Retracing spiritual footsteps: Simon Reeve explores pilgrimage

Simon Reeve(BBC)

A new three-part series starting tonight on BBC Two documents Simon Reeve as he retraces the adventures of our ancestors and charts what pilgrimage meant to them.

Although based in London, he has gained acclaim for making travel documentaries featuring little-known places around the world.

"As a modern traveller, I was very keen to learn about the journeys of people in the past," says Reeve in a video released today by the BBC.

"During the course of the filming, we very quickly realised that people went on these pilgrimage journeys for a whole host of reasons.

"Some, because of their religious beliefs, but many because they wanted adventure, they wanted excitement, they wanted to see what was over the hill," explains Reeve, who hopes to capture some of that anticipation and excitement in his documentary.

The documentary shows his travels across the UK to Lincoln, then down to London and Canterbury, before heading to Santiago de Compostela in northern Spain, then across the Alps, on to Rome, stopping in Istanbul before finally reaching the Holy Land in the third and final episode of the mini-series.

"I was absolutely blessed on the journey," says Reeve, who visits some of the world's most beautiful places in the programme, including his "favourite building in the world", the Hagia Sophia in Istanbul, once a Greek Orthodox church, then an imperial mosque and now a museum.

"Every single day we were seeing incredible sights, or meeting inspiring people," he says, remembering one man in particular who had walked from London to Jerusalem. Reeve says he hopes the programme will inspire viewers to travel the world and see some of the amazing places and sights it has to offer.

He wasn't making a pilgrimage himself, "I'm not a religious person, although I'm completely open to the idea, I would love to have belief," Reeve asserts, but he wanted to discover the adventures of our ancestors in the past as well as learn what inspires modern pilgrims to make their journeys.

This meant that he was able "to keep [his] eyes and ears open to other people's experiences", which he hopes will widen viewers' understanding of faith journeys and those who make them.

The first instalment of 'Pilgrimage with Simon Reeve' airs on Tuesday on BBC Two at 9pm.

Watch his interview in full here:

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