“…Le Puy-en-Velay was a sacred destination even before St James’s relics were rediscovered. Indeed, Charlemagne, the Holy Roman Emperor, celebrated mass here on two separate occasions. By the 10th century, Le Puy was a pilgrimage destination in its own right. The town’s link to Compostela was secured, though, by Bishop Godescalc, who in 950 journeyed on pilgrimage from Le Puy to Santiago. Mullins observes that this may have been the first ‘official’ visit to Compostela by such a high-ranking church official. Upon returning to Le Puy, Godescalc ordered the construction of the chapel of Saint-Michel-d’Aiguilhe, the town’s most distinctive sight, perched atop a tall volcanic spire.” From the Camino de Santiago – Via Podiensis: Le Puy to the Pyrenees on the GR65 by Dave Whitson (Cicerone Press)
Our stay here in Le Puy has been fantastique—that’s French for—well, I’m sure you get it. It has been an amazing place to spend Easter Weekend. If you ever hike the Camino de Santiago from here I recommend taking at least two full days to enjoy this historic and friendly town. Or, make it a destination.
The Market. The Saturday market here is busy and fun. We went to different stalls to procure local bread, cheeses, meats, and olives. The selection is amazing and many items are unique to the region. The locals were very patient with our rudimentary French. At the last stall we tried to buy some cooked meats for an afternoon snack. When the young man found out we were American, he wouldn’t let us pay. Surprising, and generous.
Statue of Notre Dame. The 53 foot iron statue that overlooks the town was erected in 1860 and made of captured Russian cannons. (Maybe the Ukrainians will have a similar opportunity?) It caps a volcanic pinnacle, the highest point in town. She was the tallest statue in the world, until the French gifted Lady Liberty to the US. And, you can climb up inside and look out through a dome on her head.
Saint Michaels’. Notre Dame looks down on another volcanic pinnacle and the chapel that tops it, Saint Michael of the Needle. It was build in the 900s to celebrate the bishop’s return from his Santiago pilgrimage. It has been an important pilgrim stop as well.
People Watching. From the market to Sunday mass at the cathedral, Le Puy has been a fabulous place for people watching. Long ago you might have spotted a famous local who also happens to be an American Revolutionary War hero. Nowadays, there is a statue of that famous local, Lafayette.
Our Airbnb. We’ve spent hundreds of nights in Airbnbs and this is one of our favorite. It is located at the base of the steps of the cathedral and takes up the top four stories of a five story building. Although the building is hundreds of years old, it is very modern and well equipped. Would be easy to live here. Ping us if you want an Airbnb recommendation for Le Puy.
Future blog posts. Tomorrow at 7:00 AM we attend the mass for pilgrims in the Cathedral. Afterwards we walk down the stairs and past our Airbnb front door to Montbonnet—about 17 KM/10 miles—a short day. Our posts will be more frequent but shorter. They will include a 3D video of the path with pictures. This is likely our most challenging journey. Please keep us in your prayers.