Exploring the lush countryside of France on foot, stopping off at pretty, flower-decked villages, historic sites, beautiful chateaux, a walking holiday is an excellent way to capture the essence of France…
Part of the pilgrimage route goes from the famous town of Versailles to the Cathedral of Chartres, a major destination on the pilgrim route since the 12th Century. It is estimated that almost a quarter of all Europeans undertook a pilgrimage in the 14th Century so this is a road well-trod. The 130km route that the tour will take, is part of the Via Turonensis, an ancient Roman road, originating in Brussels. It passes by the famous gathering point of Tour St. Jacques in Paris, onward to Chartres, Tours, Bordeaux, Saint Jean Pied Port and later, Santiago de Compostela.
The route takes you through glorious countryside, small villages and dense royal forests. The pilgrimage ends at the Cathedral of our Lady of Chartres with a special walk of the 13th century labyrinth. The walk avoids the major urban roads of Paris, meanders through marked trails taking in picturesque little villages and major historic sites – chateaux, abbeys, churches monuments and markets. The route also goes through the lively royal town of Rambouillet where Napoleon I, Charles X, Charles de Gaulle and Ernest Hemingway once lived, and where Francois I, King of France, died.
The walk follows the chemin along the River l’Eure into the medieval city of Chartres affording the group the most spectacular views of the city and the famous cathedral.
Inside is the famous, centuries old Chartres labyrinth. Walking labyrinths on Cathedral grounds was a popular substitute for making a pilgrimage when times were hard or dangerous.
The Cathedral of Chartres has a fascinating and rich history and is quite unique. The Cathedral was built in just 26 years beginning in 1194, replacing several churches and cathedrals previously built on the site going back to at least the 9th Century. There are many unique features including three separate triple doorways (the West Front, North Porch and South Porch). There are 167 stained glass windows dating back to the 13th century; the secret to how to produce such glass has been lost and cannot be replicated. Chartres is famous for the Sancta Camisa, said to be a piece of the tunic worn by Mary Tamar at the birth of Jesus the Christ, making it a very popular destination with pilgrims then and now.
Judy Colaneri is a tour guide who has undertaken and led many walking tours in France over the last twenty years in the footsteps of pilgrims who have ventured across the expansive landscape of the Iberian Peninsula for 1,200 years. She says that ever since taking her first “steps” along the well-trodden path to Santiago de Compostela, she “was hooked”.