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For Orthodox Christians a pilgrimage is a journey or search of great moral significance to the Orthodox belief and faith. The object of any particular pilgrimage can vary greatly, from pilgrimages of great meaning to all Orthodox believers to those that may have significance to believers in a local area. A person who makes such a journey is called a pilgrim.
While pilgrimages are common among most religious sects and even at times among secular, personality, and political groups and cults, pilgrimages among Christians have been common since the beginning of Christ's church. A side element of pilgrimages through the ages is the added trade, prosperity, and communications brought to pilgrimage sites by the pilgrims, particularly for major sites.
Pilgrimages by Christians were first made to sites connected with the birth, life, crucifixion, and resurrection of Jesus. Surviving descriptions, such as that by the pilgrim Egeria, of Christian pilgrimages to the Holy Land date from the fourth century, when pilgrimage was encouraged by church fathers like St Jerome. Pilgrimages also began to be made to Rome and other sites associated with the Apostles, various saints, and Christian martyrs.
Among the major Orthodox pilgrimage sites are the following:
- Jerusalem. The site of the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus.
- Constantinople (today Istanbul, Turkey). The former capital of the Eastern Roman (Byzantine) Empire and the see of one of the five ancient Patriarchates and spiritual see of the Orthodox Church. Hagia Sophia, former cathedral and burial place of many Ecumenical Patriarchs.
- Bethlehem, in Palestine. The birthplace of Jesus and King David.
- Mount Athos, Greece. A monastic republic.
- Mount Sinai.