The Via Podiensis or the Le Puy Route is one of the four routes through France on the pilgrimage to the tomb of St. James the Great in Santiago de Compostela in Galicia in northwest Spain. It leaves from Le-Puy-en-Velay and crosses the countryside in stages to the basque village of Ostabat. Near there it merges with two of the other routes, the via Turonensis and the via Lemovicensis which merge a little earlier.
The three then become the Navarre Route, passing via the French town of Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port and crossing the Pyrenees and the Spanish border by one path or another to Roncesvalles in the Spanish province of Basse-Navarre. Together they serve as the principal pilgrimage route across Spain, known as the Camino frances. The fourth French route, the via Tolosane, crosses the Pyrenees at a different point (Somport), becomes the Aragonese Way when it enters Spain, and joins the Camino frances further to the west.
Before le Puy, the via Gebennensis leaves from Geneva, gathering Swiss and German pilgrims and feeding into the via Podiensis. Though it bears a Latin name, the via Gebennensis is a modern route laid out in 1980-90, though the numerous hospitals it passes testify to the passage of pilgrims along this route in earlier ages.
From Geneva to the Pyrenees, the two routes (via Gebennensis and via Podiensis) are waymarked as one of the French major hiking routes, the GR 65, with a few local variations or detours, including GR 651 through the valley of Célé and GR 652 via Rocamadour.
- the via Turonensis, leaving from Paris, passing through Tours
- the via Lemovicensis, leaving from Vézelay, passing through Limoges
- the via Podiensis, leaving from Puy-en-Velay, passing through Cahors and Moissac
- the via Tolosane, leaving from Arles, passing through Toulouse
In 950 or 951, Godescalc, bishop of Le Puy-en-Velay, set off on a pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostella. He was the first non-Hispanic to undertake the pilgrimage, leading a large caravan that included members of the clergy, their staff and servants, various nobles and gentlemen, their retainers and men at arms.
The modern route
- In Haute-Loire
- In Lozère
- In Aveyron
- In Lot
A variant route follows the valley of the river Lot, passing Gréalou, Cajarc, and Varaire. A second variation passes through the valley of the Célé, Espagnac-Sainte-Eulalie, Marcilhac-sur-Célé, Sauliac-sur-Célé, Cabrerets, Saint-Cirq-Lapopie. The two variants converge and pass through Cahors, Labastide-Marnhac, Lhospitalet, Lascabanes, Montcuq. A third variant running north of the route passes through Rocamadour.
- In Gers
The route passes Saint-Antoine-sur-l'Arrats, Flamarens, Miradoux, Lectoure, La Romieu, Condom, Valence-sur-Baïse Larressingle, Beaumont sur l'Osse, the Abbaye de Flaran (off the route), Montréal-du-Gers, Lauraët, Lagraulet-du-Gers, Eauze, Manciet, Nogaro, Barcelonne-du-Gers.
- In Landes
- In the Pyrénées-Atlantiques
The route passes Arzacq-Arraziguet, Vignes, Louvigny, Uzan, Pomps, Arthez-de-Béarn, Sauvelade, Navarrenx, Charre, Aroue, Saint-Palais, or Garris, Ostabat, Larceveau-Arros-Cibits, Saint-Jean-le-Vieux, Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port. The final stage passes via the Roncevaux Pass (elevation 1057 m.) to reach the village of Roncesvalles.
- J. van Herwaarden and Wendie Shaffer, Between Saint James and Erasmus (Gunter Narr Verlag, 2003), ISBN 90-04-12984-7, 356-9
- Parsons, Nicholas (2007). Worth the Detour: A History of the Guidebook. Sutton. p. 78.
- Conant, Kenneth J. (1978). Carolingian and Romanesque Architecture: 800 to 1200, 4th ed. Yale University Press. p. 158.
- Chabaud, Marie-France (1997). Les Chemins de Saint-Jacques-de-Compostelle en France. Nouvelles Editions Latines. p. 30. ISBN 978-2723320146.
- Hiking map and Gps track 4UMaps