Le-Puy-en-Velay is one of the four main starting points in France for the pilgrim roads leading to Santiago de Compostela in Spain. In June 2003 I walked the Spanish part of the pilgrim road, Camino Francés, 750 km from Roncesvalles to Santiago de Compostela. The experience was so profound that I decided to walk also the road from Le Puy to Roncesvalles, but this time in period of three years, starting from July 2005. Unfortunately, I didn’t catch the same spirit as I had during my Camino in Spain. So, although walking the first part, 208 km, was an interesting experience, I never continued further than Conques.
I arrived to the city of Le-Puy-en-Velay on July 8th, 2005. Enormous statue of Notre-Dame de France overlooks Le-Puy-en-Velay from a high rock above.
July 9th, 1st walking day 22 km from Le Puy to Saint-Privat-d’Allier. Statue of St James on Rue Saint-Jacques on leaving Le Puy.
2nd walking day, 18 km from Saint-Privat-d’Allier to Saugues. Tiny chapel dedicated to St James on a rocky belvedere at Rochegude.
Waymarking in France is done by red and white stripes. Occasionally there were yellow stipes as well, the same colour as used in Camino in Spain. During my walk I wondered the meaning of these occasional yellow marks: perhaps doings of a local association of St James? Later on I found out that they just mark a short daypath, while red and white stripes means a longer walk.
Metal bridge over river Allier leading to the town of Monistrol-d’Allier, 28 km from Le Puy.
The same bridge seen from higher up. From Monistrol (619m) the next 31 km to Domaine du Sauvage (1292m) is almost continuous uphill.
There were numerous crosses along the way.
2nd day ending. The town of Saugues, 40 km from Le Puy.
Detail of a wooden sculpture with St James, entering to Saugues.
3rd walking day 28 km from Saugues to Saint-Alban-sur-Limagnole (no photos). 4th walking day, 17,5 km from St Alban to Aumont-Aubrac. This picture is from the small town of Aumont-Aubrac.
5th walking day 36 km from Aumont-Aubrac to Aubrac. After about 5 km walk there was this tiny Chapelle de Bastide.
Flowers blooming on the roadside.
The path continues and continues.
Aubrac plateau was very beautiful.
Cattle pens in Aubrac plateau.
This might be a village of Rieutort-d’Aubrac, but I am not sure.
6th walking day 28 km from Aubrac to Saint-Côme-d’Olt. This freckled horse cought my eye.
Again I am not sure, but this might be a small town of Saint-Chély-d’Aubrac.
Renée from France and Beatrice from Austria with whom I walked couple of days. Note the white and red stripes on the bridge pillar marking the right path.
7th walking day 16 km from Saint-Côme to Estaing. This is a 16th century church of SS Côme and Damien. There was a strange light inside the church.
Detail from the church door of SS Côme and Damien.
Detail from the pavement outside church, note the shape of a scallop shell, the universal insignia of a Santiago pilgrim.
Beautiful romanesque chapel, Eglise de Perse.
Street sign at the town of Eglise de Perse. Only Finnish speakers know why I took a picture of this particular sign (elämä tuntui olevan suoraan perseestä juuri tuolloin).
One of the oldest churches on the route, church of Saint-Pierre-de-Bessuéjouls, dating back to 11th century.
There was a very steep climb ahead but the scenery was beautiful.
Small town of Estaing, where many of the buildings date back to 15th century.
8th walking day 24,5 km from Estaing to Espeyrac. This picture is taken inside the church of Saint Pierre in Espeyrac where there is an unusual statue of St Peter with a cockerel at his feet.
Statue of Saint-Roch inside the church of Saint Pierre in Espeyrac. Along the way, there were many statues of Saint-Roch (1295-1327), the patron saint against cholera and other epidemics and also skin diseases. Many chapels originally dedicated to St James changed their dedication to Saint-Roch due to his success in curing plague victims.
9th and the last walking day 21,5 km from Espeyrac to Conques. Waymarking. White and red stripes forming a cross means that turn around, this is not the right way.
Town of Sénergues, I assume.
Entering to the town of Conques. The whole town is a historic monument dating back to medieval times.
Detail of an old house at Conques.
Tympanum of the last Judgement scene on the main doorway of the abbey church of Sainte-Foy.
Small square and alley next to abbey Sainte Foy, where there is a dormitory accommodation for pilgrims.
Inside the abbey church of Sainte-Foy. The abbey became famous when the remains of St Foy were stolen and brought here from an other church. St Foy was martyred in AD 303 and she is famous for her ability to cure eye disorders.
There is a dormitory and rooms for pilgrims and other visitors at Accueil Abbaye Sainte Foy. The most touching memory from my journey is from the evening meal, when instead of a prayer we all sang together the ancient pilgrim song Ultreya. It translates something like ”go further, go higher, may God help us”.