Christian tourism

Christian tourism is a subcategory of religious tourism which is geared towards Christians. As one of the largest branches of religious tourism, it is estimated that seven percent of the world’s Christians—about 168 million people—are “on the move as pilgrims” each year.

Christian tourism refers to the entire industry of Christian travel, tourism, and hospitality. In recent years it has grown to include not only Christians embarking individually or in groups on pilgrimages and missionary travel, but also on religion-based cruises, leisure (fellowship) vacations, crusades, rallies, retreats, monastery visits/guest-stays and Christian camps, as well as visiting Christian tourist attractions.

Although no definitive study has been completed on Christian tourism, some segments of the industry have been measured:

According to the Religious Conference Management Association, in 2006 more than 14.7 million people attended religious meetings (RCMA members), an increase of more than 10 million from 1994 with 4.4 million attendees.
The United Methodist Church experienced an increase of 455% in Volunteers in Mission between 1992 with almost 20,000 volunteers and 2006 with 110,000 volunteers.
The Christian Camp and Conference Association states that more than eight million people are involved in CCCA member camps and conferences, including more than 120,000 churches.
Short-term missions draw 1.6 million participants annually.
Christian attractions including Sight & Sound Theatre attracts 800,000 visitors a year while the Holy Land Experience and Focus on the Family welcome center each receives about 250,000 guests annually. Recently launched Christian attractions include the Creation Museum and Billy Graham Library, both of which are expected to receive about 250,000 visitors each year as well.
50,000 churches in the United States possess a travel program or travel ministry

Vatican City. An independent state within Rome, center of the Catholic Church and home to St Peter’s Basilica and the Sistine Chapel; Rome outside the Vatican is also full of churches, including San Giovanni in Laterano, the Pope’s cathedral in his role as Bishop of Rome. edit
The Holy Land, today divided between Israel and the Palestinian territories
Jerusalem (Israel). Site of Jesus’ crucification and also a holy city for Judaism and Islam. edit
Bethlehem (West Bank). The birthplace of Jesus according to the New Testament edit
Nazareth (Israel). The home (and likely historical birthplace) of Jesus. Today one of the centers of the Arab Christian minority in Israel, that – unlike many other Christian minorities in the Middle East – continues to grow and thrive. edit
Istanbul (Turkey). Formerly Constantinople and home of the Ecumenical Patriarch of the Eastern Orthodox Churches, with his church being the Church of St George in the Fener district. edit
Canterbury (United Kingdom). Home to the Canterbury Cathedral, the church of the Archbishop of Canterbury, who is the spiritual leader of the Anglican Church edit
Alexandria (Egypt). Home to Saint Mark’s Coptic Orthodox Cathedral, the seat of the Coptic Pope, who is the symbolic leader of the Oriental Orthodox Churches. edit
Erbil (Iraq). Home to Cathedral of St. John the Baptist, the seat of the Catholicos-Patriarch, the leader of the Assyrian Church of the East. edit
Antakya, Tarsus, Ephesus and Alexandria Troas (close to Geyikli-Dalyan) in Turkey, Athens, Corinth, Thessaloniki and Samothrace in Greece, Caesarea in Israel, where St. Paul is supposed to have preached
Seven Churches of Asia, Turkey, are seven major early Christian communities mentioned in the New Testament.
Cappadocia (Turkey). A refugee for the early Christians where they escaped persecution in numerous underground cities and colorful churches dug into the volcanic rocks of the area. edit
İznik (Turkey). As ancient Nicaea, the town was the site of the First and the Second Councils of Nicaea (or the First and the Seventh Ecumenical Councils), convened in 325 and 787 respectively, inside the basilica of Hagia Sophia that still stands at the town square. edit
Mount Athos (Greece). A peninsula with many Orthodox monasteries, where women are not allowed at all edit
Moscow (Russia). The Danilov monastery, on the right bank of the Moskva River, is the spiritual and administrative center of the Russian Orthodox church. edit
Salt Lake City (United States). Center of the Latter Day Saints (Mormon) movement. Mormons are Nontrinitarians (do not believe in The Holy Trinity) and have added Book of Mormon as an additional Testament. Notable Mormon sites include the Salt Lake City temple at Temple Square, as well as the Salt Lake City Tabernacle, the home of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. edit
Lourdes (France). The world’s best-known center of Marian pilgrimage edit
Way of St. James to Santiago de Compostela, an important Catholic pilgrimage route since the Middle Ages
Aparecida (Brazil). Home to the sanctuary of Brazil’s patroness, the Holy Virgin Mary of Aparecida edit
Saint Olaf’s Way to Nidaros Cathedral in Trondheim, Norway, where St. Olaf is buried
Several places in Germany are instrumental in the history of Lutheranism: The Wartburg, near Eisenach, where Luther translated the bible into German (one of the first and most notable modern vernacular versions of the bible), Lutherstadt Wittenberg where the 95 Theses were written and where Luther began to preach against the Pope and other, smaller places, mostly in Thuringia.
Longobards in Italy, Places of Power (568–774 A.D.), religious buildings in Italy built during the Early Middle Ages and listed by UNESCO as a world heritage site.
Wooden tserkvas of the Carpathian region —log churches in Poland and Ukraine, listed by UNESCO as a world heritage site.
Several lesser known places also venerate the apparition of Mary or the supposed remains of some saint, especially in Orthodox and Catholic countries. As Melanchton, a 16th century ally of Martin Luther famously quipped “Fourteen of our twelve apostles are buried in Germany”. Oftentimes those religious sites and objects have been a major draw for travelers for centuries and thus (former) “tourism infrastructure” may be an attraction all by itself.

