Introduction to “The Canterbury Tales”

Ms. Eckman



Score: ______/ 34 pts


Read the article below.

Modern Pilgrimage

The Osgood File: (CBS Radio Network): 6/17/04, 7/12/05

Spiritual pilgrimages are becoming more popular.

"Pilgrimage" is a powerful word. Historically its meaning is "a journey to a sacred place," and it brings to mind images of medieval knights on a noble path, Buddhist travelers wending their way down mountain roads, and Muslims gathering in Mecca. As more modern day spiritual seekers are discovering, there are many ways to be a pilgrim, but one of the most popular is to take a "sacred travel" tour, which is a guided trip to a religious or spiritual destination., a multi-faith web community, has begun offering sacred travel tours. Participants in the trips say they have come back renewed and fundamentally changed.

The ancient notion of pilgrimage, present in almost all the world's religions, reflects a human desire for fulfillment. Throughout history, pilgrimage has been a religious phenomenon that set people on a physical journey that yielded spiritual results. All of the world religions have some sense of pilgrimage. Many Jews visit Jerusalem, while Muslims travel to Mecca or visit the tombs of Sunni saints. Buddhists journey to Tibet, and Hindus go to Benares. Catholicism has a rich history of pilgrimage, dating back to the Medieval period, when pilgrims traveled to major churches, such as Chartres, France, or visited the sites where saints had lived, such as Assisi, Italy and the Spanish trail to Santiago de Compostela. Religiously motivated travelers continue to visit these and other sites today, but many more are doing so through the growing industry of spiritual travel agencies. They say the element of awe, the strongest component of spiritual transformation, can be best inspired by visiting a faraway place, a well-known religious shrine, or in experiencing the beauty and power of nature. They emphasize that spirituality itself is inherent in pilgrimage. Without the spiritual element a pilgrimage becomes a vacation or an exotic diversion.

William H. Swatos, Jr., sociologist and editor of From Medieval Pilgrimage to Religious Tourism: The Social and Cultural Economics of Piety, says, "There is a debate over what is a 'real' pilgrimage. There is a certain narrative about the term, a romantic notion, the part ….that everybody who went on pilgrimage was very religious and went for deeply religious motivations. That isn't really true. Not that they were unreligious or irreligious, but there were many reasons for going on pilgrimage, and there still are." For example, in the Medieval period, what you don't see now," he says, "people used to be sent on pilgrimages either for religious or civil penance. One of the real shifts in pilgrimage is away from the penitential aspect of pilgrimage. This is where the purist scholars of pilgrimage put down the modern pilgrimage."

Today, Swatos says, pilgrims travel for many reasons. One of these is personal need, the belief that being in a sacred location can bring healing, spiritual awakening, or other positive desires. "Some people believe today if they go to Lourdes or if they go to the Ganges, they've been told—either by a guru or they have read it—that they will receive healing. Muslims go to the tombs of Sunni saints, circumambulate the tombs seeking some favor from the saints. They're going for a purpose, whether it's healing or they want a marriage or they want to get pregnant or whatever," says Swatos. Another big difference between today's pilgrims and those in the past is that today's are likely to any or all of these places, not just where their particular faith prescribes – a Catholic will go to Mecca, or a Muslim to Lourdes just as often as the other way around.

In partnership with Sacred Travel, an agency based in Los Angeles, began offering spiritually themed trips in 2003. Groups went to Bhutan, which is one of the last Buddhist kingdoms in the world, and more recently to Ireland, which is home to both Celtic Christian and nature-based pagan pilgrimage sites. Laura Sheahen, the religion producer for Beliefnet, conceived of and organized the trips because she saw a desire among her readership to get something lasting from their travels. "People are trying to go on trips now that are more meaningful," and "transformative" in the sense that a pilgrimage is.


When you have completed reading the article, go get a lap top. Once you have logged in, go to this web address:

Check out the main page! Feel free to explore this site. When you are done looking around, scroll to the bottom of the page (left side) until you read “Links”.

Click onto the link that says “Another organization, also called Sacred Travel”.

On this page, click onto the “Articles” tab. Next, click onto the article “The Healing Power of Retreats”. Read this article and answer the following questions:

1.  What city and country is the retreat located?

2.  What is the purpose of the retreat?

3.  What is the main activity at the retreat?

4.  Who are the group leaders?

Now that you have read about some modern pilgrimages, let’s preview “The Canterbury Tales” and the pilgrimage that these travelers made.

Go to the link below (type in the url into your search bar):

The site that should appear is called “The Canterbury Tales”. Read the information on this page and answer the following questions:

1.  Who wrote the tales and in which century?

2.  What type of story is “The Canterbury Tales”?

3.  Where were the pilgrims going?

4.  What are some of the themes of the tale?

5.  How many tales SHOULD have been told?

6.  Who was the scrivener who worked for Chaucer?

Good! Now go to the links at the end of the information and click onto the link under “Related Articles”

1.  The name Canterbury comes from the Old English word Cantwarebyri. What is the literal translation of this word?

2.  What is Canterbury’s oldest surviving building?

3.  Where do brides often pose for pictures on Saturdays?

4.  What is the last recommended spot on your tour of Canterbury?

The last link from this page I would like you to visit is under the section that says “Read More About”. Click onto the link for “Thomas Becket”. Read this section and answer the following questions:

1.  When was Thomas Becket Archbishop of Canterbury?

2.  What position did Archbishop Theobold recommend Thomas Becket to hold?

3.  Who did King Henry send to live with Becket?

4.  How did Thomas Becket die?

5.  List 3 legends associated with Thomas Beckett.

Last, it is time for you to do some research! List 1 web site for each area you look up AND tell me what you learned from that web site! (3 pts each)

1.  Topic: William the Conqueror

Web Address/URL:

What you learned:

2.  Topic: Feudalism

Web Address/URL:

What you learned:

3.  Topic: Chivalry

Web Address/URL:

What you learned:

4.  Topic: The Crusades

Web Address/URL:

What you learned:

5.  Topic: Yoeman

Web Address/URL:

What you learned: