dimanche 6 mai 2012

Coquilles Saint Jacques

We have a sweet modest weekend home out in the Norman village of Verneuil-sur-Avre. One of the many architectural highlights of the village is its Gothic church spire which can be seen from as far away as Chartres and is mentioned in one of Proust's stories.

 During the Middle ages, Verneuil-sur-Avre was a stopping point for Christian pilgrims hiking the Saint Jacques de Compostelle trail, and the town remains quite devout today. While that piety was not a drawing point for us--we are more prone to be found at the village bakery than inside the church on Sunday mornings-- I do love this little emblem I spied this weekend embedded quietly into one of the village walkways:
This is a marker showing that this town is a pilgrimage site. In the background is the famous Mont-St-Michel which is an hour and a half away (by car for the non-pilgrims), and which certainly ranks higher than Verneuil on the hierarchy of religious stopping points. The shell and the hooked staff are traditional pilgrim talismans. St Jacques shells were easily collected from the beaches along the route then pocketed and used by pilgrims for sipping water from trailside springs. The shell also holds a metaphorical value: the many grooves coming together at one point symbolize the various ways to get to Santiago de Compostela, the town in northwestern Spain which is the endpoint for the pilgrims' journey. The staff was used as a hiking tool and with its hook, also became a carrier.

There are still people who hike the St Jacques de Compostelle trail today, some as religious pilgrims, others as secular nature lovers. I'm pleased when they come through our little town and I find it incredibly cool that there's this tiny secret marker lighting their path, right there between the bakery and the café.

6 commentaires:

  1. That is pretty cool!

    If you don't mind me asking, how do you get out there? C & I have considered buying a weekend home, but find the idea of getting out of Paris by car on a Friday night & coming back on a Sunday night exhausting.

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  2. We drive out usually (it takes anywhere from 1.5 to 2 hours) but there is a direct train from Montparnasse which takes 1 hour. One of my criteria when searching for a second home was that it be accessible both by car and train. The train is great for when the kids have friends who want to come out during a weekend or vacation. We usually take a car because Phil hates the train (especially when we are bringing out heavy stuff like cases of wine).

    Buying this place was one of the best decisions I ever made. It's a perfect country balance to urban Paris and a real sanity-saver. I live for Friday nights when I know we will be pushing open our garden gate and breathing in the pure air of Normandy.

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  3. Utterly delightful! What an awesome day trip for occasional visitors like us, who usually book a hotel in Paris for 1-2 weeks. Thank you.

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  4. Hello! I just found your blog and love reading it (I moved back to the States from Lyon this past summer) and I just wanted to say that I love this particular post. In fact, the date you posted it was the day I began my own (secular) pilgrimage to Santiago from St Jean Pied-de-Port! Thanks for sharing!!

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    Réponses
    1. Hi Victoria! Thanks for your comment. How did your walk go? St Jean Pied-de-Port is a lovely town.

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    2. The walk was amazing, probably one of the most invigorating and fascinating experiences of my life! It's true, St. Jean Pied-de-Port is a beautiful town and the walk to Roncevalles was among the most beautiful of the whole journey (except for a brief but terrifying hailstorm that engulfed us about 2k from the hostel at Orisson). Thanks again for the photo!

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