Most of the works we have describe the trip to one of the three great pilgrimage destinations of the time: Jerusalem, Rome, and Santiago de Compostela. All three of these destinations offer the opportunity to describe several sites (and perhaps the writer’s reactions to them) both along the way and at the city in question. Jerusalem seems to have been the most popular destination to write about, but the best-known guidebook these days is the Pilgrim’s Guide in the Codex Calixtinus, describing the route to Santiago de Compostela. The funny thing, though, is that this one was probably never actually used by pilgrims on their way there. It almost never appears in manuscripts except as a part of the larger Codex Calixtinus and there are no shorter, more portable versions that a pilgrim might actually carry with them, as there are of a few other texts.
Some of these works, don’t give the reader more than a simple list of sites to visit at their destination or along the way. Others are far more detailed. Still others include very little information that might be useful to someone wanting to actually make the pilgrimage, focusing much more on the writer’s personal experiences. Many of these accounts, both the ones that might be useful to travelers and those that certainly weren’t, seem to be written as much for people who just wanted to read about a holy adventure as for those who wanted to travel themselves. Pilgrim accounts, then, may well have been used as much for entertainment as for navigating the actual pilgrimage.
Webb, Diana. Medieval European Pilgrimage. New York: Palgrave, 2002.
Barber, Malcolm. The Two Cities: Medieval Europe 1050-1320. London: Routledge, 1993.