Sacred Tracks: 2000 Years of Christian Pilgrimage

By Garneau, James F. | The Catholic Historical Review, January 2005 | Go to article overview

Sacred Tracks: 2000 Years of Christian Pilgrimage


Garneau, James F., The Catholic Historical Review


Sacred Tracks: 2000 Years of Christian Pilgrimage. By James Harpur. (Berkeley: University of California Press. 2002. Pp. 192. $29.95 paperback.)

This nicely illustrated and well written volume focuses on some of the most famous pilgrimage routes and sites of Western Europe. In the context of a broad overview of church history, the author provides sufficient depth and understanding of history, theology, and of the nearly two-millennia-old phenomena of Christian pilgrimage for the general reader. James Harpur, who wrote this book while poet in residence at Exeter Cathedral in Devon, England, has divided the text into three sections, thus emphasizing a classic manner of elementary historical "periodization": the early, medieval, and modern church. While convenient for the purpose of the organization of his material, this approach has also, and unfortunately, fostered views of "dark ages" and "Reformers" that are perhaps too simplistic, especially given the last generation of scholarship.

The text is compact with much interesting information, including important quotations from historical figures and scholars. Generally rather accurate with regard to places, church doctrines, and ecclesiastical structures, there are some errors and oddities (e.g., "friars" who are referred to as "monks" and the designation of the Roman basilica of Santa Croce in Gerusalemme as "St. Cross"). Anyone with a desire to pursue further research will undoubtedly be frustrated, however, due to the fact that there are no footnote or endnote references to such citations or to any other sources of information. …

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