It is an observation made by the members of the Jerusalem fraternity of Vézelay in the spring: the pilgrims are more numerous in Vézelay. “Since after covid, it’s incredible the number of pilgrims there are. People who have this desire to start walking”, explains Brother Jean-Yves Vetele, the referent for the monastic reception of walkers. . “We’ve never had so many people.”

More pilgrims since the covid 19 crisis

If the periods of attendance start in March, it is especially the months of April and May that have been marked by this growing influx.

“In the morning at seven o’clock, we send pilgrims and we had 12, 15, 18 people, we hadn’t seen that. Usually we have 6 or 7.”

Brother Jean-Yves Vetele (Responsible for welcoming pilgrims to the Jerusalem fraternity)

Rue Saint-Étienne in Vézelay, a panel from the association of friends and pilgrims of Saint-Jacques invites the walker to return to its premises to find accommodation, information and advice. Here too, Yvon and Linda Gouin noted an increase in attendance. “It may be because it is a Saint-Jacques year, that is to say that Saint-Jacques falls on a Sunday. From what we have seen, there is an increase”, notes Yvonne.

If this increase is difficult to quantify, the statement of the pages of the pilgrim registration guide at the Sainte-Madeleine center also shows an increase of around twenty people, in mid-August.

In Toulouse, the French Routes to Compostela agency publishes an annual report summarizing the attendance of each of the French routes and the motivations of those who take them. The Vézelay route, with just over 2,000 walkers per year, remains less used than that of Puy-en-Velay and its 15,000 to 25,000 pilgrims.

“The Vézelay route has a lot of advantages in terms of heritage and for the work carried out within the agency to promote the route by bike”, explains Lucas Méheux, tourist developer within the agency. Because there is of course a tourist aspect to be developed according to the figures of the study: a traveler spends an average of 46 euros per day for accommodation and food, or 1,100 euros for 25 to 30 days of journey.

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Main reason that pushes pilgrims to start according to “the study of the public and their motivations, between sporting challenge, discoveries and spirituality” published by this same agency, the need for disconnection and rejuvenation (51% of respondents). Next come hiking and landscapes (45%), then sharing and encounters (41%) and finally spirituality (39%), several motivations that can be at the origin of a departure on pilgrimage.

Advice for enjoying one of the most beautiful circuits in the Yonne: the hike between Auxerre and Vézelay

This is for example the case of Isabelle, 62 years old and Léa, 30 years old, mother and daughter, who left this summer to do part of the road: “I am from Clamecy and for years I have seen people doing the pilgrimage”, explains Isabelle. She started six years ago. Suffering from multiple sclerosis, she appreciates the idea of ​​being able to progress at her own pace:

“Everyone does this at their own speed, there are active people who do this for a week.”

Isabella (Pilgrim)

Need to disconnect and recharge

This split walk is also what Yvonne chose, coming from Caen (Calvados) to Vézelay for about ten days, after having already walked for a long time in the past: “In 2001, I had started a first part a long way. And in 2010, I did the Spanish part of a stretch in 33 days.” At 73, she opts for shorter journeys to find a certain spirit of travel: “I did not know Vézelay, I wanted to find a time for me, a time for reflection and sharing.” Among his motivations, we find those put forward by the study of the French agency of the paths of Compostela:

“I do not practice, there is no religious reason. Even if I am sensitive to this, I am not a practitioner. It is a search for inner peace because the world is scary.”

Yvonne (Pilgrim)

Myriam Deborbe

Travel – “We have never had so many people”: more and more pilgrims are taking the Vézelay route