Via Francigena
The Via Francigena is an ancient road between Rome
Rome is the capital of Italy and the country's largest and most populated city and comune, with over 2.7 million residents in . The city is located in the central-western portion of the Italian Peninsula, on the Tiber River within the Lazio region of Italy.Rome's history spans two and a half...

 and Canterbury
Canterbury is a historic English cathedral city, which lies at the heart of the City of Canterbury, a district of Kent in South East England. It lies on the River Stour....

, passing through England
England is a country that is part of the United Kingdom. It shares land borders with Scotland to the north and Wales to the west; the Irish Sea is to the north west, the Celtic Sea to the south west, with the North Sea to the east and the English Channel to the south separating it from continental...

, France
The French Republic , The French Republic , The French Republic , (commonly known as France , is a unitary semi-presidential republic in Western Europe with several overseas territories and islands located on other continents and in the Indian, Pacific, and Atlantic oceans. Metropolitan France...

, Switzerland
Switzerland name of one of the Swiss cantons. ; ; ; or ), in its full name the Swiss Confederation , is a federal republic consisting of 26 cantons, with Bern as the seat of the federal authorities. The country is situated in Western Europe,Or Central Europe depending on the definition....

 and Italy
Italy , officially the Italian Republic languages]] under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages. In each of these, Italy's official name is as follows:;;;;;;;;), is a unitary parliamentary republic in South-Central Europe. To the north it borders France, Switzerland, Austria and...

. In mediaeval times it was an important road and pilgrimage
A pilgrimage is a journey or search of great moral or spiritual significance. Typically, it is a journey to a shrine or other location of importance to a person's beliefs and faith...

 route. To pilgrims headed south, it was the Via Romea; to those headed north, the Via Francigena.

The pilgrimage to Rome

The Via Francigena was the major medieval pilgrimage route to Rome from the north; even today pilgrims travel this route, but in far fewer numbers than the Way of St. James
Way of St. James
The Way of St. James or St. James' Way is the pilgrimage route to the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela in Galicia in northwestern Spain, where tradition has it that the remains of the apostle Saint James are buried....

 (Camino de Santiago). The route was first documented as the "Lombard Way", and was first called the "Frankish Route", the Iter Francorum, in the Itinerarium sancti Willibaldi of 725, recording the travels of Willibald
Saint Willibald was an 8th century bishop of Eichstätt in Bavaria.Information about his life is largely drawn from the Hodoeporicon of Saint Willibald, a text written in the 8th century by Huneberc, an Anglo-Saxon nun from Heidenheim am Hahnenkamm who knew Willibald and his brother personally...

, bishop of Eichstätt
Bishop of Eichstätt
-Bishops of Eichstätt, 741-1790:*Willibald 741-786*Geroch 786-801*Aganus 801-819*Adalung 820-841*Altun 841-858*Ottokar 858-881*Gottschalk 881-884*Erkenbald 884-916*Udalfried 916-933*Starchand 933-966*Reginald 966-989*Megingoz von Lechsgemund 989-1014...

 in Bavaria
Bavaria, formally the Free State of Bavaria is a state of Germany, located in the southeast of Germany. With an area of , it is the largest state by area, forming almost 20% of the total land area of Germany...

The Via Francigena is first mentioned in the Actum Clusio, a parchment of 876 in the Abbey of San Salvatore al Monte Amiata
Monte Amiata
Mount Amiata is the largest of the lava domes in the Amiata lava dome complex located about 20 km NW of Lake Bolsena in the southern Tuscany region of Italy.-Geology:...

Tuscany is a region in Italy. It has an area of about 23,000 square kilometres and a population of about 3.75 million inhabitants. The regional capital is Florence ....

). At the end of the 10th century Sigeric the Serious
Sigeric the Serious
Sigeric was the Archbishop of Canterbury from 990 to 994.It is unclear whether the epithet "The Serious" originated from his learning, or if it derived from transliteration of his name into Latin as Serio.- Biography :...

, the Archbishop of Canterbury
Archbishop of Canterbury
The Archbishop of Canterbury is the senior bishop and principal leader of the Church of England, the symbolic head of the worldwide Anglican Communion, and the diocesan bishop of the Diocese of Canterbury. In his role as head of the Anglican Communion, the archbishop leads the third largest group...

