Walking into the Frame: A Theological Exploration of Pilgrimage along Anton Mauve’s A Dutch Road

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To offer a contemporary theological interpretation of pilgrimage, how might we describe the meaning of journeying and illustrate its spiritual depth? Integrating insights from the theology of culture and the theology of place, a philosophical theology of pilgrimage defines spiritual journeying as a uniquely dialectical movement of place and movement, being and action, dwelling and mobility. To show this, the first part of the essay provides an interpretation of a work of art, by investigating the unlikely but evocative description of pilgrimage found in the painting by Anton Mauve called A Dutch Road. In a reflection on this painting, the meaning of pilgrimage is found by walking intothe frame of the canvas. Second, a more critical examination of a Christian theology of pilgrimage is developed as a response to Mauve's painting. The movement of the traveler can be shown as the identification of the Christian with the communio viatorum, as well as in the movement between journey and destination. Thus, within the surface of a painting, we find an important portrayal of the relationship between finite and infinite as it appears in human journeys.

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