On the Road in the Name of Religion. Pilgrimage as a Means of Coping with Contingency and Fixing the Future in the World’s Major Religions

November 10–11, 2011

(→ Deutscher Text)


Pilgrimage belongs both to the most ancient and the most topical forms of large-scale mobility. Millions of people make yearly journeys to sites endowed with holiness or a certain spiritual significance. These can be the tombs of holy men and women, the wise and the prophetic, or places where such figures have been active; holy mountains and rivers; or other places where wonders are said to have occurred.

Pilgrimage is a phenomenon which can be found in almost all cultures and major religions, and which can be connected with a large number of very different rituals. The reasons for why people have embarked - and still embark - on such journeys, are equally numerous. These range from pilgrimage as a duty, imposed by authority, via the wish to be healed or saved, to the desire to ‘find oneself’ during the course of a pilgrim’s journey.

The conference, organised by the Research Consortium in the Humanities “Fate, Freedom and Prognosis”, will consider pilgrimage in the world’s major religions. The spirit of the conference will be comparative, and pilgrimage will be approached as a ritual, which overcomes cultural as well as geographical distances. The significance of routes will be explored, as will the material aspect of holy sites, the interplay of the nearby and the faraway, the regularity of pilgrimage and internal and external pilgrimage. Furthermore, the concept of fate will be a central theme: when destiny no longer appears immutable, people can recourse to various strategies to influence fate and the future. What roles do magic and wonder play in such strategies?

The goal of the conference is to indicate and explore differences and commonalities between various traditions of pilgrimage in the major religions, with particular attention given to strategies for mastering contingency and safeguarding the future.


Thursday, Nov 10, 2011
1:00 p.m. Registration
1:30 p.m. Welcome Address and Introduction
Prof. Dr. Klaus Herbers (Erlangen)
2:00 p.m. Opening Lecture
Auf dem Weg zum ‚Heiligen’? Pilgern aus religionswissenschaftlicher Perspektive

Prof. Dr. Andreas Nehring (Erlangen)
Dreams, Visions and Pilgrimage
2:30 p.m. König Yudhisthiras Vision: Pilgerfahrt im brahmanisch-sanskritischen Hinduismus
PD Dr. Karin Steiner (Würzburg)
3:00 p.m. Discussion
3:15 p.m. Coffee Break
The Intentions and Preparations behind Pilgrimage: Pleading, Thanking and Prognostication
3:45 p.m. Introduction
Prof. Alessandro Gori (Florenz)
4:00 p.m. Aspekte von Intentionalität und Kontingenz im nordindischen Wallfahrtsort Varanasi
PD Dr. Jörg Gengnagel (Heidelberg)
4:30 p.m. Ökonomische Aspekte der islamischen Pilgerfahrt
Dr. Heiko Schuß (Erlangen)
5:00 p.m. Coffee Break
5:15 p.m. Ex voto. Christian pilgrimage during the Middle Ages and beyond
PD Dr. Charles Caspers (Nijmegen)
5:45 p.m. Discussion
6:30 p.m. End
Friday, Nov 11, 2011
Pilgrimage between Ritual Prescription and Freedom
9:00 a.m. Introduction
PD Dr. Hannes Möhring (IKGF Fellow)
9:15 a.m. Transitorische Glaubensvirtuosität – elementarsoziologische Anmerkungen zum Pilgertum im Islam
Prof. Dr. Tilman Allert (Frankfurt/M.)
9:45 a.m. Mass Pilgrimages: Voluntary and Prescribed, Yearly and Apocalyptic Prof. Richard Landes (IKGF Fellow)
10:15 a.m. Coffee Break
10:45 a.m. Approaching Emptiness: Buddhist Pilgrimages in Japan
Dr. Katja Triplett (Marburg)
11:15 a.m. Discussion
12:00 a.m. Lunch Break
The Quality and Materiality of Holy Places
2:30 p.m. Introduction
Prof. Dr. Hartmut Bobzin (Erlangen)
2:45 p.m. Pilgrimage to Santiago
Prof. Fernando López Alsina (Santiago de Compostela)
3:15 p.m. The Hajj, the Meccan Sanctuary, and Hopes for the Future
Prof. Gerald Hawting (London)
3:45 p.m. For which Purpose did Medieval Jewish Pilgrims travel?
Prof. Cyril Aslanov (Jerusalem)
4:15 p.m. Coffee Break
4:45 p.m. Pilgrimage and Regional Consciousness in Hindu India
Prof. Anne Feldhaus (Tempe, AZ)
5:15 p.m. Splending Religiosity. The Cultural Economics of Divination on China’s Southern Sacred Mountain
Prof. Robert LaFleur (Beloit, WI)
5:45 p.m. Final Discussion

Respondents: Prof. Dr. Carola Jäggi (Erlangen), Prof. Juan Campo (Santa Barbara, CA), Dr. Robert Plötz.


Zentrum für Physik und Medizin Technik (ZMPT)
Henkestraße 91 – 91052 Erlangen


Conference Flyer (1,5 MB)
Conference Poster (287 KB)


If you have any questions, please contact Hans-Christian Lehner at Hans_Christian.Lehner@ikgf.uni-erlangen.de.