, used the Via Francigena to and from Rome to be consecrated by the Pope
The Pope is the Bishop of Rome, a position that makes him the leader of the worldwide Catholic Church . In the Catholic Church, the Pope is regarded as the successor of Saint Peter, the Apostle...

; he recorded his route and his stops on the return journey, but nothing in the document suggests that the route was then new. Other itineraries include those of the Iceland
Iceland , described as the Republic of Iceland, is a Nordic and European island country in the North Atlantic Ocean, on the Mid-Atlantic Ridge. Iceland also refers to the main island of the country, which contains almost all the population and almost all the land area. The country has a population...

ic traveller Nikolás Bergsson (in 1154) and Philip Augustus of France (in 1191). Two somewhat differing maps of the route appear in manuscripts of Matthew Paris
Matthew Paris
Matthew Paris was a Benedictine monk, English chronicler, artist in illuminated manuscripts and cartographer, based at St Albans Abbey in Hertfordshire...

, Historia Anglorum, from the 13th century.

In 1985 the Italian archaeologist of roads, Giovanni Caselli, retraced the itinerary as described by Archbishop Sigeric. The Welshman Rhodri Mawr in AD 880 and his grandson Howell the Good in 945 are both known to have visited Rome towards the end of their lives, but it is not known whether they went by land or by the dangerous and pirate-infested sea route via Gibraltar. Reports of journeys before Sigeric can only be apocryphal. We may be quite certain that the Benedictine St Thierry, known as William of St Thierry, used the roads towards Rome on several occasions at the end of the 11th century. The return journey by sea was likely to be easier, thanks to the prevailing south-westerly winds, but tacking
Tacking may refer to:*Tacking or coming about, a sailing maneuver*Tacking , a technical legal concept relating to competing priorities between security interests arising over the same asset...

 down to the Mediterranean would have made a very long journey indeed. A statement that a historical figure "died in Rome" may have been a historical falsity, but a metaphorical truth.

The Via Francigena was not a single road, like a Roman road
Roman road
The Roman roads were a vital part of the development of the Roman state, from about 500 BC through the expansion during the Roman Republic and the Roman Empire. Roman roads enabled the Romans to move armies and trade goods and to communicate. The Roman road system spanned more than 400,000 km...

, paved with stone blocks and provided at intervals with a change of horses for official travellers. Rather, it comprised several possible routes that changed over the centuries as trade and pilgrimage developed and waned. Depending on the time of year, political situation, and relative popularity of the shrines of saints along the route, travellers may have used any of three or four crossings of the Alps
The Alps is one of the great mountain range systems of Europe, stretching from Austria and Slovenia in the east through Italy, Switzerland, Liechtenstein and Germany to France in the west....

 and the Apennines
Apennine mountains
The Apennines or Apennine Mountains or Greek oros but just as often used alone as a noun. The ancient Greeks and Romans typically but not always used "mountain" in the singular to mean one or a range; thus, "the Apennine mountain" refers to the entire chain and is translated "the Apennine...

. The Lombards
The Lombards , also referred to as Longobards, were a Germanic tribe of Scandinavian origin, who from 568 to 774 ruled a Kingdom in Italy...

 financed the maintenance and defence of the section of road through their territories as a trading route to the north from Rome, avoiding enemy-held cities such as Florence
Florence is the capital city of the Italian region of Tuscany and of the province of Florence. It is the most populous city in Tuscany, with approximately 370,000 inhabitants, expanding to over 1.5 million in the metropolitan area....

. Unlike Roman roads, the Via Francigena did not connect cities, but relied more on abbey
An abbey is a Catholic monastery or convent, under the authority of an Abbot or an Abbess, who serves as the spiritual father or mother of the community.The term can also refer to an establishment which has long ceased to function as an abbey,...



