Art and the Sacred Journey in Britain, 1790-1850: 1st Edition (Hardback) book cover

Art and the Sacred Journey in Britain, 1790-1850

1st Edition

By Kathryn Barush


278 pages

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The practice of walking to a sacred space for personal and spiritual transformation has long held a place in the British imagination. Art and the Sacred Journey in Britain examines the intersections of the concept of pilgrimage and the visual imagination from the years 1790 to 1850. Through a close analysis of a range of interrelated written and visual sources, Kathryn Barush develops the notion of the transfer of ‘spirit’ from sacred space to representation, and contends that pilgrimage, both in practice and as a form of mental contemplation, helped to shape the religious, literary, and artistic imagination of the period and beyond. Drawing on a rich range of material including paintings and drawings, manuscripts, letters, reliquaries, and architecture, the book offers an important contribution to scholarship in the fields of religious studies, anthropology, art history, and literature.


"A beautifully written analysis of the relationship between British artists and pilgrimage, physical and mental, in the early nineteenth century. Focusing on a period that is often neglected in British pilgrimage studies, this work has a broad appeal and will be of great interest beyond the confines of art history." - John Jenkins, University of York, UK

"The spiritual pursuit of pilgrimage as an actual and mental act provides Kathryn Barush with a theme that is both notably rich in itself and provides a revealing entry into major artistic and theological issues in the period. She brings into prominence neglected sources for collecting and creating, casting fascinating new light on prominent artists and writers, most notably William Blake. She also provides new perspectives on the fraught and complex religious debates in Catholic and Protestant devotion in theory and practice. She takes us on an enriching journey across familiar and unfamiliar landscapes." - Martin Kemp, Trinity College, University of Oxford, UK

"In this book, Kathryn Barush provides ample evidence that the impulse and desire to revere objects of devotion, whether they be the relics of a saint or the artefacts of a celebrity, animate our human instinct to embrace all things mythic and connect the present with the past, the seen with the unseen." - Michael Morris, Dominican School of Philosophy & Theology, Berkeley, USA

"This book’s accomplishment resides in its convincing argument for the artistic process as a pilgrimage, and the finished object as a site of pilgrimage for others. Thus, devotional practice is reinterpreted in a modern guise through a close analysis of art and vision. It contributes a much needed corrective view of the period 1790-1850 in Britain through a fresh consideration of the practice of pilgrimage in all its manifestations, whether by foot, by reading, by study, or art making. The sacred journey may well be a traditional concept, but this book articulates why, at this point in history, it became a dynamic and modern theme in both visual and verbal art forms." - Therese O’Malley, National Gallery of Art, Washington, USA

"Kathryn Barush has sifted rare archival materials, followed the tracks of unsung questers, revisited the Gothic vision of the past, and dug deep into visual and literary sources in order to communicate the interweaving of faith and aesthetics in British Romanticism. At a time when understanding the relations of people to places and the past, and the interactions of individual and collective memory has become an urgent concern, Art and the Sacred Journey presents an original and exhilarating perspective. This is an enriching and exciting book, researched with admirable vigour, and written with enthusiasm." - Marina Warner, Birkbeck College, London, UK

"An illuminating and carefully researched study, Barush’s book elevates the idea of painting as pilgrimage both in this period and, as Blake might suggest, in "every age," not least those like our own so conscious of religious revivals and change."Emma Mason, University of Warwick, UK, Marginalia Review of Books, January 2017

"Kathryn Barush’s rich and erudite study, scrupulously documented and illustrated, provides a welcome supplement to our understanding of religion’s influence on Romanticism, and the author is to be commended for her efforts." - Alexandra K. Wettlaufer, University of Texas at Austin, USA in European Romantic Review, August 2017

Awarded an honorable mention by the Graduate Theological Union Borsch-Rast Book Prize

Table of Contents

Introduction; Manuscripts, mendicants, and magi: the antiquarian revival of pilgrimage texts and objects, with a focus on the collection of Francis Douce; Saints and symbols: pilgrimage and the theology of ‘things’; ‘Every age is a Canterbury pilgrimage’: William Blake as pilgrim and painter; Pilgrimage and the art of ‘the ancients’; The road to ruins; Conclusion: ‘the road goes ever on’; Bibliography; Index.

About the Author

Kathryn R. Barush is Assistant Professor of Art History and Religion at the Graduate Theological Union and Jesuit School of Theology of Santa Clara University.

About the Series

Routledge Studies in Pilgrimage, Religious Travel and Tourism

The public prominence of religion has increased globally in recent years, while places associated with religion, such as pilgrimage centers, and famous cathedrals, temples and shrines, have attracted growing numbers of visitors and media attention. Such developments are part of a global process where different forms of travel – physical movement such as labor and lifestyle migration, tourism of various forms, the cultural heritage industry and pilgrimage – have become a major feature of the modern world. These translocal and transnational processes involve flows of not just people but also material objects, ideas, information, images and capital.

The public prominence of religion aligned to the modern growth of tourism (sometimes now claimed as the world’s single largest industry) has created a new dynamic relationship between religion, travel and tourism. It has been mirrored by expanding academic research in these areas over the last twenty years across a variety of disciplinary areas, ranging from anthropology, sociology, geography, history and religious studies to newly emergent areas such as tourism and migration studies. Such studies have also expanded exponentially in terms of the geographic spread of places, religions and regions being researched.

This series provides a new forum for studies based around these themes, drawing together research on the relationships between religion, travel and tourism. These include studies from global and cross-cultural perspectives of topics, such as:

  • commoditization and consumerism;
  • media representations of religion, travel and tourism;
  • heritage, tourism and the cultural politics of religious representation;
  • gender, sexuality and religious movements;
  • religion and travel writing;
  • ideological and violent struggles over religion and resistance to tourist intrusion;
  • inter-religious engagement;
  • religion, tourism, landscape and performance; and
  • thanatourism and pilgrimage to sites of suffering.

Learn more…

Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
HISTORY / Europe / Great Britain
RELIGION / Meditations