The four principle pilgrimage paths - 'Ways of St James' - across France:

start of the pilgrimage path in Le Puy-en-Velay

The four main starting points for pilgrims in France are from the cities of Tours, Vézelay, Le Puy-en-Velay and Arles. They are all signed routes of the Grande Randonnée network.

The Tours route

The Tours route: used to be the pilgrimage of choice for inhabitants of the Low Countries and those of western France. Due to industrialization in the area, the more easterly ways are preferred nowadays.

The official start is Tours, although the paths Paris-Orleans-Tours or Paris-Chartres-Tours are sometimes considered to be an integral part of this route. From Tours, the route passes through Poitiers and Bordeaux, and the forest at Les Landes, before connecting to the Camino Francés in Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port.

Paris Way

francethisway visitor comment: The starting point for the "via turonensis" is somewhere between Poland and Norway. In France many people who take that way do start from Tour St Jacques (Paris), beautifully restored in 2010. It used to be nicknamed "le grand chemin de St Jacques". You may consider that it is the Paris way of St James.

The Vézelay route

The Vézelay route passes through the Massif Central and continues to Le Puy-en-Velay. It is part of GR 65.

The Le Puy route

The Le Puy route: travelled by pilgrims starting in or passing through Le Puy-en-Velay. It passes through towns such as Espalion and Cahors before coming to Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port. It is part of GR 65.

The Arles Way

The route from Italy becomes the Arles Way in southern France, named after the cathedral city. It passes through Montpellier, Toulouse and Oloron-Sainte-Marie before reaching the Spanish border at Col du Somport in the high Pyrenees. There it connects to the Aragonese Way, and as such is the only French route not to connect to the Camino Francés at Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port.

See a MAP of the historical routes in France, by the late René de la Coste-Messelière of the Centre Européen des Etudes Compostellanes.

Return to main pilgrims in France article.