Pre-crusade Muslim religious tolerance to pilgrims in the Holy Land

Christians in the Holy Land were permitted to practice their religion, and there was no barrier to pilgrims visiting the Holy Places. They had to pay a toll to enter Jerusalem, but they also had to pay a toll to pass through the gates of London or Paris. As for the “Saracen“ rulers of Palestine, they had no problem with the presence of either Orthodox or Latin Christians in their territory, whether as pilgrims or as permanent residents.

Pilgrimage, as a practice, provided some very functional benefits to medieval Christians. The first was penitential. (...) Purgatory and hell loomed hauntingly in medieval consciousness. This fear of potential punishment after death was generally intended by the Catholic Church to guide Christians into obeying the teachings of the Bible.

However, when proper instruction fell short and errors were made, often some form of penitence was needed to correct the blemish on one’s heavenly slate. Sins could often be wiped clean, or at least reduced, by suffering through pilgrimage. This penitential pilgrimage was often sentenced by the Church court, but many faithful worshipers volunteered themselves to relieve their sins. The practice grew to become a common punishment sentence, with possibilities of buying off a pilgrimage or paying for a substitute to make the journey instead. In many ways, this put pilgrims out on the road who had little interest in the spiritual treasures of their destination. However, others continued to make the journey with more pious intentions. They went on behalf of the dead or as a way to deal with personal grief over the death of a loved one.

This blog quotes the first paragraph from Dungeon, Fire and Sword: The Knights Templar in the Crusades by John J. Robinson (M. Evans & Company, Inc. 1991) and the latter two paragraphs from a blog of The illustration shows the Map of Palestine by William Wey (c.1458-1463), Bodleian Library, Oxford, and is derived from this source.

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