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Abstract

Since ancient times and throughout history, religious sentiment has been one of the motives for people undertaking pilgrimages, seeking to communicate with the divine in sacred places. Travelling for religious reasons fulfilled a spiritual need and their undertaking was considered to be a redeeming action.

It is indeed difficult to identify any other human activity so widespread in space and so resilient in time as undertaking a pilgrimage to shrines. Since antiquity there has been a firm belief that praying or fulfilling one’s religious tasks is more efficient when it takes place in specific sites: in places where gods or saints were born, spent a part of their lives, died or performed miracles, in areas with statues, cathedrals, churches, relics of saints and miracle icons or in sites where the most important events of the history of each religion took place.

Many of the Christian pilgrimages are associated with the Holy Mother of God (Theotokos). In Greece, shrines monasteries and churches have been established in areas related with the miracles performed by the Virgin Mary (Panagia or the All Holy One in Greek). Apart from the basic Marian feast days, the life of the church and folk piety have added many more, which are associated with the Virgin Mary, the Miracle- Worker, or the foundation of churches dedicated to the Mother of God, or the finding of miracle-working icons portraying the Virgin Mary. Almost everywhere in Greece one can find a miraculous icon representing the Mother of God, each one with its own history and legends, which creates a mystical experience. Moreover, many of these pilgrimages are significant cultural monuments and attract tourists’ interest.

This paper describes some of the main Marian pilgrimages in Greece as well as their management agencies and techniques in order to enhance travellers’ experience.

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