Wednesday, November 29, 2006

The Via Francigena

The Via Francigena: Rome to Canterbury

Via Francigena: St Bernard Pass to Rome

Not quite the M1 of Medieval times.

But the "rediscovery" of this pilgrim route from Canterbury to Rome has meant the identification of routes which were forgotten or had simply fallen into disuse.

It also shows how travel in Medieval Times may have been undertaken and why certain towns and cities and towns grew up and maintained prosperity through catering to the medieval traveller, and forming markets in the process of trade and its expansion.

The Via Francigena or Via Romea was first documented in 990 by Sigeric, Archbishop of Canterbury, in his Diary regarding the places he passed through as he returned to Canterbury after receiving from the Pope, the "pallium", a circular band of white wool with pendants, worn by archbishops over the chasuble.

The roads that Sigeric followed became known as the Via Francigena (the road to France) or "Via Romea" (the road to Rome) and were for centuries used by merchants, prelate, soldiers and pilgrims traveling back and forth from the north of Europe to Rome and Jerusalem carrying ideas as well as money and produce. These people travelled on foot, or on mules and horses, rarely by cart as the conditions of the road varied continually.

Often the route followed the old Roman roads which still existed and were maintained by local landowners and towns.

The route from Abbadia S Salvatore to Siena which Pius narrates in the Commentaries follows the route of the Cassian Way, one of the old Roman roads, and part of the Via Francigena.

The route from Rome to Siena taken by Pius in his Commentaries also seems to follow the old Via Francigena if one looks at the towns which he passed through.