Pilgrimages are as old as mankind. The mystical and spiritual nature of a pilgrimage holds an eternal, mythic appeal to the imagination of many people. Every year millions of pilgrims of all nationalities, young and old, set out on these voyages of the soul. The mystical and spiritual nature of a pilgrimage holds an eternal, mythic appeal to the imagination of many people. Every year millions of pilgrims of all nationalities, young and old, set out on these voyages of the soul. The twelve documentaries in the Pilgrimages of Europe collection are experiential journeys to some of the most sacred routes and holy places throughout Christian Europe. Each half-hour documentary, richly filmed, looks at the spiritual, cultural and historical background of an important pilgrimage sites throughout Europe. However, the people, the pilgrims themselves, are at the heart of these stories – their purposes and desires, their motivations, and the great sense of the holy and the sacred which they find on their journeys of faith.
The history of Scherpenheuvel, the Belgium place of pilgrimage, begins with an age-old legend. Around the year 1500 a shepherd found a statuette of Mary in an old oak tree on the Scherpe Heuvel (pointed hill) between the villages of Aarschot and Diest. When he tried to pick up the statuette he stopped as if petrified. He could not move. His worried master found him a few hours later, frozen in place, with the statuette in his hand. The master took it from the shepherd’s hands and placed it back in the tree. Only then could the man move again. Ever since then Scherpenheuvel has been an important pilgrimage site. Today, it is perhaps best known for its traditional annual walk, a walk of atonement during which the pilgrims travel on foot, beginning their journey in Antwerp. Some 35 miles long, it is often called “The Great Trek.”