Coptic pilgrimage to Dronka
First broadcast date
August 22, Copts, Christians in Egypt, celebrate the Assumption, a week after Catholics.
It is an opportunity for Copts to meet in Dronka, Upper Egypt, for one of the most important pilgrimages.
Dronka, where the holy Family spent some time, is a high place of worship dedicated to the Virgin. The pilgrimage is also an opportunity to celebrate and come together.
AFP Video (AFPVI) - Own production
- Society and way of life / Festivals and traditions
Credits / Cast
- Baillon Emmanuelle - Journalist
- Navarro Alain - Journalist
- Egypt - Upper Egypt - Asyut
Coptic pilgrimage to Dronka
The word “pilgrimage” means the practice of going to a place considered sacred to perform acts of devotion. It is a practice quite wide-spread amongst millions of ordinary people, and by exalting the feeling of belonging to a group it has powerful physical and emotional implications for the believers taking part.
Present in almost all religious traditions, there are various aspects to a pilgrimage. Above all the shrine, which may be natural (mountains, caves, rivers ...) or historic, linked to an event which took place in that particular place or to an individual or deity who can be celebrated there. Secondly there is the figure of the pilgrim, an individual who is in a particular condition defined by Victor Turner as liminary. This liminary, or threshold stage is the central moment of the classic tripartite structure of a rite of passage: it is preceded by the separation phase (the departure) and followed by the reaggregation, or coming back into society phase. Living in a sort of “between the two”, the believer is removed from the temporality and sociality of his or her everyday life and enters a different dimension both of time and relations – a dimension which will come to an end with the end of the pilgrimage. Another key element is how the pilgrim gets to the shrine: the route can be very long and dangerous, both because of where it goes and who may be met along the way, and the difficulties can be made worse if the pilgrim decides to go barefoot, or even on his knees.
Even with the great variety of destinations and religions which call for pilgrimages, there are many similarities amongst the rituals: purification, the symbolic value of different acts performed along the way, and the function of being with others: the dimension of a festival, of meeting people is always central.
Vows, grace and miracles are all strongly linked to the idea of a pilgrimage. People go to a sacred place also to ask the deity to intervene on their behalf or to thank them for a favour done. The act of going to a particular place specifically to appeal for help is also strengthened by the knowledge of past miraces which have demonstrated the presence of divine power at the shrine.
The Coptic pilgrimage to Dronka is celebrated to commemorate the Assumption of the Virgin. The assumption is a dogma established by Pius XII on November 1st 1950 with the apostolic constitution Deus Minificentissimus, which explains the theological significance. It is one of three Marian feasts of the liturgical year, a mystery celebrated for centuries in many churches of East and West.
Bibliography: brief and to the point
Turner V.W and Turner E. 1978 : Image and Pilgrimage in Christian culture, Oxford, Basil Blackwell.
Eade, J. and Snallow, M.J. 1991 : Contesting the Sacred. The Anthropology of Christian Pilgrimage, London, Routledge.
Fabietti, U. e Remotti, F. 1997 : Dizionario di antropologia, Bologna, Zanichelli.
Sartor, D, “Assunta”, in De Fiores S. e Meo, S. (a cura di) 1986 : Nuovo diazionario di mariologia, Milano, Edizioni Paoline.