Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts in Religious Studies (MARS)


Philosophy, Theology and Religious Studies

First Advisor

June-Ann T. Greeley


The religious ritual of pilgrimage offers insight into the various ways in which sacred space is understood. Thinkers such as Emile Durkheim, Karl Marx, and Mircea Eliade offer several understandings of religion and interpretations of the role of ritual and the sacred. By investigating the specific historical and cultural context of a much visited, contemporary pilgrimage site of Medjugorje, Bosnia, it becomes clear that there is a striking difference here between the popular and official understanding of the space. A study of Marian apparitional pilgrimages within the Roman Catholic tradition provides context for the on-going and tumultuous debate within both the Church and amongst the Catholic Croats, Muslim Bosnians, and Eastern Orthodox Serbs of the area. Questions of the validity of the apparitions and the role of the local religious leaders and the Franciscans come to the fore of the many contentious debates regarding Medjugorje. Amidst this extraordinary tension and, at times, brutal violence, millions claim to find peace and spiritual transformation in this small Bosnian hamlet. It remains to be seen whether the Church will officially approve or completely and finally denounce the site with regards to the validity of the apparitions and the importance of the related pilgrimages. Yet despite the controversy, this seemingly contradictory place draws pilgrims and perhaps offers something that cannot be found elsewhere.


Master's thesis submitted to the faculty of Religious Studies at Sacred Heart University in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Arts in Religious Studies.



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