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The Pilgrim Route Journey of St Jacques of Santiago de Compostela and the Church of Saint Eutrope

Updated on November 29, 2014
The Shell symbol of Saint Jacques de Santiago de Compostelle
The Shell symbol of Saint Jacques de Santiago de Compostelle | Source

To walk the pilgrim route of St Jacques, or Saint James, of Santiago de Compostelle, has been one of my ambitions for many years. I'd love to spend a vacation following one of the many famous long distance walks through France and Spain, so you can imagine how pleased I was to discover that one of the strands of the Way of Saint James of Santiago de Compostela, (or, in French, the Pilgrim route of St Jacques de Compostelle), passes by Les Trois Chenes, our Bed and Breakfast in Videix, Limousin, France.

Just fifteen minutes from our farmhouse you will find the Church of Saint Eutrope, standing magnificently on the edge of the pretty village of Les Salles Lavauguyon. This church is one of the stopping points for the pilgrims on their way to Spain.

The route is marked with the symbol of Saint Jacques, the Scallop shell and this symbolhas been beautifully inlaid into the seats of the chairs inside the church of Saint-Eutrope. (See illustrations below.) In Limoges, if you look carefully, you will find small metal shells set in the pavements and as you follow the route you'll spot the sign on walls, buildings and artifacts. Keep your eyes open.

Where is the Church of Saint-Eutrope?

The Church is situated in the village of Les Salles Lavauguyon in Limousin, South West France. It lies between the historic Cities of Angouleme, Limoges and Perigueux and is about half an hour from the medieval town of Rochechouart. You will find the church easily when you arrive as it is on the edge of this small village on the road to Maisonaise-sur-Tardoire.


Please note that all content and photographs (unless otherwise attributed) are copyright of B L Walton and must not be reused without written permission.

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Les Salles Lavauguyon, Limousin South West France:

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A Sense of Direction by Gideon Lewis-Kraus

A Sense of Direction: Pilgrimage for the Restless and the Hopeful
A Sense of Direction: Pilgrimage for the Restless and the Hopeful

A Sense of Direction: Pilgrimage for the Restless and the Hopeful by Gideon Lewis-Kraus tells the story of this authors pilgrimage along the route of Saint James of Santiago de Compostelle as he leaves his comfortable, carefree life in Berlin to follow in the foosteps of St James on his way to Santiago de Compostelle in Spain. Unfortunately instead of starting out from his home in Germany, he begins his walk at the Spanish border, this missing out the Church of Eutrope in Les Salles Lavauguyon.

 

Exhibition Saint Jacques de Compostelle

At the priory of the Church of Saint Eutrope, LES SALLES LAVAUGUYON

Tel: 05 55 48 82 23

01/06/2014 a- 21/09/2014

Open daily July & Augus 14 h 30 - 18 h 30. In May, June and September open Monday, Tuesday and Friday 14 h 30 - 17 h FREE.

(Organised by Les Amis de Saint Eutrope).

The Church of Saint-Eutrope at Les Salles Lavauguyon

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Les Salles Lavauguyon:

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B
Videix:
87600 Videix, France

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Painting holidays, Bed and Breakfast and self-catering holiday cottage

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Limoges:
Limoges, France

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The pilgrim symbol set into the paving stones of the City of Limoges
The pilgrim symbol set into the paving stones of the City of Limoges | Source

The Pilgrim Route is marked by the shell symbol of Saint Jacques

There is no precise route that can be marked on a map; it is the path taken from the home of the pilgrim to the ultimate destination of the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela in Galicia in northwestern Spain, where it is traditionally believed that the remains of the apostle Saint James are buried. Over many centuries, however, certain routes and stopping points have become so well used that they can be considered the Way of St. James or El Camino de Santiago in Spanish, (in French it is called the Chemin de St-Jacques and in German Jakobsweg, all very confusing) and these footpaths are shown on the map below.

The Pilgrim Routes of Saint-Jacques

 Author Kimdime69 Courtesy Wikipedia commons This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.
Author Kimdime69 Courtesy Wikipedia commons This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license. | Source
Click thumbnail to view full-size
The facadeThe church is beautiful in its simplicityThere are many interesting details to seeThe light inside the church on a sunny afternoon created a very special effectThe name of Saint-Eutrope
The facade
The facade | Source
The church is beautiful in its simplicity
The church is beautiful in its simplicity | Source
There are many interesting details to see
There are many interesting details to see | Source
The light inside the church on a sunny afternoon created a very special effect
The light inside the church on a sunny afternoon created a very special effect | Source
The name of Saint-Eutrope
The name of Saint-Eutrope | Source

The Church of Saint Eutrope

One of these routes begins in Vézelay and then passes through Limoges and Les Salles where the pilgrims would visit the church of Saint Eutrope. The origins of the church lie in the Romanesque period of the late 11th and 12th centuries but only the barrel vault of the nave remains from this period now. The choir and the bell tower were rebuilt towards the end of the 12th century, however the choir retains the Romanesque style. Built on a slope, the building is remarkable for its steps which you climb from the entrance towards the altar (although the floor is relatively new).

