Pilgrimage Routes to Santiago de Compostela (World Heritage)

The Camino de Santiago forms a dense network of paths that stretches across the continent from east and north and ends in four main routes in France. Churches, hostels and hospitals were built along the pilgrimage routes.

Pilgrimage routes to Santiago de Compostela: facts

Official title: Pilgrimage routes to Santiago de Compostela
Cultural monument: the Via Turonensis from Paris and from the Apostle of the Gauls, St. Martin in Tours, via Poitiers and the Ibaneta Pass, the second route from Vézelay and the relic of St. Maria Magdalena from to Limoges and Périgueux as well as via the Ibaneta Pass, the Via Podiensis from Puy to Ostabat and crossing the Pyrenees at today’s St-Jean-Pied-de-Port, the Via Tolosana from Arles via Toulouse and via the Somport -Pass crossing the Pyrenees; also 7 sections of the Chemin du Puy; 69 of the 800 monuments connected with the pilgrimage route are declared as World Heritage, including Saint-Front cathedral (1120-73, Périgueux), Porte Saint-Jacques (Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port), Saint-Etienne cathedral (Bourges), Sainte-Foy abbey (Conques) and the former Hôpital des Pèlerins (Pons), Sainte-Marie Cathedral (13th century, Bayonne),
Continent: Europe
Country: France
Location: Routes Paris or Vézelay or Puy over the Ibaneta pass and Arles over the Somport pass
Appointment: 1998
Meaning: Expression of the importance of Christianity in medieval Europe

“Three million steps” – and the journey is the goal

According to militarynous, the medieval pilgrimage to St. James under the sign of the shell is a phenomenon that can rival any Far Eastern Zen wisdom and appears timeless. The streams of pilgrims from France and Central Europe have undoubtedly been subject to seasonal fluctuations since the end of the Middle Ages, and they have never dried up completely. And today pilgrimage, preferably on the Way of St. James, is “hip” again. Hundreds of thousands of pilgrims travel there every year.

Like the Hajj, the mandatory pilgrimage of devout Muslims to the Kaaba in Mecca, the traditional Christian pilgrimage sees its fulfillment primarily in reaching the destination. Purification, contemplation and the strain of a long and arduous journey were inevitable, but by no means unwelcome, side effects on the “path of repentance”. And the goal of every “common man’s crusade” was Santiago de Compostela on the Spanish Atlantic coast. From Paris with its church of St-Jacques-de-la-Boucherie, from Vézelay with the abbey church of Sainte-Madeleine, from Le-Puy-en-Velay with the Hôtel-Dieu St-Jacques and also from Arles took the four main French routes towards the Galician coast.

While today people of Europe, tired of civilization, set off to seek adventure and the ultimate challenge while trekking in distant Nepal, the life adventure of medieval people consisted of walking across Western Europe. Such travel remains almost incomprehensible for the bus traveler of our day who is used to comfort. For the modern long-distance hiker, a hike in the footsteps of the “Moorslayer” proves to be a special challenge when crossing the snow-covered Pyrenees near Roncesvalles. Even if the efforts of a pilgrimage on foot are seen from the point of view of sporting activity, “the journey remains the goal”. Cultural highlights along the way such as the wild and romantic Saint-Guilhem-le-Désert in the Cevennes are »oases«.

Far Eastern religious wisdom understands the efforts of the “path” itself as a process that permanently changes consciousness, to which one freely exposes oneself for the sake of the enlightenment of the spirit. Ultimately, everyone is free to choose which “path” they want to take. The »ways« are numerous without having anything to do with the kilometers traveled, as in the original sense of the word. The “way of archery” is easily compatible with the “way of artistic garden design” and ultimately means nothing more than a lifelong “pilgrimage” through perseverance and self-discipline towards immediate perception and “silent understanding”. The “way of the warrior”, on the other hand, represents an ideal that the medieval conception of James also paid homage to. He was a combative “saint” who in his late “reincarnations” as the bloody “Moorslayer” and champion of the Spanish Reconquista seems more like the raging Roland than a gentle, God-fearing disciple of Jesus. As is well known, the fate of Roland, that controversial Palladin of Charlemagne, was decided at the Roncesvalles pass, exactly where three of the four French pilgrimage routes join to the Spanish Way of St. James. The popular saint and the no less well-known knight fused in popular belief into a – gladly accepted – marriage of convenience. The “architects” of the pilgrimage routes, both secular and ecclesiastical, left behind a unique artistic landscape which, in addition to wealthy monasteries and rich church buildings, also includes bridge structures such as the pilgrims’ bridge over the Borade. In addition to the infrastructure that has evolved over time, the careful »directorial work« of the long pilgrimage route deserves special attention. Memorable choreographed lengths alternate with cultural highlights that give the route to Santiago de Compostela a special experience then as now. The journey is the ultimate goal, the indulgence is the reward.

Pilgrimage Routes to Santiago de Compostela