Tours: off we go on the Way of St James!
Tours, Arles, Le Puy-en-Velay and Vézelay: these are the 4 starting towns on the 4 historic trails leading to Santiago de Compostela. 2021 and 2022 are both Jacobean Years, so this is the ideal occasion to get to know the Way of Tours (Via Turonensis).
But what is a Jacobean Year exactly? When St James’ Day (25 July) falls on a Sunday, it is known as a Jacobean Year. In these years, the “holy door” of Santiago de Compostela Cathedral is opened on the first and closed on the last day of the year for the forgiveness of sins.
Walk or cycle with peace of mind from Tours
In 2019, 350,000 pilgrims arrived at Santiago de Compostela: a new record! This gives you some idea of the enthusiasm for the Way of St James. Especially since many hikers only travel part of the way and are not included in the final count.
Of the 4 historic routes to Santiago de Compostela, the route from Tours is the least busy and the flattest, which means it is also… the quietest and easiest! In any event, pilgrims can take advantage of top-quality trail directions and accommodation along the way, with hosts or professionals catering for pilgrims: at the Hôtel du Théâtre, Hôtel Vendôme, Hôtel des Châteaux de la Loire and the People Hostel in Tours, La Vallée de l’Indre campsite and The Originals Pic Epeiche hotel in Montbazon, the La Nouvelle Plage campsite in Veigné, the Hôtellerie du Cheval Blanc in Sainte-Maure-de-Touraine, the Gîte du Poitevin in Draché, the municipal campsite in Marcilly-sur-Vienne, etc.
- a leaflet on the Way of St James from Tours and a route guide. You can go part of the way from Tours to Châtellerault (or Poitiers) then come back by train.
- You can follow the route on foot or by bike!
The historic starting point for Santiago de Compostela
One of the texts included in the “Codex Calixtinus” manuscript (dating from around 1140) describes 4 “historic” routes from 4 major pilgrimage landmarks.
In the case of Tours, the Saint Martin pilgrimage made Touraine’s capital an essential point along the Way of St James. Saint Martin was a Roman legionnaire who tore his cloak in half to share it with a beggar. He then became a hermit, but was proclaimed as Bishop of Tours in 371 against his will. He was also a great evangelist of countryside regions. Many miracles were attributed to him (cures, the discovery of new sources, etc.). His tomb can still be seen in Saint Martin Basilica. It was the most important pilgrimage site in Roman Gaul.
Today, the town is still marked by the saint’s life and work. The need to provide food and accommodation to the large number of pilgrims has shaped the heart of Tours, which is also known as Martinopole! A living and well-preserved town centre, the River Loire, a beautiful cathedral… yes, Tours definitely is a good place to get the pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela off to the best possible start.
In video: the way of Tours.
In this Jacobean Year, it’s time to head for Santiago de Compostela!