Christian tourism guide
Christianity is the world’s most prolific religion, with more than 2.4 billion followers, and churches and chapels on every continent including Antarctica. Many of those are on the UNESCO World Heritage List.

Christianity is a monotheistic (believing in one god) Abrahamic (believing to be descended from the religion of Abraham who may or may not have lived in the second or first millennium B.C. in the ancient Middle East) religion and is today one of the most widely practiced religions in the world. Christianity believes that Jesus of Nazareth (who most likely lived from approximately 7 BC to roughly 30 CE, named after the place where he grew up and his likely birthplace, although the New Testament states that he was born in Bethlehem) whom it calls Jesus Christ was the “Messiah” promised to the Jewish people by various prophecies and that he is in some sense the Son of God (the same God that Jews and Muslims worship). Christians believe that Jesus Christ was conceived by Mary as a virgin, and as the Son of God is the only one who can be considered free from sin in his own right, and that the crucifixion of Jesus by the Romans was the sacrifice necessary to cleanse humanity of its sins. According to the Biblical account, Jesus was resurrected after his death on the cross and subsequent burial, and appeared before his disciples. Jesus was then raised to heaven where he awaits the world’s decline into sin and tribulation, after which he would return to Earth and pass the final judgment on humanity.

The vast majority of Christians today also believe in some form of Trinity, which is the belief that Jesus, God (the Father) and the Holy Spirit are one God in three Persons. The exact specifications of the Trinity, whether saints or icons should be venerated and how and questions of church administration caused a number of schisms which helped to provoke or provide a pretext for some very destructive wars and also resulted in the large number of Christian denominations in existence today, the most notable of which are the Orthodox churches, the Roman Catholic church and various Protestant churches of which Lutherans and Calvinists are the historically most significant. While the great majority of religious people in some countries, such as the USA, Canada, Australia and most of Europe as well as almost all of Latin America are at least nominally Christian, Christianity is a minority religion in most of Asia (with the exception of the Philippines and East Timor), Africa (with the exception, mainly, of Southern Africa) and the Middle East. Christianity has influenced the culture of the countries it is or has been dominant in and has been influenced by preexisting local cultures, traditions and religions as well, and many important buildings bear witness to the Christian faith of today and bygone eras.

A key difference in doctrine between Christianity and Judaism is the concept of original sin in Christianity, which does not exist in Judaism. Christians believe that as a result of Adam’s disobedience of God in the Garden of Eden, all humans are born tainted with this original sin, and that only through the sacrifice of an individual who is free from sin, of which Jesus Christ is the only one, can the sins of mankind be atoned for. As such, Christians generally believe that the only way one can be cleansed of sin and avoid eternal damnation is through belief in Jesus Christ.

