“As I make my slow pilgrimage through the world, a certain sense of beautiful mystery seems to gather and grow.” (A. C. Benson)
Over the centuries, Christians the world over have set out to visit the cradle of their faith in Palestine or – as they reverently call it – the Holy Land. In the 19th century, the region, with its numerous sacred locations and cities – Jerusalem most important among them – formed part of the Ottoman Empire. Improved transport links and communications networks, as well as a favourable political climate and the relative tolerance of the Ottomans towards foreigners and religious minorities, now meant that the European faithful and visitors from elsewhere felt free to explore the region. According to their respective denomination, the purpose for the journey might vary from ritual pilgrimage to pious edification and contemplation. Indigenous Christian communities across the Middle East and North Africa, meanwhile, continued to maintain their own diverse traditions and they, too, would visit Palestine as well as many other spiritually significant places in the region.