The custom of going on a pilgrimage to the Holy Places is common to all the major religions, although each presents unique features and characteristics.
The origins of this important religious and social phenomenon lie in the search for a more intense and more direct contact with the divine or the sacred, which the believer wishes to experience for a wide variety of reasons: a pilgrimage may be undertaken for a spiritual purpose, or even to fulfil a duty or keep a vow, to obtain material benefit, whether freely without any precise constraints on timing, or on special occasions: in the latter case, pilgrimage sometimes leads to the mass movement of persons, not only with major social repercussions, but also assuming political and economic importance.
The goal of the pilgrimage is usually a place where, by tradition, a special manifestation of the divine had taken place, with or without a temple or a sanctuary, or a series of sacred buildings capable of preserving and transmitting the memory of that holy event. In some cultures, pilgrims wear special clothing and comply with precise rules governing diet and behaviour throughout the pilgrimage, whereas in others the custom tends to resemble a sort of tourism with religious undertones.
Owing to these possible convergences, and - above all - the evident differences, it is worthwhile making a comparison, purely the purpose of dialogue, between cultural and religious sites that are far apart both geographically and historically: it is important to use a diachronic perspective because it allows us to trace the origins of this custom in the world’s most ancient civilisations.