Via Francigena

The Via Francigena was the classic pilgrimage route from England to Rome.

Like all pilgrimage routes it was more a collection of interlinking routes rather than one set route. It differed from the original Roman route south as it crossed the st Bernard pass rather than heading south to Marseille and taking ship (and risking capture by pirates) or following the Roman coastal route which had fallen into disrepair.

We have an account of the route from Sigeric in 990 when he visited Rome to be invested with his pallium in 990 and later by the Icelandic ecclesiastic Nikolas Bergsson. The route is first mentioned in the Actum Clusio, a parchment of 876 in the Abbey of San Salvatore al Monte Amiata (Tuscany). Earlier accounts such as the journey of Willibald, and references to Coenred, King of Mercia, abdicating in 709 and going on pilgrimage to Rome suggest that route was established earlier. Equally, St Boniface's letter of the mid 700's to the Archbishop of Canterbury asking him asking him to forbid 'matrons and nuns' to travel to Rome because many of them perished and few kept their virtue hints at an already well established pilgrim route.

Other significant possible users may include Rhodri Mawr (c 880), Hywel Dda (945) Macbeth (1050).

Route connects abbeys rather than cities together and was clearly, from Sigeric's account, well organised, with abbeys providing hospitality in mansiones. (Incidentally in light of the Eadburh story, Pavia was on the route)

Sigeric did the journey mostly on foot in 79 stages managing around 20km a day.

Pilgrims going on to the holy land seem mostly have travelled south to Brindisi on the old Roman road and then follwed the via Egnatia to Constantinople and then on across Anatolia and Syria, presumably following the remains of the Roman road network where possible.

However the journeys of Willibald and Huneberc to the holy land suggest that some pilgrims took ship from the south of Italy rather than travelling overland

Unless otherwise stated, the content of this page is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License