In all but name, the grand tour came into being during the sixteenth century as a secular alternative to the ancient but increasingly discredited custom of pilgrimage, the instinct to travel proving too powerful to be suppressed by a mere alteration in religion. This primarily educational phenomenon, involving study of the foreign, including the acquisition of a language or two, rather than the aspiration to reduce one's time in purgatory, thus emerged most noticeably among those northern European nations that rejected Roman Catholicism (though as Petrarch and the Wife of Bath had testified, there was always a secular ingredient in pilgrimage).

Because of renewed emphasis on the commandment against graven images, however, the visual arts in most of these Reformed countries remained in a condition inferior ...

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