The essay focuses on the economic aspect of pilgrimage. The case analyzed is the Holy House of Loreto, which after the Council of Trent imposes itself as the largest Marian shrine of Catholic Europe. After listing the essential stages in the gradual rise of the Loreto cult, from the fourteen century to the final triumph in the two decades following the mid-fifteenth century, the essay analyzes the evolution of the pilgrim phenomenon. When the flow of pilgrims takes on mass dimensions, the urge is to provide not only religious services, but also reception services to meet their needs. The paper then focuses on the theme of alms. In the case of Loreto it is possible to quantify accurately (for almost four centuries: from the beginning of the sixteenth cen- tury to the early twentieth century) the flow of offerings left by pilgrims in the coffers of the sanctuary of the Holy House. It is a very detailed and extremely significant record, enabling us not only to understand the inner financing of a large sanctuary, but also to outline a kind of trend in the religious behaviour of Europe during the modern age. These data should not be overvalued, due to the problems of interpretation they raise, but anyway they have an unquestionable value. In the last half-century researching historians have been searching for quantitative indicators that would allow a serial study of religious attitudes and practices: the Loreto records can now offer a supplementary contribution in this direction.
Keywords: Pilgrimages, devotional objects, Holy house of Loreto, history of mentality
Marco Moroni, Pilgrims and alms in Loreto between the fifteenth and nineteenth centuries in "SOCIETÀ E STORIA " 140/2013, pp. 319-341, DOI:10.3280/SS2013-140004