Today some pilgrims still follow in Sigeric's ancient footsteps to Rome on foot, on horseback or by bicycle. However, they are far fewer than on the Way of St. James
Way of St. James
The Way of St. James or St. James' Way is the pilgrimage route to the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela in Galicia in northwestern Spain, where tradition has it that the remains of the apostle Saint James are buried....

 pilgrims' route to Santiago de Compostela
Santiago de Compostela
Santiago de Compostela is the capital of the autonomous community of Galicia, Spain.The city's Cathedral is the destination today, as it has been throughout history, of the important 9th century medieval pilgrimage route, the Way of St. James...

 in Spain. Consequently there is far less in the way of accommodation and other facilities for pilgrims along the route. Pilgrims in Italy often camp out rather than staying in hotels (which would prove very expensive over the weeks of the journey) though stays in pensions
Pension (lodging)
A pensione is a family-owned guest house or boarding house. This term is typically used in Portugal, France, Spain, Italy, other Continental European countries, in areas of North Africa and the Middle East that formerly had large European expatriate populations, and in some parts of South America...

 are a mid-priced option.

Walkers could choose to walk along the Eurovelo
]EuroVelo, the European cycle route network, is a project of the European Cyclists' Federation to develop 13 long-distance cycle routes crossing Europe. The total length is , of which more than are in place....

 EV5 cycling route (named the 'Via Francigena') when this is finished. However, it varies substantially from the route given by the VF Association.

Recent developments

In 1994 the Via Francigena was designated a European Cultural Route
European Cultural Route
A European Cultural Route is a title awarded to cultural routes recognised as significant throughout Europe by the Council of Europe. The European Institute of Cultural Routes is the body established to help the Council of Europe co-ordinate the development of these routes...

 by the Council of Europe
Council of Europe
The Council of Europe is an international organisation promoting co-operation between all countries of Europe in the areas of legal standards, human rights, democratic development, the rule of law and cultural co-operation...


In November 2005, Italian politician Romano Prodi
Romano Prodi
Romano Prodi is an Italian politician and statesman. He served as the Prime Minister of Italy, from 17 May 1996 to 21 October 1998 and from 17 May 2006 to 8 May 2008...

 announced that he would revitalize the Via Francigena if elected Prime Minister
Prime minister of Italy
The Prime Minister of Italy is the head of government of the Italian Republic...

 in the 2006 election
Italian general election, 2006
In the Italian general election, 2006 for the renewal of the two Chambers of the Parliament of Italy held on April 9 and April 10, 2006 the incumbent prime minister Silvio Berlusconi, leader of the center-right House of Freedoms, was narrowly defeated by Romano Prodi, leader of the center-left The...


On 11 August 2007 a group of 27 cyclists, including several members of Canterbury City Council, set out from Canterbury Cathedral
Canterbury Cathedral
Canterbury Cathedral in Canterbury, Kent, is one of the oldest and most famous Christian structures in England and forms part of a World Heritage Site....

 to ride the Via Francigena to Rome in 16 days. This was a charity ride to raise money for the restoration of the cathedral and for other causes.

In November 2009 the Italian government launched a project to recover the Italian leg of it. The object of the plan is to recover the entire route (disjointed parts of which are already signposted) “not only in spiritual and religious terms but also in terms of the environment, architecture, culture, history, wine and cuisine and sport.” The initiative was promoted by the Region of Tuscany, which hosts 400km of the Via, and which presented a plan detailing the low environmental impact infrastructures to be created. The plan will be shared with other local authorities located along the route as an encouragement to carry out similar recovery work. Tuscany has also announced cooperation with the Opera Romana Pellegrinaggi (ORP), the Vatican’s organisation for encouriging pilgrimages


The 80 stages in Sigeric's itinerary averaged about 20 km a day, covering some 1700 km; they have helped to identify the route.

Having crossed the English Channel
English Channel
The English Channel , often referred to simply as the Channel, is an arm of the Atlantic Ocean that separates southern England from northern France, and joins the North Sea to the Atlantic. It is about long and varies in width from at its widest to in the Strait of Dover...

 to Calais
Calais is a town in Northern France in the department of Pas-de-Calais, of which it is a sub-prefecture. Although Calais is by far the largest city in Pas-de-Calais, the department's capital is its third-largest city of Arras....

