Since returning to the
The via francigena was first created by Julius Caesar between the years 58 and 44 BC. It was used by all manner of people – pilgrims, traders, scholars, soldiers, etc – to traverse the continent north-south. In the year 990, a monk named Sigeric was made Archbishop of Canterbury and used this road to go to
I didn’t notice any posted trail markers for the via francigena until I reached
In addition, there are many ‘signs’ showing that I was more or less following the medieval route. On the exterior of churches and some civil buildings, a carved pilgrim figure holding one or more keys was an indication to illiterate pilgrims that they were on the right path to the
In Switzerland, I started seeing trail markers stuck to telephone poles or street signs indicating I was on the via francigena, but frankly, there’re limited ways to walk around Lake Geneva and over the pass at Grand Saint Bernard, so the trail markers were superfluous.
Another question to help one decide which trail to take is therefore, do you like the challenge, and freedom, of finding your own way, or do you prefer following someone else’s path?
The main trails in the southwest of
By studying the maps in these places, I became intimate with my transient place in the world – where I might find a village large enough to have a café or an ATM or something else I might need, where I might be able to cross a stream or river, where I could traverse some hills with the least elevation gain… I got to know the land. In Spain, I had very little sense of these things… small folded papers are offered at nearly all of the pilgrim houses with trail profiles and a list of the sequence of villages and the offerings necessary for a pilgrim – pilgrim house, café/bar, grocery store, ATM, and internet connection. Anything off the established trail is not in the purview of pilgrims’ needs. Pilgrimland.
There’s a move afoot by various grassroots and governmental agencies in
The other trails in
A preference for freeform or Pilgrimland, or transitional like the last 200 kilometers of the via francigena are the biggest determinants for choosing which of these two pilgrim trails to take… it’s an individual decision.