For centuries, pilgrims and travellers to Rome had to choose one of the many roads converging on Rome across the Italian peninsula and, either on foot or using whatever means of transport their economic situation or the times allowed.The most frequently-travelled routes followed the ancient Roman consular roads: Via Regia Romana, Via Francigena, Via Flaminia from the North, or Via Appia from the South. Once they arrived, pilgrims entered Rome through one of the gates in the city walls: either ancient Roman gates that had been modified, or one of the gates built more recently to make it easier to get into and out of the city. Only a small proportion of travellers arrived at the port of Civitavecchia or directly at Rome’s Ripa Grande river port.The advent of railways, automobiles and air transport deeply affected the way pilgrims used to travel. The first pilgrims that flew to Rome (by an airplane or a seaplane) for a Holy Year landed in 1925. Over the years several initiatives were proposed and carried out to improve the quality of the journey as well as the pilgrims’ safety: rough and bumpy roads were repaired, more accommodation facilities were built, tolls and taxes were reduced, safe-conduct passes were issued, controls on crime were strengthened.Because of the dangers and the difficulties of the travel, a lot of pilgrims preferred to travel in groups linked to the network of confraternities, especially from the XVI century.
The Exhibition The Journey, the Visit and the Narrative
Only from the second half of the 1500s onwards sources allow us to formulate more realistic hypotheses on the numbers and nature of Jubilee pilgrimages, thanks to the data gathered by organizations such as confraternities and hospitals.
The Jubilee of 1575 marked the beginning of a period of increasing pilgrim numbers during holy years, which continued until 1650, with an average of 400,000 pilgrims and a remarkable peak of 500,000 in 1625, whereas the resident urban population during those decades was of about 100,000 people. Most of the pilgrims were from Italy and were under the age of forty. Women were also present but, until the half of the 1800's, they represented a minority, mostly travelling as part of a family or a confraternity.
Confraternities have also to be praised for their contribution to a wider social composition of the pilgrimage, thanks to their support for food delivery and accommodation in Rome to those who could not afford it.It is nevertheless likely that the pilgrimage, particularly among those who came from distant regions or nations outside Italy, could be afforded by people who belonged to the middle or upper-middle class only.After the jubilee of 1675, the pilgrimage tradition started a decreasing trend probably due to the secularism process of the Enlightenment and the difficult historical and political stage of the XIX century, peaking with the proclamation of Rome as capital of Italy, which terminated the papal temporal power.The pilgrimage tradition got a new impulse in 1900, thanks to the social and economic transformations, that allowed new means of transportation, as well as an unprecedented freedom of movement: the number of the travellers exponentially increased. The great Jubilee of 2000 recorded 25 million pilgrims.
Literate pilgrims – literacy could not be taken for granted until the mid-19th-century – had several different types of publication they could consult to help them out during their stay in Rome.Two different types of text were originally written for pilgrims: works of devotional nature (Indulgentiæ, Itineraria) or writings describing the city from an artistic and architectural point of view (Mirabilia Urbis Romæ). As time passed, though, such a distinction gradually diminished, especially between the mid-sixteen century and the early seventeenth century, when visitors could use a new type of guide that comprehended both devotional features and the description of the “things most wondrous” of ancient and modern Rome, during a period in which the town was in the throes of major urban and architectural changes.
A number of authors and well-known printers brought out new guides boasting new content, increasingly refined layout technics and better illustrations, as well as specific schedules and itineraries for a complete visit of the town.
Between the nineteenth and twentieth centuries , the industrialization of publishing and the development of mass tourism led to the production of new types of guides, among which the diminutive Pilgrim’s Guide, published in the mid-20th century in the run-up to holy years, and distributed by the organizing committees along with personal badges, souvenir medals and maps of Rome featuring route tips and practical information.
This guide came with the Pilgrim’s Book, which included a selection of liturgical texts related to the various Jubilee ceremonies, as well as an explanation of what was involved in the Holy Year rituals and how best to take part.