Santiago de Compostela (Galicia – Spain) or Fatima (central Portugal) (Poças Santos, 2007).

The revitalization of this inner Portuguese way in the 21st century was inspired by the book by Professor Arlindo Cunha de Magalhães (1995) on the history of the Portuguese ways to Santiago de Compostela. His exhaustive research work is based on historical accounts of pilgrims, oral social memories, toponymic and hagiotoponymic analysis, historical and artistic analysis of chapels, churches and hermitages, analysis of fairs and festivals under the name of Santiago. According to this historian, the Portuguese inner way of Santiago de Compostela is of all the ways of Santiago the one of greater concentration of jacobeo heritage of Europe. To support this statement provides several interesting data. Of the 184 parishes with the name Santiago in all Portugal, 113 are to the north of the river Douro and 14 of them in the district of Vila Real. Of the 153 hermitages with invocation of Santiago throughout Portugal, 77 are north of the Douro River, 30 in the diocese of Vila Real. In the 205 kilometers of CPIS in Portuguese territory there are about 32 parishes with the name of Santiago, out of a total of 119, more even than in the Portuguese coastal road or in French (only 7) (Cunha, 2017).

The first official contemporary experience of pilgrimage along this route occurred in the year 2000 between the towns of Cidadelha de Aguiar and Sabroso de Aguiar (municipality of Vila Pouca de Aguiar). It will be then that the intermunicipal collaboration will lead to the complete signaling of the route and to the design of a tourist-cultural product with support in shelters for pilgrims every 30-35 kilometers.


“The Way is for the body a discipline that frees the spirit” (Arlindo Cunha de Magalhães, Vila Real – Portugal, lecture at UTAD, April 6, 2017)

Pilgrimages can be analysed from various anthropological perspectives (Smith, 1992): A classic functionalist perspective that highlights these as a form of social cohesion and connection with the sacred (Lyson Tolosana, 1992, Halbwachs, 2017). The sacrifice of the traditional pilgrim is made to purify the soul and obtain the forgiveness of his sins. Penance and purification will allow contact with the sacred and the repetition of the old ritual will give authority to tradition.

Today the pilgrimage tones its religious sense in contact with tourism, is redefined and resignified becoming a complex and polysemic social phenomenon (see Álvarez Sousa, 1999, Alvarez Sousa, 2005, Collins-Kreiner, 2014, Feldman, 2017), Sousa et al., 2017), more spiritual, tourist and postsecular. Between tourism and pilgrimage there are structural and experiential similarities (Graburn, 1977, 1983, 2001, Feldman, 2017) that are accentuated today. Several recent ethnographies show little difference between the two (see Herrero Pérez, 1995, Mouriño, 1997, Frey, 1998, Álvarez Sousa, 1999, Ebron, 2000, Slavin, 2003, Abumanssur, 2003, Steil, 2003, Badone and Roseman, 2004, Frey, 2004, Coleman and Eade, 2004, Álvarez Sousa, 2005, Amirou, 2007, Carneiro, 2007, Hermann, 2008, Herrero Pérez, 2008, Mendes, (Gusmán et al., 2017, Havard, 2017). Many pilgrimages have become a tourist product similar to others, and at the same time tourism implies emotions similar to those of the pilgrimage. The two are a social practice of identities in a margin, with connection between past and present (Augé, 2003), and both are body experiences of places, some ancestral. Tourism reconfigures the sacred in its relation to the pilgrimage, and creates a different category of experience, what we call turiperegrination, which represents a conceptual continuum (Smith, 1992: 4; Badone and Roseman, 2004: 10) full of relationships and miscegenation and not a stagnant category.

As for the particular motivations to travel and pilgrimage along the roads of Santiago de Compostela today, Francisco Singul (1999) refers to five: a) traditional nuns (devotion, vote, favor …); b) cultural (medieval art, history); c) ecological (contemplation and enjoyment of the landscape and the environment); d) spiritual and ecumenical; e) personal (meditation on own life, therapy to meet …). And although pilgrimages exist in all cultures with similar rituals, and although they are experienced in different ways according to contexts, from the structural point of view the pilgrimage ritual can be structured in three performative-ritual phases.

In summary, we can affirm that there is a renaissance of pilgrimages in contemporary times and a certain convergence between tourism, religion, spirituality and pilgrimage in contemporary societies. Tourism does not only present a marketing, commercial or administrative side, but it integrates sacred and profane elements of which it is full.