Routes of Santiago de Compostela in France
The Routes of Santiago de Compostela in France represent several sites related to the pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela. They comprise churches, bridges, hospitals and other wayside constructions along the four main and a number of subsidiary pilgrimage routes to Santiago.
Major monuments included are:
- The Romanesque church of Sainte-
Foy at Conques
- The church of Saint-Pierre
- The basilical church of Saint-Sernin in Toulouse
- The collegiate church of Neuvy-Saint-Sépulchre
- Village of Rocamadour
Visit May 2006, October 2011, April 2012, April 2013
The Amiens Cathedral, a WHS in its own right, is also part of this Route in France. I wasn't aware of that when I visited. Thanks to Klaus Freisinger (see visitor reviews below) for pointing that out!
My second visit to this elaborate WHS also involved a site inscribed twice: the city center of Bordeaux. Three of its medieval churches are on the Route to Compostela. We visited Saint-Seurin and St. Andre Cathedral. Especially the latter is one of the highlights of Bordeaux. The Route is also widely displayed around Bordeaux, so I guess it receives numerous pilgrims although we didn't see any.
After a third visit, I know think that I safely can tick this one off. This time I went to the Tower of Saint-Jacques in Paris. As this is the starting point for the routes across France, this is a major site among the 78. The richly decorated tower can be seen from afar, but there's nothing left of the 16th century church. The site is located a bit north of the Seine banks. Although it looks in pretty good shape, I was surprised to find no pilgrims here. There's also no way to get in. I just had to make do with a stroll around it, there's a small garden where you can sit and enjoy the view.
Basilica Saint Sernin in Toulouse was my 4th visit. An enormous building in a scruffy neighbourhood, surrounded by a cheap market on the Sunday morning that I visited it. I even had to search for the entrance, and found it at the churches highlight: the Porte Miegeville.
More photos can be found in the Picture Gallery
I visited several sites listed in this WHS : in Paris, Amiens, Arles, Mont-St-Michel, etc. Still I feel that it would make much more sense to only have the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela only as a WHS and not the whole route.
| Date posted: March 2013|
|John Booth (New Zealand):|
I don't have a problem with the French and Spanish routes being kept separate, I travelled them separately. But what bothers me is the amount of duplication; sites that are on the Route of St James of Compostela as well as being listed separately.
The sites that I have visited that are duplicated include:
Paris (Tour de St Jaques), Arles (Alyscamps), Vezelay church, Mont St Michel, Bordeaux (churches of St Seurin and St Michel, and St Andre cathedral), Bourges cathedral and Amiens cathedral.
The remaining sites that I have visited:
Toulouse - St Sernin basilica, an elegant structure, and Hotel Dieu (metro:St Cypriens)
Agen - St Caprais cathedral (white stone exterior and colouful interior)
Moissac - abbey and cloister (interior decor looked like wallpaper, but was hand painted in the 1960s).
St Lizier - St Peter's cathedral (bus from Boussens)
Auch - huge cathedral that dominates the skyline (train from Toulouse)
Figeac - Hospital St Jacques, still part of the town's hospital (a scenic bus route links Figeac and Cahors through the Lot valley).
Cahors - cathedral with stunning stained glass, and Valentre bridge.
Valcabrere - St Just church (train/bus to Laures-Barbazon)
Comminges - St Bertrand's cathedral with wood carvings and huge organ (walk from Valcabrere then climb 142 steps).
Gavarnie - parish church, being restored (a series of connecting buses from Lourdes)
Oloron Ste Marie - St Mary's cathedral, lots of stained glass and wood carvings (train from Pau)
Bayonne - cathedral with English and French royal coats of arms.
St Jean Pied de Port - Portes de St Jacques and Espagne and picturesque village in between
St Sever - abbey, huge but austere (bus from Dax)
Saintes - church of St Eutrope, ancient crypt
St Jean d'Angely - ruins of the royal abbey
Soulac - Notre Dame church
Perigueux - St Front cathedral, Byzantine appearance with domed roofs.
St Leonard de Noblat - Collegiate church (train/bus from Limoges)
Clermont Ferrand - Notre Dame du Port church, exterior tile decorations and carved interior column capitals
Le Puy en Velay - cathedral and Hotel Dieu, on the side of a hill, with many levels and decorative brickwork.