Some main types of Christian buildings and sites are:

Abbey: A church headed by an abbot/abbess, who is the leader of a community of monks/nuns
Cathedral: A prominent church, the seat (cathedra) of a bishop
Church: A building dedicated to church services (called mass in Catholicism), prayer and ceremony
Chapel: A similar, non-inaugurated building
Monastery: A place where monks live and worship communally
Convent: A place where nuns live and worship communally
Cemetery: Can be tied to a Christian congregation or be multi-religious

One important difference between Orthodox churches and the Catholic Church on the one hand and some Protestant churches — particularly Calvinist ones — on the other is that while Orthodox Christians and Catholics venerate icons of Jesus, the Virgin Mary and saints, many Protestant churches are iconoclastic (rejecting the use of icons and in some cases in the past, outright destroying them), with simple churches that are not ornate and feature just a symbolic cross, rather than a crucifix showing the body of Christ in their churches. Protestant churches that do use icons to some degree and sometimes elaborate architectural decorations include Anglican and Lutheran churches, though the Anglican church also went through an iconoclastic period, during which they destroyed most English Catholic sculpture.

As in other religions, interpretations of scripture can also differ significantly between different Christian denominations. For example the Catholic, Orthodox and Anglican churches tend to prefer a more figurative interpretation of the Biblical text, and generally allow for the theory of evolution and other scientific theories that do not match Biblical accounts. Conversely many evangelical churches, including the Pentecostal and Baptist churches tend to follow a strict literal interpretation of the Bible, and thus do not allow for evolution and other scientific theories.

Christianity’s principal religious text, the Bible, comes in many different editions. The Protestant, Catholic and Orthodox bibles contain differing numbers of books, and the translations from the original texts (mostly written in ancient Greek) into most modern languages often also result in rather different interpretations.

Churches tend to use the language of the country they are located in, though this is by no means true in all cases. There are also many expatriate churches in many places using the language of a community’s homeland. Religious language is often a solemn, antiquated variety as evidenced by the still most common English-language Bible, the King James Version that was translated from the original Greek and Hebrew by contemporaries of Shakespeare. However, most Evangelical megachurches use newer translations of the Bible that are written in modern vernacular to make their Bibles more accessible to youths. There is however a significant minority that considers the King James Bible the only valid translation and similarly, the Luther Bible is often considered a work of supreme linguistic beauty or even genius never surpassed by more contemporary translations among German language Lutherans.

The Roman Catholic church used to employ the Latin language widely, although this has changed since the 1960s so that services are typically given in the language of the community. The Vatican is a place where Latin may still be observed in active use. Latin Masses are still offered in many other places around the world as well, and some people find the experience to be superior to a mass in the vernacular. The Roman Catholic church in the diaspora (in places outside the historical Catholic sphere) may also offer masses in the languages of Catholic migrants.

The original languages of the Old Testament are the Jewish holy languages of Biblical Hebrew and Aramaic, while the original language of the New Testament was classical Greek. Jesus of Nazareth is widely believed by historians to have been a native speaker of Aramaic. The earliest Christians, especially the educated among them, were usually fluent in Greek and the Septuagint, a Greek version of the Old Testament, was more commonly known among early Christians than the Hebrew Torah, which explains some readings of prophecies that make little sense with the Hebrew text in mind, like making a word that in Hebrew means “young woman” into the Greek word for “virgin” in a prophecy interpreted by most Christians to refer to the birth of the messiah.


Many Christian houses of worship, particularly many Roman Catholic, Orthodox and Anglican ones, are spectacular buildings. On their exteriors, many churches have stone carving, for example in their tympana and niches. In their interiors, many have priceless works of art, in the form of frescoes, framed paintings, sculptures, stained glass windows, mosaics, and woodworking. They may also have relics – the remains of body parts or objects associated with saints or other figures holy to Christians – that inspired the original construction of a cathedral, or famous icons of the Virgin Mary, which are primarily responsible for making the building a place of pilgrimage.

In addition, cathedrals and other large churches may have lovely bell towers or baptisteries with separate entrances that are well worth visiting, and particularly old churches may have a crypt that includes artifacts from previous houses of worship the current building was built on top of, and associated museums that house works of art formerly displayed in the church.

