Tours: off along the Way of Saint James!
Tours, Arles, Le Puy-en-Velay and Vézelay – these are the four departure towns for the four historic routes to Santiago de Compostela. New trails have since appeared, but let’s take a look at what is really special about the Way of Tours (Via Turonensis).
Walking in serenity from Tours
In 2017, 300,000 pilgrims made their way to Santiago de Compostela (with 57,000 in August alone): a new record! This figure gives you an idea of the enthusiasm for this pilgrimage route, especially since for physical and practical reasons (the number of weeks of holiday), a great many hikers only travel along part of the way and so are not counted in the final figure.
Of the four historical trails leading to Santiago de Compostela, the Way of Tours is the least busy and the flattest, which means it is also quieter and easier! Pilgrims can also enjoy the high-quality signposting and a wide range of accommodation during their journey.
Historic starting point for Santiago de Compostela
One of the texts brought together in the “Codex Calixtinus” manuscript (dating from about 1140), mentions the four “historic” routes starting from four pilgrimage landmarks.
The Saint Martin pilgrimage made the town of Tours an essential landmark on the route to Santiago de Compostela. Martin was a Roman legionnaire who shared his cloak with an impoverished man, and then became a hermit. Against his will, local habitants later carried him off to be proclaimed Bishop of Tours in 371 AD. Saint Martin was also a great evangelist of the countryside. A large number of miracles were attributed to him (healing, the discovery of water sources). His tom in the Basilica of Saint-Martin, was the earliest pilgrimage site for Roman Gauls. Today, this tradition still has an influence on the city: the need for accommodation and restaurants for such a large number of pilgrims has shaped the heart of Tours, which is also known as… Martinopole!
A well-preserved and dynamic historic centre, the Loire, a superb cathedral… Yes, Tours is definitely a good starting point for beginning the Way of Saint James in ideal conditions.