Soul Travel: Spiritual Journeys and Sacred Voyages in Early Modern Europe

Event Date: 
14 Sep 2017

Clephan Building 0.01, De Montfort University, Leicester



In recent years, scholars have been increasingly interested in recovering personal spiritual experiences and their representation in the early modern period. Personal spirituality has been one important lens through which scholars have scrutinised the nature of religious change in this period and its impact on communities and regions. One of the most enduring historiographical debates has centred upon the ‘rise’ of the individual as an autonomous, consciously-expressed self in the Reformation era. Linked to this has been the relationship between personal, interiorized spirituality and external actions. Already in the fifteenth century, Franciscan and Carthusian practices and Devotio moderna traditions encouraged withdrawal, self-examination and mental prayer. The growth of interiority, it is argued, augmented further, during and after the Reformation. For example, John Bossy’s interpretation of the transformation of early modern Catholicism, from a communitarian to an individual and personal faith, has been enormously influential, the purpose of devotion becoming reconciliation to God rather than obligation to the community.


The purpose of this one-day colloquium is to examine a particular manifestation of interiority and its relationship to material experience: that of the spiritual journey or pilgrimage. This could take the form of an imagined real journey, such as Louis Richeome’s The Pilgrim of Loreto or an allegorical voyage such as John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress.  This meeting has as its objective an exploration of spiritual and interior journeys, understood broadly.


We would like to bring together theologians, literary scholars and historians, to discuss the nature, construction and evolution of the variety of spiritual journeys, across confessional and religious boundaries.


Dr Jenny Hillman, University of Chester
Professor Elizabeth Tingle, De Montfort University, Leicester




08.45 Registration and Coffee.


09.00-10.45 Welcome and Session 1. Medieval Spirituality and Soul Travel.

Mark Peterson, (Woodrow Wilson Presidential Library), Reading as a Spiritual Journey – St Bridget of Sweden.

Kathryn Hurlock, (MMU), Performing Pilgrimage in Late Medieval Wales.

Claudia Wardle, (University of York), Spiritual Landscapes of Fifteenth-Century Ferrara


10.45-11.00 Coffee Break.



11.00-12.15 Session 2: Life Writing and Spiritual Travel

Paula Almeida Mendes, (University of Oporto – CITCEM), Spiritual experiences in Portuguese hagiographies and sacred biographies in XVIth-XVIIth centuries

Jenny Hillman, (University of Chester), Imagined Landscapes: Spiritual (Auto) Biography and Virtual Pilgrimage in 17c France.


12.15-13.00 Lunch Break


13.00-15.15 Session 3 Spiritual Journeys in 17th & 18th century Protestant traditions

Laurel Lied, (Aarhus University), Flat globe, flat time and flat man: Reflecting upon the purpose of pilgrimage for the Pietist convert in Eric Pontoppidan’s Menoza: An Asian Prince who traveled around the world and sought Christians, especially in India, Spain, Italy, France, England, Holland, Germany, and Denmark, but found little of what he sought (1742)

Jennifer Adams-Massmann, (University of Heidelberg), Journeying into the Wounded Body of Christ: Early Moravian Women Reconstruct the Self, 1740-1760


Catie Gill, (Loughborough University), ‘That all may know the dealings of the Lord with me’: Quaker Spiritual Autobiography (Fox 1691, 1).



15.15-15.30 Tea Break



15.30- 16.45Session 4: The Camino and other Journeys


Antonella Palumbo (G. D'Annunzio" University of Chieti Pescara), The Camino de Santiago and the Via dell'Angelo: historical and anthropological contexts in their routes

Elizabeth Tingle (DMU), Sacred Journeys, Spiritual Travel: Confraternities and Long-Distance Pilgrimage in Catholic- Reformation France.


Tom Wilson, (St Philip’s Centre, Leicester), Pilgrims or Tourists?



16.45-17.30 Discussion and Conclusions.


Submission date for papers: 
30 Apr 2017
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