Protestant churches that are largely unadorned for doctrinal reasons can have a kind of serene, simple beauty all their own. In some places former mosques have been turned into churches (or vice versa) and more than one church has changed denomination due to the once common principle cuius regio eius religio (Latin that roughly translates as: Who owns the land decides the faith). This sometimes shows in architecture as well as adornments or the lack thereof.

Christian art
Aside from the art you can see in churches, there is much sacred Christian art, especially framed paintings and sculptures, in art museums around the world, and there are also many beautifully decorated books of sacred Christian writing, including complete Bibles, separate Old and New Testaments, sets of Gospel readings for a year of masses, books of prayers with music notation for chanting or polyphonic singing (in which several different vocal lines intertwine in different ways) and books of devotional poetry. One particularly notable style is that of the illuminated manuscript, in which a book is handwritten in calligraphy along with decorative and informative illustrations. Illuminated manuscripts are generally found in libraries — either public libraries, university libraries or indeed church libraries.


Things to do in church
Churches are places for:

Personal meditation, contemplation and prayer between masses/services
Worship services, which vary widely in style between different churches
Confession of sins or/and counseling
Religious education and spiritual direction
Various sacraments, such as baptism, confirmation, weddings, and funerals
Communal activities, such as shared meals or snacks
Charitable giving and receiving
Many also run concert series or other performances, some of which are world-famous, or/and are known for having a great organist, chorus, or/and solo singers and instrumentalists
Churches generally have pamphlets in plain sight of visitors, describing their spiritual mission, schedule of services, communal and charitable activities, what charitable and maintenance/restoration work needs contributions, who to contact to find out more information about all of the above, and often the history of the building and its artworks.

There are various places of pilgrimage around the world that Christians traditionally visit. The age-old way to perform a pilgrimage was on foot or on the back of a horse or donkey. Among the traditional pilgrimages, the following are probably the most famous to do in the traditional way:

The walk along the Via Dolorosa, the street in Jerusalem on which Jesus is said to have carried his cross, ending at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre
The Way of St. James, ending at the splendid Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela
However, there are many other places of pilgrimage, and most of them are usually no longer approached by taking a long trek. For example, most long-distance travellers to The Vatican arrive by plane to Rome’s Leonardo da Vinci-Fiumicino Airport. Even the Vatican itself has been going with the times for quite some time now and the Vatican has a railway station for use by the pope should he be so inclined as to travel by train. Usually these days, the Pope takes an airplane, however and when he visits a city he travels around in the “Papamobil”, a special car with bullet proof glass.

Christian music
Music has always been a key part of Christian worship, and composers throughout the ages have set many hymns and prayers to music. The earliest surviving form of notated Christian music is the Gregorian chant, actually a set of Frankish chants recorded by scribes at the command of the Frankish King and first Holy Roman Emperor, Charlemagne, around the turn of the 9th century, and then blessed by the Pope. There were originally several styles of church chant, all of which are collectively known as plain chant, meaning that only the melody was chanted, without any countermelodies or harmony, but because of the Pope’s imprimatur, Gregorian chant gradually supplanted the other styles to become the single official Roman Catholic chant style. Gregorian chant continues to be regularly performed at Masses in the Vatican City and in various monasteries and convents throughout the world.

Gregorian chant would later evolve into polyphonic chanting during the Middle Ages and Renaissance, distinguished from monophonic Gregorian chants in that in polyphonic chants, different segments of the choir often sing different melodies which are supposed to blend together in harmony (as in the organum of the 12th/13th-century French composer, Perotinus, probably the first man to compose music for performance in the Gothic church of Notre Dame in Paris) or the same or a similar melody, sung in overlapping imitation (typical of Renaissance practice starting no later than the time of the Guillaume Dufay [c. 1397-1474], from a town near Brussels). Perhaps the most famous Renaissance-era composers of polyphonic chants and other polyphonic church music are Josquin des Prez (c.1440 – 1521), a very highly celebrated Burgundian composer who worked for the courts of Milan, Rome (in the Papal Choir) and Ferrara and as Provost of the Collegiate Church of Notre Dame in Condé-sur-l’Escaut, 50 km from Lille, which was then part of Burgundy; and the Italian, Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina (c. 1525-1594), who worked for the Pope in various capacities, including as maestro di capella (Music Director) of San Giovanni in Laterano in Rome.