, or, following Sigeric's example to Wissant
Wissant is a seaside commune in the Pas-de-Calais department in the Nord-Pas-de-Calais region of France.-Geography:...

, still called Sumeran (Sombres) by Sigeric, a pilgrim bound for Rome might stay in Gisne (Guines
-Similar spellings:* Gines * Güeñes, municipality in Biscay, Spain* Guinness...

), Teranburh Thérouanne
Thérouanne is a commune in the Pas-de-Calais department in the Nord-Pas-de-Calais region of France.-Geography:Thérouanne is located 10 miles southwest of Saint-Omer, on the D157 and D341 road junction.-Population:-History:...

, Bruaei (Bruay), Atherats (Arras
Arras is the capital of the Pas-de-Calais department in northern France. The historic centre of the Artois region, its local speech is characterized as a Picard dialect...

), Reims
Reims , a city in the Champagne-Ardenne region of France, lies east-northeast of Paris. Founded by the Gauls, it became a major city during the period of the Roman Empire....

, Châlons-sur-Marne, Bar-sur-Aube
Bar-sur-Aube is a commune of France in the Aube department, of which it is a sub-prefecture.-Population:The inhabitants of the commune are called Baralbains.-Culture:*Market every Saturday morning in the halls...

, Langres
Langres is a commune in north-eastern France. It is a subprefecture of the Haute-Marne département in the Champagne-Ardenne region.-History:As the capital of the Romanized Gallic tribe the Lingones, it was called Andematunnum, then Lingones, and now Langres.The town is built on a limestone...

, Besançon
Besançon , is the capital and principal city of the Franche-Comté region in eastern France. It had a population of about 237,000 inhabitants in the metropolitan area in 2008...

, Pontarlier
Pontarlier is a commune and one of the two sub-prefectures of the Doubs department in the Franche-Comté region in eastern France.-History:...

, Lausanne
Lausanne is a city in Romandy, the French-speaking part of Switzerland, and is the capital of the canton of Vaud. The seat of the district of Lausanne, the city is situated on the shores of Lake Geneva . It faces the French town of Évian-les-Bains, with the Jura mountains to its north-west...

 and Saint-Maurice
Saint-Maurice is the name or part of the name of numerous places in French speaking countries. It refers to the legendary Saint Maurice.- Canada :...

, then travel over the Great St. Bernard Pass
Great St. Bernard Pass
Great St. Bernard Pass is the third highest road pass in Switzerland. It connects Martigny in the Canton of Valais in Switzerland to Aosta in Italy. It is the lowest pass lying on the ridge between the two highest summits of the Alps, Mont Blanc and Monte Rosa...

 to Aosta
Aosta is the principal city of the bilingual Aosta Valley in the Italian Alps, north-northwest of Turin. It is situated near the Italian entrance of the Mont Blanc Tunnel, at the confluence of the Buthier and the Dora Baltea, and at the junction of the Great and Little St. Bernard routes...

, Ivrea
Ivrea is a town and comune of the province of Turin in the Piedmont region of northwestern Italy. Situated on the road leading to the Aosta Valley , it straddles the Dora Baltea and is regarded as the centre of the Canavese area. Ivrea lies in a basin that, in prehistoric times, formed a great lake...

, Vercelli
Vercelli is a city and comune of about 47,000 inhabitants in the Province of Vercelli, Piedmont, northern Italy. One of the oldest urban sites in northern Italy, it was founded, according to most historians, around the year 600 BC.The city is situated on the river Sesia in the plain of the river...

, Pavia
Pavia , the ancient Ticinum, is a town and comune of south-western Lombardy, northern Italy, 35 km south of Milan on the lower Ticino river near its confluence with the Po. It is the capital of the province of Pavia. It has a population of c. 71,000...

, Fidenza
Fidenza is a town and comune in the province of Parma, Emilia-Romagna region, Italy. It has around 24,000 inhabitants. The town was renamed Fidenza in 1927, recalling its Roman name of Fidentia; before, it was called Borgo San Donnino.-History:...

, Aulla
-History:Traces of Roman and Etruscan civilizations found in the Church of Saint Caprisio indicate that there were settlements in Aulla long before the 8th century CE, when margrave Adalbert I of Tuscany founded a village and castle to accommodate pilgrims traveling the via Francigena. Here, at...

