Secret history of France: Chemin du Puy

Pilgrims’ progress in search of salvation: in her series on the cultural history of France, art historian Julia Faiers explores the Chemin du Puy, a medieval pilgrimage route to Santiago de Compostela

Today, the pilgrim routes of the Chemin de Saint-Jacques pound with the feet of thousands of walkers on a path to self-discovery.

Yet the first pilgrims set off for the shrine of St James in Santiago, Spain, more than a millennium ago.

What started as a trickle in the ninth century swelled to a constant flow of pilgrims by the 12th, all clamouring to honour the burial place of Jesus’s apostle, James.  

Back then, pilgrims from Britain or continental Europe wishing to reach the shrine of St James in Santiago de Compostela in Galicia had to pass through France.

Map showing the main pilgrim stops along the Chemin du Puy, or via podiensis, through France and into Spain

Towns along the route to Santiago provided everything a weary traveller required – somewhere to sleep, something to eat and drink, and miracle-giving shrines ...

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