Thursday, April 14, 2016

Le Puy en Velay - A day of pilgrimage

13th April.  A wise friend commented that we might well find it is in the unexpected times and places that we have special moments (including times when we feel especially close to God).  Staying at Le Puy en Velay was one of those times.  It began as a convenient stop on the way from Ambroise to Nice, but then the discoveries began

First, Sue found one of the local specialties is lentils.  Some of you may have enjoyed the lentil, beetroot and feta salad Sue makes.  At home the Le Puy Lentils are not easy to find, but here!

Next we discovered this is a place of pilgrimage.  It is one of the starting points for El Camino Santiago pilgrimage (profiled in the movie "The Way").  Several friends of ours have walked this taking 6 weeks or so, and one couple we know is on the way at present. Pilgrimage takes a journey and makes it a time of reflection and spiritual growth.  We visited some of the sites that makes Le Puy an appropriate place to start this journey.

This cast iron statue of Notre-Dame de France is atop the core of an extinct volcano.  The statue is quite modern, inaugurated in 1860, however, pilgrims have traveled here for many centuries before that, climbing the many steps as we did.  The first church established here in 430 AD recognised a tradition of the Virgin appearing here and a flat volcanic stone "the fever stone" has miraculous healing associated with it.  Some of this seems superstitious to my Protestant mind, but I can't deny this place was special.  Sue, Sophie and I prayed together in a chapel below this statue, called the Baptistry of St John which is part of the 11th Century buildings, but parts of it may date from as early as the 5th Century.  It was a moving God moment, thinking of the Christians who had prayed and indeed been baptised there for 16 centuries.  When we prayed the Lord's Prayer, reading from Matthew 6, I was quite tearful, sensing my connection to those early disciples who first learned those words.  Interestingly, the chapel had the apostles creed (in French) displayed on a wall banner).
Inside the Statue

On route to the statue (in background)
Cafe before the climb - You can see the statue above the street in the background.
The "Fever Stone" in the cathedral below the statue.

Walking to Aiguile, the Rock and Chapel of St Michael
The Rock and Chapel of St Michael - quite a climb.


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