In the Middle Ages, Christians went to Rome, to Jerusalem and to Saint-James of Santiago de Compostela. What was this attachment to a place so far from the origins of religion and its seat of authority?
Santiago de Compostela takes its name from Campus Stellae: "Field of Stars". Where, thanks to lights glowing in the night in the years 813-814, a hermit discovered in the remote Spanish hills, the sepulchre of Saint James, brother of Saint John. Called by Jesus whilst fishing in the Tiberian Sea, Saint James converted Spain to Christianity before he was martyred and decapitated in Jerusalem around 44 years before Christ. His body was left to the dogs in a field before it was recovered by his friends. They placed his remains in a boat which ran aground on the Galician coast. Guided by an angel, it had sailed across the Mediterranean and the straits of Gibraltar.
In 1140, Aymeric Picaud, a monk from Poitou, retraced the first journeys of Saint James of Santiago de Compostela from the Codex Calixtinus. Ever since, Christians coming from all over Europe cross France and the Pyrenees to reach the sacred site. Four pathways were thus created.
This route, which starts at Puy-en-Velay is the oldest and also the most frequented. 1,530 kms long, it is an extension of a central European route taken by pilgrims coming from Poland, Hungary, Germany, Austria and Switzerland. They follow the GR®65 which crosses very important sites of pilgrimage such as the sanctuaries of Conques, Rocamadour, Moissac and Roncesvalles (Roncevaux). It takes 62 days to walk..
The credential document certifies that a pilgrim is "bona fide", that is of good faith, and gives access to shelters in Spain. The pilgrim has it stamped at the beginning of the journey and then every following day in churches, shelters, hostels, and tourist offices, all along the route. Finally they show their credential with the accompanying stamps at the pilgrim’s reception in the cathedral at Santiago de Compostela.
The credential may be purchased from the Direction des Pélerinages at Puy-en-Velay, in parishes along the way and also on the internet. At Montcuq, pilgrims can buy one at the tourist office (price 8€).
The Montcuq stamp may be obtained at the tourist office, or if closed, at the tabaconist, the town hall or at their accommodation.
The GR®65 crosses the Quercy Blanc from east to west, passing through the communes of Lhospitalet, Cézac, Lascabanes, Montcuq-en-Quercy-Blanc and Montlauzun.
Walkers can find here all types of accommodation and services: hostels, B&B, hotels, restaurants and cafés at Montcuq, half-board and picnic baskets available from many hosts.
At Montcuq-en-Quercy-Blanc, a village classified as a "Halte sur le chemin de Saint-Jacques", health and medical services, and all commercial outlets are available for the smooth continuation of their travels.
The pilgrimage to Saint-James of Santiago de Compostela can also be travelled by bike. The route crosses the Quercy Blanc and passes through Castelnau-Montratier where cyclists can stop to sleep, eat and buy supplies. The Castelnau-Montratier stamp may be obtained at the tourist office.
To find more about the pilgrimage, visit the site of the Acir.
The Quercy Blanc has many pilgrims accomodations