Faith is a powerful motivator, and sometimes it motivates us to travel to spiritual sites all over the world and see the places that our ancestors considered to be holy. Many faiths have their own shrines, memorials and quiet places of reflection that are soothing to the soul. To get away from the deafening noise and uncomfortable claustrophobia of big-city travel, try seeking out some spiritual destinations that will soothe and relax your spirit.
You don’t only have to see the places of your own religion; spirituality can be comforting in any faith, and peace can be found at any religious haven regardless of your own creed. The world is scattered with these monuments of faith; some are huge shrines with throngs of people; others are tiny chapels on beautiful grounds with many places to relax and unwind. The spiritual traveler need only know where to look.
It doesn’t matter what part of the world you’re traversing, because you’ll always be able to find a sanctuary that speaks to your inner being. Whether you’re traveling to the Middle East, Europe, or even staying in America, you will find a place where you can feel at ease and can uplift your faith.
France’s Lourdes Shrine (Catholic)
Lourdes Shrine is one of the most well-known religious retreats in the world; many rank it second in importance to the holy city of Rome. Church history says a girl named Bernadette witnessed the miraculous vision of the Virgin many times in the year 1858. The site soon became a shrine where miracles are purported to have happened, and is a wonderful place of pilgrimage. Millions of Catholics, originating from all over the world, visit each year to witness the spot where the visions occurred. The town itself, outside of the shrine, is a great destination as well. The Pyrenees Mountains stretch out above the quaint town; climb as high as you can to enjoy a wonderful view that will also fill you with a spiritual calmness and serenity.
Vatican City (Catholic)
It’s strange to think that Vatican City is actually a country in its own right, but the idea is catching on. Since time immemorial, Rome has been a sight of pilgrimage not only to Catholics, but to Christians of all denominations. Vatican City, a dependency, is home to the Pope, the Holy Father of the Catholic faithful, and many monuments to Catholic faith. The larger city of Rome, of course, encompasses many more Christian monuments that are of interest to both Catholics and Protestants. St. Peter’s Basilica and the Catacombs where countless early Christians are buried are just some of the things to see here.
Germany’s Castle Church Door, Wittenberg (Protestant)
Those of the Protestant faith may consider Wittenberg’s Castle Church a sort of “shrine” in its own right; it was here in the turbulent year of 1517 that Dr. Martin Luther put up his “95 Theses,” shaking the age-old authority of the Catholic Church. This act led to a religious revolution that soon turned many from the Catholic hierarchy and to a new faith eventually known as Protestantism. Although the door on which the Theses were posted was destroyed by an 18th century fire, a bronze door emblazoned with the 95 Theses now stands in its place.
The obligatory pilgrimage to Mecca is rooted deep in Muslim religious traditions. For hundreds of years, followers of Islam have been coming to the shrine of Mecca, participating in various religious rituals including the “Stoning of the Devil” and purification ceremonies. Any Muslim who is able to travel physically and financially is firmly urged to complete this mission. Mecca, located in Saudi Arabia, is a huge place complete with a mysterious black stone that sits in the middle of the Kaaba shrine. This stone is considered to be of special symbolism and was not destroyed when Muhammad purportedly destroyed the other idols of pagan Mecca.
The Wailing Wall (Jewish)
Although not strictly of interest only to Jewish visitors, those of the Jewish faith hold Jerusalem’s Wailing Wall in high regards. It has long been a place to pray, to worship together, and to soak in the spiritual symbolism of the ruins. The wall is said to be the only remains of Solomon’s temple. Christian visitors will also find a peace in coming to pray here in this holy place, and may wish to leave a note or a prayer to put between the cracks in the ancient walls.