Each pilgrim has his own way! Out of ideas for summer holidays or looking for a walk that combines heritage, nature and spirituality? Equip your tribe with good shoes and walking sticks, and off you go to the high places of Christendom!
Are you a fan of hiking or a fervent pilgrim to holy places? On a weekend in Normandy, on vacation in Auvergne, passing through Rocamadour, why not take a short family outing to combine the useful with the spiritual? In France many places are conducive to a pilgrimage, even with young children. Aleteia has selected some nice sections for you to discover with your family for a day or a weekend.
FOR A DAY
- PROVENCE-ALPES-CÔTE D’AZUR
For several centuries, pilgrims, especially families, have been welcomed in Cotignac, in the Var, at the Sanctuaries of Notre-Dame de Grâces and Saint Joseph du Bessillon. The Virgin appeared in Cotignac on August 10 and 11, 1519 holding the Child Jesus in her arms. A month after these apparitions, the first stone of the sanctuary is laid. Then, on June 7, 1660, Saint Joseph appeared to a shepherd. Quickly, a new sanctuary was built in honor of Saint Joseph, at the very place where he had brought out the source of the earth. Between the two, a path invites you to pilgrimage, punctuated by six oratories recounting passages from the Gospel where Saint Joseph appears.
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For 1,000 years, Mont Saint-Michel has been one of the most frequented places of pilgrimage in the West. Men, women and children walk to Mont Saint-Michel by crossing the bay. Departing from Saint Léonard or Bec d’Andaine (depending on the tides), the crossing offers a landscape of the immense bay, its fauna, its flora, its history, its evolution.
Saint Mary Magdalene, so close to Christians through her concerns and the radicality of her conversion, embodies this promise of the Gospel. To honor him, a pilgrimage crossing the key places of his ministry has been imagined in Provence. Created by the Association of Saints of Provence, with the support of the Southern Region and the Regional Tourism Committee, this path was inaugurated in May 2022. From Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer to Saint-Maximin, the pilgrim discovers the places that the Saint passed through before retiring as a hermit in the cave of Sainte-Baume. The route is 222 km long and consists of ten stages. Why not start with the first, starting from Saintes-Marie-de-la-Mer and walking to Salin-de-Giraud?
This first stage takes place in the heart of the Camargue Regional Natural Park, between ponds and other wetlands. In addition to visiting the Camargue in its most beautiful finery and discovering Salin-de-Giraud, a village near Arles renowned for its salt, the path also offers a visit to the church of Notre-Dame-de-la- Sea at Saintes-Marie-de-la-Mer. This fortified Romanesque building contains relics of Marie Jacobé, Marie Salomé and Marie Sara. Many pilgrims stop there. If you need to stop after a long day of walking in Salin-de-Giraud, you will have the choice between gites, guest houses or even campsites.
Passing through Occitania, why not visit the most beautiful village in France as well as a spiritual high place, Rocamadour? Built in successive stages on the cliffside, the village of attracts 1.5 million visitors and pilgrims every year, charmed by the beauty of its houses and chapels suspended above the Alzou canyon, a tributary of the Dordogne. An essential step on the way to Compostela, the Marian sanctuary of Rocamadour was created in the 12th century. Dedicated to the Black Madonna, a massive influx of pilgrims went there from the 12th century. To accommodate these many visitors, the Benedictines who occupied the site then built chapels and reception areas. The oratory of the statue of the Black Madonna is flanked by a vast basilica leaning on a lower church, the crypt. Different chapels complete the place of prayer: Sainte-Anne, Saint-Blaise, Saint-Jean-Baptiste, Saint-Michel. The abbots of Tulle also had a palace built.
Without taking too complicated paths, it is possible to go around the village to cross the causses and the beautiful reliefs marking the valleys of the Ouysse and the Alzou, recognized for the beauty of their landscapes and the quality of their environments. natural. Then in Rocamadour, the spiritual dimension takes the place of nature, notably through the vertiginous descent of the Way of the Cross.
