The Via Francigena Canterbury to Rome - Part 1
Canterbury to the Great St Bernard Pass
By Alison Raju
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The Via Francigena is an ancient pilgrim route that runs for 1900km from Canterbury to Rome. Part 1 describes the first 945km of the walk from Canterbury to the Great St Bernard Pass. Contains all the planning information you need for your pilgrimage, including details of facilities and accommodation along the route.
Seasonsspring, summer or autumn, but the Great Saint-Bernard Pass is only accessible from late-May to mid-October
Centresfrom Canterbury the route goes through Dover, Calais, Arras, Laon, Reims, Châlons-en-Champagne, Bar-sur-Aube, Langres, Besançon, Lausanne, Vevey, Villeneuve, Saint-Maurice, Martigny, Orsières, Bourg-Saint-Pierre to the Col-du-Grand-Saint-Bernard
Difficultyapart from steep climbs up and over the border from France into Switzerland (1,103m) and then up to the Great Saint-Bernard pass (2,473m). The Via Francigena presents no difficulties for any reasonably fit walker
Must SeeCanterbury Cathedral, 1st and 2nd World War cemeteries, Reims, Laon Cathedral, the countryside of the Franche-Comté, Lausanne, Vevey, the Rhone Valley, views of the Dents du Midi, the Great Saint-Bernard pass
The Via Francigena is an almighty 1900km pilgrim trail from Canterbury to Rome. It leads down through relatively flat sections in north-eastern France, then reaches the mountainous Jura, continues through Switzerland and crosses the strenuous Great St Bernard Pass over the Alps, before heading through Italy to arrive at the Eternal City of Rome.
Taking an average of three months to complete on foot, pilgrims have been undertaking the Via Francigena since the 8th century, and it is one of Europe's great pilgrimages. This guidebook describes the walk from its start in Canterbury, and concludes at the halfway point of the route at the Great St Bernard Pass on the Swiss-Italian border
From Canterbury, the book splits the pilgrimage into six sections (with further start points in Calais, Arras, Reims, Besançon and Lausanne), to conclude at the halfway point of the route at the Great St Bernard Pass on the Swiss-Italian border. All six start points are places where pilgrims can easily reach or leave the route by means of public transport, should they wish to tackle the journey in shorter stages.
Most people who walk the Via Francigena are not experienced walkers. Walking a pilgrim trail, throughout history, has always been a means to an end and walking a means of transport. This makes the route suitable for all reasonably fit people. It passes through many historic towns and villages, with interesting churches, cathedrals and religious monuments to see and visit along the way.
- first 945km of the route described in detail, with colour sketch maps
- details of facilities along the route as well as information about all the key sights
- Part 1 of a 2-part guide covering the full route. Part 2 describes the Via Francigena from the Great St Bernard Pass to Rome.
The modern pilgrim
Pilgrims through the centuries
Preparing for your journey
Choosing your companions
Tackling the Via in one trip
Planning your pilgrimage
A challenging pilgrim route
Planning the day
Other practical information
Using this guide
1 Canterbury to Dover (30km)
Canterbury to Dover
2 Calais to Arras (124km)
Calais to Arras
3 Arras to Reims (189km)
Arras to Reims
4 Reims to Besançon (341km)
Reims to Besançon
5 Besançon to Lausanne (135km)
Besançon to Lausanne
6 Lausanne to the Great St Bernard Pass (126km)
Lausanne to the Great St Bernard Pass
Appendix A Further reading
Appendix B Useful contacts
Appendix C Summary of the route
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page 216 Hôtel Terminus, in Orsières, Switzerland contact details have changed .
+41 (0) 27 552 11 00
Wisques, Page 77:
The abbaye Notre-Dame accomodates both male and female visitors.
Wizernes, Page 78:
The text should read 'take second turning left (Rue de Blendeques).
Rancourt, Page 96:
The directions take you to the village by which time it is too late to go via the wood as shown in the sketch. Road v ery busy for walkers until Bouchavesnes-Bergen.
Seraucourt-le-Grand, Page 101:
Pizzas only on Fri and Sat at Superette (which looks likely to close soon).
Tergnier, Page 104:
Only one hotel open now:: Le Paon 03 23 57 04 13.
Bievres, Page 111:
After 'mini quarry' the GR appears to have been rerouted, but turning L on the bend as in the directions works fine- there are no waymarks until you reach the road by the Bove chateau. After that L turn there are a series of 'keep fit' structures in the rough land on the R.
Pontavert, Page 112:
Not Roupy- Roucy
Work has been done on the towpath/canal bank after the first bridge, but it is still necessary to walk along the bottom of the field to get to Gernicourt for a good part of the way.
