Camino de Santiago, an UNESCO World Heritage

Pilgrim Arrow - CaminoWays.comSantiago de Compostela was the supreme goal for countless thousands of pious pilgrims who converged there from all over Europe throughout the Middle Ages. To reach Spain pilgrims had to pass through France, and the group of important historical monuments included in this inscription marks out the four routes by which they did so.

Justification for Inscription

Criterion ii: The Pilgrimage Route of Santiago de Compostela played a key role in religious and cultural exchange and development during the later Middle Ages, and this is admirably illustrated by the carefully selected monuments on the routes followed by pilgrims in France. Criterion iv: The spiritual and physical needs of pilgrims travelling to Santiago de Compostela were met by the development of a number of specialized types of edifice, many of which originated or were further developed on the French sections. Criterion vi: The Pilgrimage Route of Santiago de Compostela bears exceptional witness to the power and influence of Christian faith among people of all classes and countries in Europe during the Middle Ages.

camino-frances-4-day6-300x225Long Description

The Pilgrimage Route of Santiago de Compostela played a key role in religious and cultural exchange and development during the later Middle Ages, and this is admirably illustrated by the carefully selected monuments on the routes followed by pilgrims in France. The spiritual and physical needs of pilgrims travelling to Santiago de Compostela were met by the development of a number of specialized types of edifice, many of which originated or were further developed on the French sections.

After Jerusalem was captured by the Caliph Omar in 638, Christians were hesitant about going to the Holy City as pilgrims. Pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela, where the tomb of the apostle St James the Great, who brought Christianity to the Iberian peninsula, had been founded around 800, benefited from the decline of Jerusalem as a pilgrimage centre.

Santiago began as a local religious centre, becoming the See of a bishopric around 900, but its renown grew rapidly after the visit in 951 of Godescalc, Bishop of Le Puy and one of the first foreign pilgrims to be recorded. From the 11th century onwards, pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela reached its apogee. Thousands of pilgrims, among them kings and bishops, travelled long distances to pray at the tomb of one of Christ’s closest companions. This flowering coincided with that of the Cluniac Order, which encouraged the worship of relics by publishing Lives of the Saints and Collections of Miracles. From the 11th-13th centuries ‘staging post’ churches developed along the pilgrimage route, and in particular in France.

The four main pilgrimage routes to Santiago de Compostela in France began at Paris, Vézelay, Le Puy, and Arles respectively, and each of these was fed by a number of subsidiary routes. Thus, the start of the Paris route saw the convergence of routes from Boulogne, Tournai, and the Low Countries, while routes from Caen, Mont-Saint-Michel, and Brittany joined it at intermediate points such as Tours, Poitiers, Saint-Jean d’Angély and Bordeaux (the port for pilgrims coming by sea from England and coastal areas of Brittany and Normandy). Le Puy was the link with the Rhône valley, whereas those coming from Italy passed through Arles. The three western routes converged at Ostabat, crossing the Pyrenees by means of the Ibaneta pass, while the eastern route from Arles used the Somport pass; the two routes joined in Spain at Puente-la-Reina.

The places of worship along the pilgrimage routes in France range from great structures such as Saint-Sernin at Toulouse or Amiens Cathedral to parish churches. All are included either because they figure on the guide produced by Aymeric Picaud (Saint-Front Cathedral at Périgueux or the Church of Saint-Léonard de-Noblat) or because they contain important relics and other material that connect them directly with the pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela. Certain churches exhibit architectural characteristics that permit them to be given the appellation of ‘pilgrimage churches’. Sainte-Foy at Conques, Saint-Sernin at Toulouse, and the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela itself in particular have in common large transepts and apsidal chapels ranged round a spacious ambulatory, designed to meet the liturgical needs of pilgrims.

Pilgrimages in the Middle Ages imposed considerable hardships on the pilgrims, such that they were often in need of medical treatment and care. Few of these survive intact on the French sections of the route and are included in the World Heritage site. A number of bridges are known as ‘pilgrims’ bridges’, and that over the Borade at Saint-Chély-d’Aubrac even has the figure of a pilgrim carved on it. Of special importance are the Pont du Diable over the Hérault at Aniane, one of the oldest medieval bridges in France, and the magnificent 14th-century fortified Pont Valentré over the Lot at Cahors.

While the course of the different routes is generally known, very little of them survive in anything approaching their original form. The seven stretches included in the site are all on the Le Puy route, and cover a little over 20% of its total length. These are relatively minor roads whose course has not changed significantly since the Middle Ages; they are also lined with monuments associated with the pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela, such as crosses and modest places of worship.
Source: UNESCO/CLT/WHC

camino-primitivoHistorical Description

After Jerusalem was captured by the Caliph Omar in 638, Christians were hesitant about going to the Holy City as pilgrims. Pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela, where the tomb of the apostle St James the Great, who brought Christianity to the Iberian peninsula, had been found around 800, benefited from the decline of Jerusalem as a pilgrimage centre.

Santiago had begun as a local religious centre, which became the see of a bishopric around 900, but its renown grew rapidly after the visit in 951 of Godescalc, Bishop of Le Puy and one of the first foreign pilgrims to be recorded. At this time, however, the roads were not safe from brigandry and the threat of Moslem raids, such as that in 997 led by Al- Mansour, vizier of the Caliph of Córdoba, when Compostela was looted and burned.

With the start of the Reconquista during the early decades of the 11th century, the shrine became a centre to which goods of all kinds flowed. In this way the cathedral was endowed with immense treasures, making it capable of underwriting the needs of Rome and of the rulers of León and Castille. It was from this time onwards that pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela reached its apogee. Thousands of pilgrims, among them kings and bishops, travelled long distances to pray at the tomb of one of Christ’s closest companions.

This flowering coincided with that of the Cluniac Order, which encouraged the worship of relics by publishing Lives of the Saints and Collections of Miracles. As a result other sanctuaries of less importance developed at this time, but without eclipsing the splendour of Santiago de Compostela. From the 11th to the 13th century “staging post” churches developed along the pilgrimage route, and in particular in France. Each of these was proud to house holy relics; indeed, the cult of relics was the mainstay of medieval pilgrimage.

At the same time there was renewed fervour for the cult of the Virgin Mary. Pilgrimages to shrines such as Notre-Dame du Puy, Notre-Dame de Chartres, and Notre-Dame de Boulogne, which had been renowned since the early Middle Ages, experienced a spectacular renaissance in the 12th century as a result of the growth of pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela. Of the three churches, that at Le Puy in the Auvergne was most closely linked with Santiago. It was identified in Book V of the Codex Calixtinus, the description of the pilgrimage routes prepared around 1139 for Pope Calixtus II by Aymeric Picaud, as the starting point of one of the four routes in France. It was, of course, the episcopal see of Godescalc, one of the first foreign pilgrims in Santiago de Compostela, and so was probably the first to be established.

 

Source: http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/868/

Leave comment