The church, which is dedicated to Saint Eutrope, who was born in Persia/Iran and became bishop of Saintes at the end of the 3rd century

The building was designated a building of historic interest in 1907.

The village of Les Salles Lavauguyon,Limousin, France

The sun normally shines in Limousin but this photo shows just how dramatic the weather can be. This picture was taken from the steps of the church.
The sun normally shines in Limousin but this photo shows just how dramatic the weather can be. This picture was taken from the steps of the church. | Source
Sunshine streaming through the windows of the church of Saint-Eutrope
Sunshine streaming through the windows of the church of Saint-Eutrope | Source

The Frescoes

Uncovered by accident in 1986, the 850-year-old frescoes are considered to be some of the finest examples in France. The themes, scenes, high quality and richness of colour, make them unique to western Europe. The church of Les Salles Lavauguyon is amongst some of the worlds most important heritage sights.

Five panels covering approximately 80 square meters on the western interior facade, depict scenes from both the old and new testaments, which include the Creation, the Nativity, the vices and the brutal death of Saint-Eutrope. Other frescoes on the south and north walls continue the themes with dedications to male and female Saints and Priors. Also clearly visible are several small wall paintings in black depicting the coats of arms for the Lords of nearby Lavauguyon to commemorate theirs and family members' deaths between the 16th & 18th centuries.

Chairs in the Church of Saint-Eutrope
Chairs in the Church of Saint-Eutrope | Source
The symbollic shell of St Jaques. A symbol of healing, the rising sun and of the pilgrim routes themselves
The symbollic shell of St Jaques. A symbol of healing, the rising sun and of the pilgrim routes themselves | Source
Pilgrim's bible from an exhibition in The Priory at St Eutrope about the connection between the church and the Pilgrim Route
Pilgrim's bible from an exhibition in The Priory at St Eutrope about the connection between the church and the Pilgrim Route | Source

The scallop shell: symbol of St James

The scallop shell is commonly found on the shores in Galicia and so has long since become the symbol of the Camino de Santiago. Although it perhaps began with pilgrims wishing to take a souvenir back to their places of origin, the shell has gathered symbolic meaning as well as rather practical use as cup, plate and proof of completion of the pilgrimage.

There are various accounts of the mythical origin of the symbol but here are two of the most common versions:

The first describes how, after James' death, his disciples shipped his body to the Iberian Peninsula to be buried in what is now Santiago, but a storm hit the ship, and the body was lost to the ocean. Eventually the body was washed ashore undamaged and covered in scallops.

The second version grows in its attempts to give the story more miraculous effect. After James' death his body was mysteriously transported by an unmanned ship back to the Iberian Peninsula to be buried in what is now Santiago. As the ship approached land, a wedding was taking place on the shore. The young bridegroom was on horseback, and on seeing the ship approaching, his horse got spooked, and the horse and rider plunged into the sea only to emerge from the water alive and covered in seashells.

The shape of the shell also adds metaphorical meaning. The pattern of the lines in the shell come together at a single point representing the various routes pilgrims traveled converging on the tomb of Saint James in Santiago de Compostela. The scallop shell is also a metaphor for the pilgrim. Thirdly the pilgrims are seen as arriving in Santiago in the same way as the waves of the ocean wash scallop shells up on the shores of Galicia.

The pilgrim's staff is a walking stick used by pilgrims to the shrine of Santiago de Compostela in Spain.Generally, the stick has a hook on it so that something may be hung from it. The walking stick sometimes has a crosspiece on it and it can be decorated with the shell.

The Alchemist and a spiritual awakening

Paulo Coelho, author of the bestselling book, The Alchemist, told his story on Radio 4 in The Alchemist Himself. The year 1986 was a turning point in his life when Coelho walked the 500 mile Route of Santiago de Compostela in northwestern Spain. On the path, Coelho had a spiritual awakening and he describes this in his autobiographic book The Pilgrimage.

Could this route change your life?

The Alchemist

The Alchemist maps out the journey of Santiago, an Andalusian shepherd boy who travels to see a gypsy in a nearby town to discover the meaning of a dream. She points him towards a quest to find treasure in the Pyramids in Egypt. The story is one of the people and events along the route.

