Created during the IXth of century, the pilgrimage to Saint-Jacques-de-Compostelle is a catholic pilgrimage with the aim of reaching the tomb of the apostle St-James the Greater, situated in the cathedral of Santiago, in Galicia, Spain. These routes welcome more than 200 000 pilgrims each year who travel down from France to Spain, all year long, even though journeys made during spring and summer are preferred. The itineraries to reach Santiago are declared “First European Cultural route” by the Council of Europe.
Itineraries all stop at French traditional villages. The most famous ones being start points for the routes: Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port or Le Puy-en-Velay.
Le Puy-en-Velay, situated in the Massif Central, is a beautiful town built on a volcanic landform. Its chapel, hôtel Dieu and its seven starting points of the Santiago routes are all included in UNESCO’s World Heritage sites list. Thousands of pilgrims travels there each year, where they can admire the Aguilhe rock, a rock where the Chapel dedicated to Saint-Michel is built. Moreover, the cathedral or the statue of Notre-Dame de France are very well appreciated among pilgrims. The village possesses other interesting aspects culturally-wise: the culinary specialty are the green lentils, cultivated there for more than 2,000 years, the verbena liquor and Le Velay cheese. Furthermore, Puy lace is also very well known: during the XVIIIth century, Gênes lace was very successful in Europe. Colbert, one of Louis XIV most eminent Ministers, decided to bring in France Italian seamstresses in order to create a successful French lace. This is how Puy lace originated from.
Besides this village, other historic villages can be encountered during the journey. Rocamandour is a famous French medieval village: built in the middle of a cliff, high (and very numerous…) steps leading to the sanctuaries are a must for pilgrims.
The Santiago routes do not only attract believers but also a lot of people seeking for beautiful landscapes, serenity and time to reflect. These routes make us rediscover a bucolic and calm France, far from the fast pace of life of bigger cities. Needless to say, this destination has become a must for everyone wanting to discover the French countryside.