Gernicourt, Page 112:
Coumicy is not visible until you have climbed the hill.
Courmicy, Page 113:
Now has a new "Intermarché" supermarket on west side of village
Cauroy- les Hermonville, Page 113:
'over small stream (Beaucourt) and then up shady stony track'
Saint Thierry, Page 114:
The first number given is for the Mairie, The CH number provided is the Monastere des Benedictines. The number of the CH is 03 26 03 13 75
Verzernay, Page 121:
The bar is now only open on Sat and Sun (and likely to close altogether).
OPTION A, Page 121:
The GR route has been changed in the woods to provide a short cut for those not wanting to go via Trepail, so if you end up on the D37 with a GR waymark 'Billy le Grand' to the L - turn R for Trepail. Accomodation and food in Trepail (donation) at 03 26 57 82 29.
New waymarking put in place between the time the book was researched/walked and when it was published:
a) The route in the Franche-Comté region of France (the area around Besançon) has now been waymarked and should correspond more or less to the route described in guide.
b) On reaching Orbe (in Switzerland) a route has now been waymarked from there along the river all the way down to Lac Leman (Lake Geneva), several kilometres to the west of Lausanne, from where it then "turns left" to enter the town from that side. A nice walk with the advantage of passing near to the youth hostel (on the western outskirts of the town) but with the disadvantage, once the pilgrim reaches the port, of having to do a substantial detour to the north - steeply uphill! - to visit the cathedral and the town centre.
The route described from Orbe onwards in the guide (pages 184 - 190) goes directly to the cathedral in Lausanne, picking up the waymarks of the Camino de Santiago taken by pilgrims from eastern Switzerland (Einsiedeln, Konstanz, etc.). As it leads to the cathedral first, before going on downhill to the lakeside (and then "turning left' to continue), this seems a viable pilgrim (as opposed to a purely hiking) option. However, had the riverside route from Orbe been waymarked at the time the guide was prepared both options would have been included to allow the pilgrim decide for him or herself which way they would prefer to enter Lausanne.
it has been reported that all French youth hostels will provide accomodation for 17 Euros if you show a pilgrim passport (no need to belong to the organisation)
"These two well researched guides certainly cover a long distance trail, for the classic Walk to Rome pilgrimage route, through England, France, Switzerland and Italy, measures 1900km (1180 miles) from Canterbury Cathedral to the steps of St Peter's Basilica in Rome...
The wealth of information on the route in the two books is all clearly and logically laid out and should be very easy to use on the trail...
Alison is to be applauded for accomplishing this mammoth task of researching and writing what is the only dedicated walkers' guidebook in any language to the whole of the Via Francigena."
Strider Magazine, August 2014
‘This long-awaited guide by Alison Raju does not disappoint.
Topics such as preparing for the journey, equipment, types of accommodation, as well as a range of do’s and don’ts, are well covered and thoughtful, presented with practicality and commonsense in mind. Who but an experienced pilgrim would include a list of ‘what not to take’ when packing; omit prescriptive day stages; include the Lord’s Prayer in French for use in Churches en route; give an explanation of the contrasting nature of the VF and so on?
The main body of the book describes the route in six sections with detailed directions, colour sketch maps, walking distances, notes on each place and facilities provided. Excellent colour photographs of landscape or points of interest relieve the text.
In the same neat compact format as other Cicerone Guides, the paperback is sized approximately 6” x 4” x 0.5”, which fits neatly into a pocket or map case. The paper is of a good weight and quality, robust enough to withstand the likely wetting it will get along the way from rain, drinks, mud or tears!
The author is to be congratulated on undertaking this demanding task, having herself walked the route as a pilgrim at least twice, while at the same time researching and recording her experiences and knowledge to share with us, the readers.’
Confraternity of St. James Bulletin, March 2012
'The via Francigena is a 1900 km pilgrim route. After leaving Canterbury and crossing the Channel from Dover to Calais, the route continues across north-east France and Switzerland, through the Alps and north-western Italy to reach Rome.
This guide covers the first half of the walk from Canterbury to the Great St Bernard Pass, at 2473m the high point of the route.
A reasonably fit walker should be able to complete the entire route in 3 months, anyone contemplating the pilgrimage will certainly find this book useful both for planning and on the walk itself.'
Strider magazine, December 2011
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Alison Raju is a former teacher of French, German and Spanish to adults and is the author of three other guides published by Cicerone Press: 'Way of Saint James (Camino de Santiago): Pyrenees - Santiago - Finisterre', 'Vía de la Plata (Seville to Santiago)' and 'The Pilgrim Road to Nidaros (Way of St. Olav): Oslo - Trondheim'.View Articles and Books by Alison Raju
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