Micro-pilgrimage in France and Spain

Introducing students to the possibility of pilgrimage

  • Alison T. Smith
Keywords: Micro-pilgrimage, microadventure, study abroad, Oseira Monastery, Saint-Guilhem-le-Désert, Camino Francés, Santiago de Compostela


For those of us who have witnessed the transformative potential of pilgrimage, the desire to share that experience can be urgent, especially among educators. In doing so, however, we must be careful to allow our students to set their own intentions and shape their own pilgrimages in order for the practice to be of most benefit to them. The tremendous possibility inherent in exposing a new generation to pilgrimage’s capacity for peacemaking, remembrance, and personal transformation, among countless other potential outcomes, beckons pilgrims and scholars to find ways to share this with students and other groups.

Inspired by Don DeGraaf’s work on study abroad as pilgrimage, Jasmine Goodnow’s research on microadventure, and Lisa Signori’s philosophy that “less can be more” in her development of short-term pilgrimage experiences for students, I am exploring the practice of micro-pilgrimage within the structure of traditional summer study abroad programs. In this paper, I will examine two micro-pilgrimages one could do with students or other groups to give them an introduction to the practice. The first is in Galicia, Spain, to the Mosteiro de Oseira, and the second is in France to the Abbaye de Gellone in Saint-Guilhem-le-Désert, Hérault. Both destinations lie along variants of the Camino de Santiago, allowing instructors the possibility of complete engagement with the history and culture of the Camino. Through the practice of micro-pilgrimage, we can share our enthusiasm for pilgrimage with others while guiding them to make their own discoveries.