For a weekend or several days
Gilles RIGOULET I CIRIC
Saddened to see the parishes emptying out, Philippe Abjean chose to rekindle the flame in Brittany, land of spirituality, and to demonstrate that nothing is inevitable. By relaunching the Tro Breiz in 1994, a pilgrimage of no less than 700 kilometers which takes the walker to the heart of Brittany, following the seven founding saints of the region. Saint Tugdual in Tréguier, Saint Brieuc and Saint Malo in the towns that bear their names, Saint Samson in Dol, Saint Patern in Vannes, Saint Corentin in Quimper, Saint Pol-Aurélien in Saint-Pol-de-Léon… so many saints and extraordinary itineraries to discover along the way.
The pilgrimage can be made in one go or several times. The members of the association “Les Chemins du Tro Breiz” animate this pilgrimage and propose to carry it out at the rate of one stage per year, but everyone is free to carry out on their own. Several possibilities then arise. Some take a map and a compass and make their own way. But most want to bring a practical guide, which describes a route and indicates accommodation and places to eat. The guide entitled Les chemins du Tro Breiz (ed. Lepère) offers a route in 30 stages.
In 2023, the association “Les Chemins du Tro Breiz” is offering a six-day walk from Dol-de-Bretagne to reach Rennes, from July 31 to August 5. If you can’t join the pilgrims and hikers, you can always walk a little way with your family whenever you want. From the cathedral of Dol-de-Bretagne (Ille-et-Vilaine) reach Rennes via Pleine-Fougères, Bazouge-la-Pérouse, Maen-Roch, Gosné, Saint-Sulpice-la-Forêt. Many cottages on the way will offer a resting point.
On vacation or on a weekend in Auvergne, why not take the family along a short stretch of the Camino de Santiago? For a first experience on the way to Santiago de Compostela, the GR65 also called the via-podiensis is probably the most suitable choice. Very rich in historical terms, with breathtaking landscapes, the Puy route has good infrastructure. Indeed, there is a lodging for pilgrims every 10 km.
This route to Compostela is 770 km long from Le Puy-en-Velay to the Col de Roncesvalles, on the Spanish border. It is the shortest of all the historical paths coming from France. If you are used to walking then why not go from Le Puy-en-Velay to Conques? The path begins in Le Puy-en-Velay, at Notre-Dame Cathedral. You can discover the chapel of Saint-Michel-d’Aiguilhe, built by Bishop Gotescalc, who was the first to make the pilgrimage to Compostela in 950 or 951.
Besides many chapels and churches that we discover on the way (Saint-Christophe church in Saint-Christophe-sur-Dolaison; Saint-Roch chapel) Montebonnet; Medieval chapel of Saint-Jacques, in Rochegude; Sainte-Madeleine troglodyte chapel in Monistrol-d’Allier), we also discover Saint-Côme-d’Olt, one of the oldest villages in France. End of route: Conques, one of the most beautiful villages in France. This is the major and unmissable stage of the Way of Compostela where the Sainte-Foy abbey is located with its superb tympanum of the last judgement.
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A thousand and a half kilometers separate Vézelay, in Burgundy-Franche-Comté, from Assisi, in Italy. Between the two towns, a pilgrimage route: the Chemin d’Assise. It takes about 70 days to cover the 1,500 km. But with young children, it is better to be satisfied with a short section: Vézelay-Ars sur Formans (Rhône-Alpes). The way to Assisi offers eight prayers and hymns, where calm and simplicity are found for a pilgrimage in search of inner peace. On the way, it is possible to find many cottages and restaurants to recharge your batteries.
In Vézelay (Yonne), starting point of the pilgrimage of the road to Assisi, stands the Basilica of Sainte-Marie-Madeline. A little further in the village, you absolutely have to discover La Cordelle, the first Franciscan hermitage. Wild nature, forests, lakes, small isolated villages characterize this part. The route ends in Ars sur Formans, whose name is associated with that of its parish priest, Jean-Marie Vianney. The sanctuary, which houses the intact body of the Curé of Ars, exhibited in a shrine, welcomes 500,000 visitors a year.