Music with instrumental accompaniment has been a key part of Western Christian traditions since at least the Baroque period. Many famous composers including those of the First Vienna school — Joseph Haydn (1732-1809, from the village of Rohrau, Lower Austria), Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756-1791, from Salzburg), Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827, from Bonn) and Franz Schubert (1797-1828, a native of the Vienna area) — and the aforementioned Dufay, Josquin and Palestrina were Roman Catholic, and set the Ordinary of the Mass to music — the “Ordinary” consisting of a series of prayers typically chanted by a choir (that is, not just by the priest) during Mass. These days, their settings of the Mass are more frequently performed as concert pieces than as part of the liturgy, but there are exceptions among both Roman Catholic and what are called “High Church Anglican” churches. A special type of Mass that is typically performed at funerals and memorial services is the Requiem Mass, the most famous settings of which were composed by Mozart, Giuseppe Verdi (1813-1901, a famous opera composer who was born in Le Roncole, Province of Parma and wrote mostly for La Fenice in Venice) and Gabriel Fauré (1845–1924, from Pamiers, a small town in Ariège Department, who had a long career in Paris).

The organ
Pianos are often used in services, especially in African-American churches, but it is above all the organ that has a long history of connection with the church and church music. The ancestor of the organ, the hydraulis, was used as a secular instrument in Roman times but died out in Western Europe, while continuing to exist and be developed in the Hellenistic “East”. However, after a hiatus of a few hundred years, the hydraulis was reintroduced to Western Europe when Pepin (c. 714–768), King of the Franks and father of Charlemagne, was gifted one by Emperor Constantine V of Byzantium. The hydraulis and then organ have been used widely in churches ever since this period. It is even theorized that the word organum, a genre that existed starting no later than the 9th century as a simple form of note-against note polyphony and then developed by the 12th century into one in which one voice holds out plain chant notes while one or more higher voices sing much faster counterpoints to that melody, may owe itself to the organ being used to hold the long notes, though this is uncertain.

What is certain is that a very large number of churches have impressive, beautiful organs whose appearance and sound are major draws for visitors and congregants. Many churches also feature their regular organist and/or other organists performing recitals on their organ.

Some churches have a money box where visitors can pay for candles and booklets or give to the church or/and its various missions and charities. Others have cafes or/and gift shops. Some do not want you to give money unless you attend regularly, as their spiritual mission is to welcome all comers, but it is a rare church that wouldn’t welcome a sincere donation.

Many Protestant churches require their members to contribute 10% of their monthly income to the church. This is known as a tithe. In addition, churches also collect monetary donations from worshipers at services, which is optional and on top of the tithe. This is known as an offering. In some places (e.g. Germany or Austria) the tithe is collected by the state on behalf of the churches, meaning it is rather common (and perfectly legal) for an employer to ask for your religion.

The aforementioned religious music is of course often available for purchase as are (replicas) of religious artworks. In the past there was also a vibrant trade in (real or fake) reliquiae and indulgences – so vibrant in fact that it kicked off the Protestant Reformation – but most major dominations have since left this market.

While Roman Catholics, according to the 1983 Code of Canon Law, abstain from meat (other than “fish”, which historically could include anything from beavers to turtles) on Fridays throughout the year unless they are solemnities, there is not really an equivalent to Muslim halal or Jewish kashrut in mainstream Christianity.

The Roman Catholic church has since 1983 practiced abstinence during Lent (40 days), which is a personal choice with few prescriptions. Fasting (dietary abstinence) is obligatory on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday, which means one meal a day (solid food, no restrictions on beverages), or two smaller meals which if added together would not exceed the main meal in quantity. The individual Catholic may choose a way of abstinence during the Lent period, which could very well include dietary abstinence. Children, the sick, retired people and pregnant women are not expected to observe Lent.

Many of the newer American branches of Christianity, though, have some stricter dietary laws that are not followed by more traditional Christian denominations. For instance, some evangelical megachurches, as well as the Seventh Day Adventists and Mormons, prohibit consumption of alcohol. Seventh Day Adventists are also encouraged to be vegan and absolutely prohibited from eating pork, while both Mormons and Seventh Day Adventists are forbidden from drinking tea and coffee. Jehovah’s Witnesses are forbidden from consuming blood and blood products (which includes receiving blood transfusions), so any meat they eat has to be properly drained of blood before consumption.

