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“She Was Brought To The Shrine By Force:” Women And Compulsory Pilgrimage

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Chapter Summary

Female pilgrims might be fashioned into predators, prey, intercessors or quasi-saints. This remarkable flexibility in the meanings of pilgrimage in the later Middle Ages made room for blanket condemnation of female pilgrims by satirists, but simultaneously made it reasonable to compel women who were out of their minds, and those who were heretics, to become pilgrims. This chapter explores these compulsory pilgrimages, which were carried out within the context of an entirely different relationship between the female pilgrim and the power structures that surrounded her than voluntary pilgrimages were. As such, the rituals of compulsory pilgrimage differentiated compulsory pilgrims from other sorts. But even in cases where a woman's pilgrimage was forced, rather than self-willed, it was possible for her to help shape both the events of the journey and the shared interpretations of those events.

Keywords: compulsory pilgrimage; female pilgrims; later Middle Ages



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