Other books about the pilgrimage

  • Shirley MacLaine, The Camino

  • Tim Moore, Spanish Steps

  • Tracy Saunders, Pilgrimage to Heresy (a novel where it is suggested that, after Professor Henry Chadwick, the tomb in Compostela is the burial site of Priscillian, Bishop of Avila, executed for "heresy and witchcraft" by the Romans in 385 AD)

Our Chambre d'hotes at Videix has four en-suite rooms and can sleep up to 11 guests.
Our Chambre d'hotes at Videix has four en-suite rooms and can sleep up to 11 guests. | Source
Our gite has three en-suite bedrooms and can sleep up to 7 adults
Our gite has three en-suite bedrooms and can sleep up to 7 adults | Source

Accommodation for Pilgrims of St. Jacques

In Spain and France you can find pilgrim's accommodation with beds in dormitories along the routes which offer accommodation provided you have a credencial, a sort of Pilgrim's Passeport which you can obtain for a few euros through a Spanish tourist agency or your local church.

In Spain this type of accommodation is called a refugio or albergue, both of which are similar to youth hostels or hostelries in the French system of gîtes d'étape. They usually cost between three and seven euros per night, but a few operate on voluntary donations and are known as donativos. Pilgrims are usually limited to one night's accommodation.

These hostels may be run by the local parish, the local council, private owners, or pilgrims' associations. Occasionally these refugios are located in monasteries, such as the one in Santiago de Compostela.

I have not been able to locate any of these near Les Salles however they may well exist and be easier to find once you start out on the routes. If not, you will have no difficulty finding self-catering cottages at very attractive rates or campsites and Bed and Breakfast. Chez Rambaud Campsite is situated at Les Salles. Our Bed and Breakfast and gite (self-catering holiday home), Les Trois Chenes, Videix, is just fifteen minutes away (see our web site www.lestroischenes.com or email us on +33 (0)5 55 48 29 84).

Almond cake - a Spanish speciality

Claudia Roden came to the Woman’s Hour studio to talk about Spanish cooking, her career as a cook and food writer and her latest book ‘The Food of Spain’. She took the opportunity to demonstrate how to make the flourless almond cake, a traditional Passover recipe. Listen to the program, and find the recipe.

Rochechouart Chateau and Centre for Contemporary Art
Rochechouart Chateau and Centre for Contemporary Art | Source

The perfect holiday?

A healthy holiday that takes you through some of the most beautiful countryside in France and Spain, cultural, spiritual and, above all amicable. Following the Pilgrim route has all the ingredients for that perfect holiday.

Other places to see around Les Salles Lavauguyon

There are so many interesting things to see in this area that I will list only two of the most important historical sites: Rochechouart Chateau, now also a Centre for Contemporary Art, and Cassinomagus, a major Gallo-Roman site near Chassenon. Both less than half an hour from Less Salles, and ten minutes from Les Trois Chenes.

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The Church of Saint-Eutrope: Details

Access to the church at anytime during the day is free. There are guided visits in both French and English but these are subject to the availability of a guide at the time, or you can book in advance. Cost per adult is 2.50€. Children under 12 is 1.50€. Please note that when periods of restoration work are in progress, access and tours will be limited. To avoid disappointment please make inquiries with the Mairie before your visit. Mairie des Salles Lavauguyon – Le bourg – 87440 Les Salles Lavauguyon Tél : 05.55.00.30.68

The sacred caves at Brantome, the Dordogne, France
The sacred caves at Brantome, the Dordogne, France | Source

Have a look at this charming children's book

© 2010 Les Trois Chenes

Do you have any thoughts to share on pilgrim routes?

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    • Les Trois Chenes profile imageAUTHOR

      Les Trois Chenes 

      6 years ago from Videix, Limousin, South West France

      Many thanks for dropping by Simone. I'd love to follow the route myself - perhaps I will one day!

    • Les Trois Chenes profile imageAUTHOR

      Les Trois Chenes 

      8 years ago from Videix, Limousin, South West France

      Thank you Jane for adding your comment and this information. The pilgrim routes are fascinating. Wouldn't it be a great achievement to complete one of these. Your part of France sounds as lovely as Limousin, but I imagine it is very different. Perhaps we'll come and stay with you on our holidays - but will I be walking?

    • profile image

      Jane Bennett 

      8 years ago

      A very interesting article about the pilgrim route to Santiago. I have to confess that although we have visited Santiago (highly recommend) we have yet to explore any of the routes, one of which passes through the village of Mouchan, in the commune of which is our second home, which we rent to vacationers. Mouchan is situated in the department of the Gers, in the Midi-Pyrénées and forming the major part of Gascony. Mouchan boasts a lovely Romanesque church, SAINT AUSTREGESILE – SAINT PIERRE, another stopping point for "les pèlerins". Here too are some beautiful views Simone!

    • Simone Smith profile image

      Simone Haruko Smith 

      8 years ago from San Francisco

      I am fascinated by the various pilgrimage routes that can be found around the world, and enjoy visiting them. This one looks great- lots of fascinating history and beautiful views. Thanks for sharing!

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