camino de santiago
  • History of the Via Francigena

    History of the Via Francigena image

    Rome which is the end goal of the Via Francigena has been established as the centre of Catholicism since the 1st Century when Christians arrived.  Since this time pilgrims have been making their way through various routes to visit the Eternal City.  The Via Francigena is one such route to Rome; however the route itself has changed over time and has alternate route options.

    Originally this route in the Dark Ages was of strategic importance in connecting the duchies within the Kingdom of the Lombards.  After the fall of the Lombards and under the rule of the Franks this route became known as the Via Francigena “Road from France”.  By the Middle Ages pilgrimages to Rome were at their height particularly as the Holy Land had fallen to the Muslim conquests and was more difficult to complete for Christian pilgrims.

    Canterbury to Rome

    The most widely known itinerary for this route is that written by the Sigeric the Serious.  In 990 he travelled to Rome to receive his pallium and to be ordained a Cardinal by Pope John XV.  On his return to Canterbury he documented the places he stayed in a journal.  This walk took him 80 days to complete and covered a total of some 1,700km, through Italy, Switzerland, France and England.  As with other pilgrim routes during the Reformation and due to the political instability in Europe at this time pilgrimages to Rome became less popular and much of this route fell into disuse or became part of national road networks.

    Walking the Via Francigena Today

    Until more recently the Via Francigena was predominantly carried out by scholars, particularly after the itinerary of Sigeric was rediscovered in the British Library in the 1980s.  As the Camino de Santiago has grown in popularity, interest in the Via Francigena as a pilgrimage route to Rome has also increased, particularly for those pilgrims who have completed the Full French Way.   Designated as a Cultural Route by the Council of Europe in 1994 and then as a Major Cultural Route in 2004 there has been increasing investments in this route particularly through Italy.  As recently as 2009 the Italian Government has recognised the importance and benefit of recovering this route and ensuring that it is well signposted and that communities along the route are supported in providing services for pilgrims.  The package that we provide will follow the Via Francigena from Vercelli in Northern Italy down to Rome over some 779km.

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