, Luni
Luni, Italy
Luni is a frazione of the comune of Ortonovo, province of La Spezia, in the easternmost end of the Liguria region of northern Italy...

, Lucca
Lucca is a city and comune in Tuscany, central Italy, situated on the river Serchio in a fertile plainnear the Tyrrhenian Sea. It is the capital city of the Province of Lucca...

, San Gimignano, Poggibonsi
Poggibonsi is a town in the province of Siena, Tuscany, Italy. It is the main centre of the Valdelsa Valley.-History:The area around Poggibonsi was already settled in the Neolithic age, although the first traces of civilisation dates from Etruscan-Roman age, attested by a series of necropolises and...

, Siena
Siena is a city in Tuscany, Italy. It is the capital of the province of Siena.The historic centre of Siena has been declared by UNESCO a World Heritage Site. It is one of the nation's most visited tourist attractions, with over 163,000 international arrivals in 2008...

, San Quirico
San Quirico d'Orcia
San Quirico d'Orcia is a comune of c. 2,500 inhabitants in the Province of Siena in the Italian region Tuscany, located about 80 km southeast of Florence and about 35 km southeast of Siena inside the Valdorcia landscape...

, Bolsena
Bolsena is a town and comune of Italy, in the province of Viterbo in northern Lazio on the eastern shore of Lake Bolsena. It is 10 km north-north west of Montefiascone and 36 km north-west of Viterbo...

, Viterbo
See also Viterbo, Texas and Viterbo UniversityViterbo is an ancient city and comune in the Lazio region of central Italy, the capital of the province of Viterbo. It is approximately 80 driving / 80 walking kilometers north of GRA on the Via Cassia, and it is surrounded by the Monti Cimini and...

 and Sutri
Sutri is a town and comune in the province of Viterbo, about 50 km from Rome, and about 30 km south of Viterbo. It is picturesquely situated on a narrow tuff hill, surrounded by ravines, a narrow neck on the west alone connecting it with the surrounding country.thumb|220px|Entrance to the...

 before reaching Rome.
One of the best-known places on the Via Francigena is the Passum Padi in the municipality of Senna Lodigiana
Senna Lodigiana
Senna Lodigiana is a comune in the Province of Lodi in the Italian region Lombardy, located about 50 km southeast of Milan and about 20 km southeast of Lodi....

, where Sigeric crossed the Po River
Po River
The Po |Ligurian]]: Bodincus or Bodencus) is a river that flows either or – considering the length of the Maira, a right bank tributary – eastward across northern Italy, from a spring seeping from a stony hillside at Pian del Re, a flat place at the head of the Val Po under the northwest face...

. Today a monument marks the spot.45°07′51"N 9°33′16"E

The Via Francigena Association Guide - Vademecum - provides a comprehensive list.


See also

  • Way of St. James
    Way of St. James
    The Way of St. James or St. James' Way is the pilgrimage route to the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela in Galicia in northwestern Spain, where tradition has it that the remains of the apostle Saint James are buried....

  • Valdorcia
    The Val d’Orcia, or Valdorcia, is a region of Tuscany, central Italy, which extends from the hills south of Siena to Monte Amiata. It is characterised by gentle, carefully cultivated hills occasionally broken by gullies and by picturesque towns and villages such as Pienza , Radicofani The Val...

  • Ponte della Maddalena
    Ponte della Maddalena
    Ponte della Maddalena is a bridge crossing the Serchio river near the town of Borgo a Mozzano in the Italian province of Lucca...

     - a river crossing en route.
  • Order of the Holy Sepulchre
    Order of the Holy Sepulchre
    The Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem is a Roman Catholic order of knighthood under the protection of the pope. It traces its roots to Duke Godfrey of Bouillon, principal leader of the First Crusade...

     - The Order of the Holy Sepulchre was one such order of Pilgrimage providing Hospices on the Vía. (The road to Jerusalem lay through Rome, as it still does for the intrepid.)

External links

Via Francigena associations

Related routes

The source of this article is wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.  The text of this article is licensed under the GFDL.