Some churches offer wine (with alcohol) as part of a communion service. Others will offer a non-alcoholic replacement such as grape juice. The distinction between grape juice and wine postdates Jesus by centuries as only modern pasteurization and refrigeration make it possible to ship or store grape juice without it fermenting.

Some denominations of Christianity prohibit or restrict alcohol consumption, while others celebrate it. So whereas a social event organized by a Baptist church in the United States may be strictly alcohol-free, a Catholic church in Germany is likely to invite all members of the congregation to join the celebrants at a beer hall after a high mass. The beer hall may even be next to the church, and the beer they serve may be brewed by monks. The Mormons, Seventh Day Adventists, as well as some Baptist churches prohibit the consumption of tea and coffee.

Different branches of Christianity have different attitudes to other activities on a Sunday. In some areas customs or even secular laws may demand that shops and places of entertainment shut on a Sunday. In some places, notably certain states of Germany, discos and similar venues and activities of entertainment have to be closed on “silent” holidays like Good Friday or All Saints’ Day. In other places all Christian holidays – even more somber ones like Good Friday – are celebrated with music, parades in the streets, drink, merriment and traditions that sometimes predate the local introduction of Christianity.

Some monasteries and convents offer accommodation to travellers. Churches and religious community centers are also often used as a place for youth groups of the same or a similar denomination to spend the night, such as Christian Scout groups during Hajk.
The expectation of conservative dress and respectful behavior varies greatly between individual churches, although generally speaking churches will welcome all strangers from all faiths without pre-condition.

When attending a service or ceremony at a Christian place of worship, it is appropriate to dress conservatively and show respect; details vary by place. It is a very good idea to learn a bit about the local rules before visiting a place of worship. There is a vast difference between any expected behavior during a service; for example, some may define behaving reverently as not eating or drinking or taking photographs, checking your mobile phone, and so on. As an example, the Roman Catholic church has a eucharistic fast, which means Catholics are not permitted to eat one hour before receiving communion at the church. On the other hand many churches are more like a modern concert in style where all of the above are welcome. Some even have the eating and drinking as the basis of the service sitting around in a ‘Café Style’. Similarly, while some styles of worship involve the congregation quietly listening to a professional choir sing hymns, at many churches of people of African heritage in the Americas, the entire congregation is expected to join the choir in singing, clapping, even dancing. In many Christian churches, a man should remove his hat, and in some, a woman is expected to cover her head. Depending on the church and what is going on at the time, voices should be kept down, and mobile phones and similar devices should be set to silent. You should avoid leaving the church while the service is in progress unless necessary, again depending on the type and style of service.

While the Catholic, Lutheran and Anglican churches have a wealth of classical music heritage, actual orchestral church services in these denominations are rare in modern times, and much of this music is more commonly performed in a symphonic concert setting rather than the liturgical context they were originally intended for. Should you be lucky enough to attend one of those rare liturgical orchestral performances of such music, be aware that unlike at a concert, you should not applaud the performance, as applause is considered to be inappropriate in the context of the solemnity of a church service.

If you are visiting a place of worship that is a destination for travellers and you are not interested in worshiping yourself, it is better to wait for a service or ceremony to conclude before visiting. Alternatively, if you want to know more of the heart of the community, go to a service. Many – though not all – architecturally interesting churches belong to styles of Christianity that expect people – especially women – to dress conservatively. Often (especially in the heavily visited cases) this will be spelled out in so many words, but exceptions exist, where you might commit a social faux pas or even get thrown out of the church, without even knowing. When in doubt, ask a local before heading out.

Old and important churches are often “national shrines” of sorts and important figures – both religious and secular – may be buried in or underneath the church. Keep in mind that even if you come to pay respects to Rubén Darío, his final resting place remains the most important Catholic church in Nicaragua. You should thus approach with respect both towards the people buried there and their literary or philosophical accomplishments, and the faith people express here, and maybe wait with expressing your opinion on whether or not building this cathedral was a wise use of scarce funds by the Spanish colonial administration until you have left the church again.

Source from Wikipedia