All roads lead to Compostela

On arriving in Chalosse you will often see walkers, a rucksack on their backs, stick in hand, and a scallop badge somewhere on their attire. They are, of course, pilgrims from Santiago de Compostela.

The shell is their symbol. In olden times pilgrims picked them up on the beaches of Galicia and brought them back as proof of their accomplishment. Now they wear it on their hats, their cloaks, their sacks or sticks as soon as they leave.

They come from all over France, even from Germany or the Netherlands and beyond... for this pilgrimage, the most famous in the Western world.

The ways of Compostela in France have been classified as a World Heritage Site by Unesco. This tradition of pilgrimage to a holy place originated in the discovery in Galicia of the tomb of the Apostle James the Elder, the evangeliser of Spain where a church was built to his honour in the ninth century. A list of 71 major buildings along these routes was added to the UNESCO list in 1998, including the Abbey of Saint-Sever. Its church with seven stepped apses is remarkable.

The Voie Limousine, 1,628 km from its starting point in Vézelay to Spain. It passes through Saint-Sever, Audignon, Horsarrieu and Hagetmau and no less than a thousand pilgrims per year pass through.

Saint-Sever and Hagetmau have a pilgrim's stop where the pilgrims, equipped with their "pass" can stop for the night..

The Puy-en-Velay route passes through the charming villages of Miramont-Sensacq, Pimbo and its beautiful collegiate church. It is the oldest of the four major historic routes. Its road is 750 km long, and follows the GR65 hiking trail. Each year, more than 10,000 pilgrims walk throughTursan to reach Santiago de Compostela.

If you are interested, don't hesitate to ask your tourist office or the association les Amis de St-Jacques. Above all, start training for this pilgrimage, which is a real challenge, more sporty than you think! An incredible, tourist and spiritual adventure to do once in a lifetime!