Making a pilgrimage to a holy place is a way many people reaffirm their faith. Visiting the birthplace of Jesus or Mohammed can provide a powerful illustration of the historic events behind religion. Read on to learn about the primary holy sites of Jews, Muslims and Christians.
Perhaps the holiest city in the world is Jerusalem, which contains
structures sacred to three religions. Most of the buildings are on Temple
Mount in the Old City. The Muslims revere
Al Aqsa Mosque, where Islamic legend says the
angel Gabriel took Mohammed to meet the other prophets.
The Dome of the Rock
is the familiar gold dome seen
in many photos of Jerusalem. The shrine, built around 687 A.D., marks a site
sacred to Jews and Muslims.
Nearby is the Western Wall, the holiest place in the Jewish religion. After
praying at the wall, Jews write their prayers on a piece of paper, which
they slip between the stones. For Christians, the Church of the Holy
Sepulchre in Jerusalem marks the site of Jesus' crucifixion and burial.
Due to recurring violence in the area, travelers must be cautious. The U.S.
State Department has issued a travel warning
advising Americans to avoid
Israel and the Old City. See the
Consular Information Sheet
for more travel
The holiest city for Muslims is Mecca in Saudi Arabia. The
fifth pillar of Islam states that all Muslims
with the financial means must travel to Mecca at least once in their lives.
Mecca, the birthplace of Mohammed, is also the city that Muslims face during
their five daily prayers.
The Kaaba in Mecca is the focus of the Hajj, or Islamic pilgrimage. Each
year, more than 2 million Muslim pilgrims convene at the Kaaba and commence a
series of rituals. Islam.org maintains the
Hajj Information Center,
which explains the rites and offers travel
Hajj Information Package
explains the merits of the pilgrimage and offers practical advice on visas and
Another Islamic holy site is the Prophet's Mosque in Medina.
explains the procedures for entering and praying at the mosque.
The City of the Prophet explains the
complete history of the Prophet's Mosque, where Mohammed is buried.
Besides Jerusalem, Christians revere other sites in modern Israel, such as
Nazareth, the boyhood home of Jesus, and Galilee, where Jesus performed many
is thought to be
In the year 2000, the Pope celebrated the Jubilee and thousands of
Because the Holy See is the center of the Roman Catholic world, pilgrimages
will continue for many more years.
Mass is celebrated daily inside St. Peter's. If
Pope John Paul II
is in the
Vatican, he blesses the crowd in St. Peter's Square Sunday at noon.