A common man marvels at uncommon things. A wise man marvels at the commonplace. CONFUCIUS

Saturday, 2 June 2012

The Ways Of Saint James

The 'Ways of Saint James' to Santiago de Compostela (from John Brierley's A Pilgrim's Guide to the Camino de Santiago). Please click on the map to enlarge.

Here's a map showing the principal pilgrim routes in France and Spain. (It's a very basic, simplified one, and does not show all the Spanish routes, nor all the European routes which link into the French ones — but it's fine for my purpose here.) All these paths are the 'Ways of Saint James'.

As you can see, the four main French paths begin in Paris, Vézelay, Le Puy and Arles. They all join what's known as the Camino Francés (The French Way) either at Saint-Jean in France or Puente la Reina in Spain. The Camino Francés, the most popular by far of all the paths, and marked in brown on the map, runs from the Pyrenees on the French-Spanish border right across northern Spain to Santiago — after Rome, the most important Christian pilgrimage site in Europe.

Over the past five years I've walked four of the paths marked here: the Le Puy route (Via Podiensis), the Arles route (Via Tolosana), the Camino Francés, and the Seville route (Vía de la Plata or Camino Mozárabe). Last September I also walked the path from Geneva in Switzerland to Le Puy (Via Gebennensis) — not shown on the map. On my recent two-week trip I decided to walk part of the Le Puy route again; I'd never done any of the routes in springtime before. I finished just short of Cahors, which is almost at the half-way point.

The whole stretch from Geneva via Le Puy to Saint-Jean is also known as the GR 65 — part of that excellent network of waymarked footpaths the French call the Grande Randonnée

To give some idea of scale, here are the distances of some of the routes: Le Puy 750 km, Arles 800 km, Camino Francés 800 km, Seville 1000 km.


Friko said...

Thank you Robert, this is more or less all I asked for. Just a general idea of the routes you have taken and are taking.

I realise that a map is not the first consideration, that setting one foot in front of the other, the contemplation and meditation are what it's about.

How hard it must be to settle back into routine and the mundane tasks of everyday life. I could also imagine that your spirit is wholly refreshed by the walk and will leave you in a place where the difference between important and unimportant matters is easy to see.

Ruth said...

Thanks for the map! It's a wonderful one, better than I'd hoped for.

So apparently when I slept under the stars in the churchyard outside the abbey at Vézelay, I could have started walking. I didn't really get it then, in college, that I was visiting such a focal point of church history (though I did note that Henry VIII was excommunicated in that church in absentia), with relics and the like. All I knew was that I was in something like heaven, with a simple supper in a simple hospice, a night under the stars, and waking up in the mist and view of the surrounding French countryside. I would have gladly started walking then and there.

I think Don and I have to do this in the next few years; my feet are itching big time.

George said...

Ultreya! Seeing all of those paths, I want to grab the rucksack and leave, not to return for perhaps for a year or so. We dream to walk and walk to dream.

Goat said...

I have one of Brierley's guides*. A very handy size for a back pocket, and mine has already been half-soaked in rain and is so dog-eared just from carrying it around at home and here in Korea, it looks like it's already done a Camino or two.

* Not going to say which one yet!

Heidrun Khokhar said...

That must have been an incredible walk. What an adventure.

The Solitary Walker said...

Thanks for your comment, Friko. I do actually like maps — very much — but sometimes they can get in the way. I once watched a walker on the top of Snowden who was so preoccupied with his map, his GPS and his mobile phone that he scarcely looked at the view — which, on that occasion, was a rare 360 degree one, with no concealing mist.

The Solitary Walker said...

Ruth! You were at Vézelay! How wonderful. I have to say — my feet are itching again already!

The Solitary Walker said...

'We dream to walk and walk to dream.' Indeed we do, George, indeed we do.

The Solitary Walker said...

Yes, it was an amazing walk, Heidrun, and an adventure too.