Asquins - St Jacques church (walk from Vezelay)
Poitiers - St Hilaire church, with huge stone columns and ancient frescoes
Compeigne - church of St Jacques with wood panelling
Chalons en Champagne - Notre Dame en Vaux church, significant stained glass windows including St Jacques defeating the Moors at Clavijo.
| Date posted: May 2010|
|Philip T.K. (Canada):|
I actually never planned to visit this WHS although it consists of so many sites that it is hard to miss on a trip to France. Last July, I saw the Saint-Jacques Tower (fortunately without the scaffolding described by Ian) on my first full day in Paris and I later visited the huge Amiens Cathedral (also a WHS in its own right). Unfortunately, I was not able to visit the Alyscamps cemetery while in Arles due to time constraints, but I have seen photos and it looks quite interesting.
| Date posted: May 2009|
|Ian Cade (England):|
The Pilgrimage route to Santiago de Compestela plays a large role in European history and as such is very justified in being inscribed on the WH list however I would like to support what Paul Tanner has said below about the viability of this site, it is an inscription that would make much more sense if it was to be combined into a much larger single site containing all the routes in the many Western European countries, the separate inscriptions suggest the route is a manifestly different entity in France than it is in Spain (or in the other countries) which seems to run against the importance of the route. The Council of Europe made the route to Santiago its first cultural route and this recognition makes much more sense when it is not broken up into separate national entities.
I visited Arles, which is one of the starting points of the four main routes in France, and I can strongly recommend a visit out les Alyschamps to see the Church of St Honorat, it is also a very interesting WHS site in itself.
I visited Mt St Michel in 2006 and there is are a few Scallop shells around the town (picture), keep an eye out for the nice hand basin just inside the main gate.
About 15 years ago I visited the charming town of Rocamadour, as mentioned below, it was a lovely place, with a great Eagle sanctuary and prehistoric cave (frustratingly not part of the very nearby WHS of the Decorated Grottoes of the Vézére Valley) I am pretty certain I visited the inscribed church, but as I was so young I am not counting that one.
I have also visited some parts of the route in Belgium, Switzerland and a few random churches on minor routes in France.
I visited the Cathedral at Chatres, but despite it being on the route and it displaying the scallop shell to signify its welcome to pilgrims, it is not part of this WHS inscription. I am still trying to work out why some sites are included and others aren’t.
In Paris I visited Tour Saint-Jacques-de-la-Boucherie, which is opposite Hotel de Ville. This was the meeting point for all pilgrims setting off from Paris. I first saw it in Feb 2006 and there was scaffolding around it I went back in Sep 2006 and hoped to get a better look, however it was now shrink wrapped and unfortunately will be so for the next 3-4 years as a major restoration is taking place. One plus point is that you can look into the courtyard to see the sculpting of the replacement sculptures; it is a small consolidation to see conservation in action!
|Klaus Freisinger (Austria):|
The historic and religious importance of the Routes of Santiago de Compostela, whether in Spain, France, or beyond, is obvious - what is unique to the French site is that it includes several component sites that are inscribed on their own merits as well. Of the sites I have visited, these include the Cathedrals of Amiens and Bourges, as well as Mont St. Michel. Vézelay would also be on this list.
I also visited the Gothic-style Tower of St.Jacques in central Paris, next to the Louvre on the rue de Rivoli. It is actually the only remaining part of the former church of St. Jacques de la Boucherie, a popular stop for pilgrims on the Way of St. James. It is set in a pleasant park right in the heart of Paris and was for many years renovated and covered by scaffolding. A nice sight, but nothing extraordinary. Many tourists have probably wandered by already and ignored it, but for WH collectors it is an easy pick.
On a separate trip, I have visited the Church of St. Hilaire le Grand in Poitiers (close to the centre), as well as the 3 listed churches in Bordeaux (the massive Cathedral of St. André, and the basilicas of St. Michel and St. Seurin)
| Date posted: August 2006|
|Paul Tanner (UK):|
Reading this site's description is like reading a gazetteer of French towns and villages west of the Paris/Rhone axis – it contains 69 different locations (out of 800 possible ones linked to the pilgrimage route). But think what it would have been like if France had followed the approach of Spain for its “Route” and inscribed its entirety together with 30 metres either side! Instead the “locations” are usually 1 building per town and cover the 4 starting points at Paris, Vezelay, Le Puy and Arles together with places as varied as Mont-Saint-Michel and Bordeaux. 10 cathedrals are included, together with abbeys, churches and hospices. 7 of the locations are already inscribed in their own right, usually because of their role in the pilgrimage route – a nice bit of double counting!
However, as Els’s “themes” section shows, Christian sites are heavily over-represented in the WHS list and this site should surely have been combined with the 2 Spanish Compestela route sites and some of the separate French pilgrimage route sites such as Vezalay and Bourges as well !. All this duplication does seem “overkill”- If the UK can agree to “give up” Hadrian’s Wall and subsume it with a German site under a combined “Frontiers of Rome” how come France was given a separate inscription for this site in 1998?
Leaving aside these issues, there is no doubt that the inscription contains many interesting and even significant buildings. Most of the towns and villages would well justify a couple of hours of the time of anyone touring France. We have, over the years, visited many of the 69 locations but I have chosen Rocamadour as the photo to represent the entire site - and a very pleasant little town it is. The town itself is not inscribed however – only the church of St Sauveur (the tall building at mid level)
| Date posted: January 2006|
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