Education Centre (School Visits)

Time Trails

Time Trails Pilgrims

From Southwark to Canterbury...
...a pilgrimage


This is England in the reign of King Richard II.

The esteemed writer Geoffrey Chaucer is speaking to a group of pilgrims.

The scene is not unlike the one featured in his book, The Canterbury Tales.


The law dictates that pilgrims have to obtain the Bishop's permission to go on pilgrimage. If they are without the permission letter - the testimoniales - the pilgrims can be arrested as vagabonds - people without a home.

The pilgrims explain to the Bishop why they want to go on pilgrimage and he gives them his blessing.


The pilgrims are going to embark on a journey from the Tabard Inn, Southwark, to the shrine of St Thomas Becket in Canterbury.

It has been said that miracles have occurred at the site where Thomas Becket was murdered and it is for this reason that they are making their special journey.


The pilgrims then dress in their 'uniform'. The uniform is the outward sign of a pilgrim.

The outfit consists of: a grey gown bearing a red cross, a black or grey hat decorated with the same, a scrip (bag containing food for the journey and gifts for entrance to the shrine), a staff to lean on during the long journey, and a serious and pale face showing the serious intention of the pilgrim.


Once suitably attired, the pilgrims begin their journey, on foot. They pass the canons of the Priory of St Mary Overy who provided them with accommodation the night before.

The pilgrims rest and take shelter at various religious houses along the way. To break the monotony of the journey they play cards, throw dice and tell stories.


Canterbury appears on the horizon and the pilgrims approach the shrine with their gifts.

They adopt the penitential position (kneel before the shrine) as a sign of humility before God.

The pilgrims make their offerings, say their prayer and receive their badges (sea-shells) to show that they have completed their pilgrimage.