Even the nonbeliever can find a worthwhile reason to pick up a pilgrim’s staff and travel the many religious roads of France.
Traveling for sacred art : religious roads of France
If all roads lead to Rome, then many tourism byways inevitably lead to the religious treasures in France. The pilgrimage is without a doubt, the oldest form of “tourism.” Today it has again become the thread that ties religion and tourism together, a fortunate mix based on mutual respect.
Those who walk the road of Santiago de Compostella (in french : « route de Saint-Jacques de Compostelle ») are numbered in the thousands. Departing from the major French historic cities, each of the four roads cover almost 800 km. Marked by the scallop shell emblem of St-Jacques and the sanctuary cities (Vézelay, le Puy-en-Velay, Conques, etc.) the roads join together on the frontier crest of the Pyrénées and go on from their through Northern Spain’s Galicia region.
If the strongest and most passionate travel the entirety of the lengthy path, vacationing walkers and hikers of every sort only cover the most beautiful sections and major historical sites Many are inspired to rediscover the lesser known Mont-St-Michel roads from the Norman hedged farmland and the Breton moors…
By hundreds of thousands, even millions in this case, visiteurs also pour (In the land of pilgrimages) into the sacred cities, from Sainte-Anne d’Auray to Paray-le Monial among others. But for those who are looking for something different, the annual mass held at the peak of Rochemelon en Maurienne (in the French Alps Savoie area, sitting 3400 meters high after a long and trying climb!) is celebrated with strong and astonishing local traditions. Also a little know fact: the “Road of the Kings” leads to the grotto of Marie-Madeleine that is spectacularly nestled in the cliff-side of Sainte-Baume. This sanctuary decidedly leads to discovering a different Provence.
Beyond these specific sites, the religious architectural heritage of France provides a wealth of travel ideas and destinations. The roads of Roman art, alone, are very rich: from churches of dark volcanic rock in Auvergne (Issoire, etc.) to the bright limestone cloisters in southern Burgundy (Tournus, etc.), via the rustic chapels of Poitou or Dauphiné.
Knowing that sacred art also posses its contemporary references, (such as the church “museum” of Passy that assembles the works of famous abstract painters.), homage must still be paid to the more discreet “rural” religious heritage. An elegant example would of the mountain peasants who, from the 16th to 17th centuries, showed their talents by devoting their rare days of rest to decorating their village churches. On the surprising Baroque roads in Vanoise here are sculptured alter-pieces and statues painted in the Baroque style, sometimes signed by an entire dynasty of mountain people-turned artists but others often done by anonymous parishioners.
From the humblest of chapels to the most prestigious cathedrals, every knowledgeable visitor will find something of interest.