The pilgrim route
Between the 10th and 11th centuries, pilgrimage was a very important part of western religious life. The aim of these distant voyages, which increased more and more around the year one thousand, was to visit the sacred places hallowed by the passage of Christ or the presence of relics of saints. The principle destinations were Christ’s tomb in Jerusalem (the Holy Sepulchre), the tombs of Saint Peter and Saint Paul in Rome and the tomb of Saint James of Compestala. These journeys were long, expensive, tiring and dangerous (often the pilgrim would have to return before the end of his voyage). The duke of Normandy, Robert ‘the Magnificent’ died in 1035 at the peak of his power, in Nicea in Bitynia, coming back from a pilgrimage to Jerusalem.
The ports of Brindisi and Messina in southern Italy played an important role in the embarkation of these voyages. In Apulia on the Adriatic coast, there was an important place of pilgrimage, the monastery of Saint Michael at Mont-Gargan where the Archangel appeared in 492, which had close ties with the site of Mont-Saint-Michel in Normandy, where according to legend there was also an apparition of Saint Michael, at the beginning of the 8th century. Numerous Norman pilgrims went to this site and thus the story of the Normans in southern Italy had begun.