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Rachel Nelson

During the 11th and 12th centuries, pilgrimages were of the utmost importance. Making the long journey to these holy sites were a means to get closer to God on Earth, which in turn were hopefully a means to remain closer to God in the next life as well.

The layout of churches changed to accommodate the many pilgrims who made their way to sacred places. The cruciform plan takes the symbolic form of the cross but also created an organized flow of pilgrims so the crowds would not become chaotic. Pilgrims would enter the western portal and move through the church to the apse on the eastern end (these sometimes contained radiating chapels that housed shrines to the saints). After, pilgrims could go through the ambulatory and out the transept or crossing. Although it is debated whether its design was actually effective, pilgrimages literally changed the design of churches in the Romanesque period.