Greater Carcassonne, a centre for hiking
In Carcassonne, more than 500 'pilgrims' stop every year at the abbey of Notre Dame, but in reality, there are thousands that pass through or start from the town, famous for its two UNESCO World Heritage sites. The GR78 is a delight for hikers, pilgrims or for those who just simply love nature.
Setting off from Carcassonne to walk to Compostela is...
- Choosing a landscaped, signposted trail (GR78), which leads to Saint-Jean Pied de Port. It's also a great route for horse riding
- Enjoying a route through the middle of unspoilt, varied landscapes, far from the crowds of hikers you can find on some trails
- Admiring the majestic Cité de Carcassonne and walking through the Malepère vineyards
- Tasting, the regional gastronomy, which makes the south-west, on one of your stops, or discovering the delightful Malepère or Cité de Carcassonne wines
- Pushing your boundaries, whether it's simply a hike or an act of faith. There are many reasons for completing this journey, making it more and more popular
From Carcassonne to Mirepoix: 62.5 km of happiness
From Carcassonne to Mirepoix, the Way of Saint James cross the Aude département in two stages, with a break in the village of Fanjeaux. The route allows you to walk along the river Aude and to visit Carcassonne, the Bastide, with its 17th century mansions, and the Cité. Pilgrim stops (Notre Dame de l'abbaye and the youth hoste in the Cité amongst others) will give you a warm welcome before you set off towards Montréal (23.7km) and the Malepère massif
The route starts at the chapel of Notre Dame de la santé at the end of the Pont Vieux over the Aude. This small chapel was adjacent to the Saint Jacques hospital, which has since disappeared. You are going to walk through vineyards and rolling hills, with fabulous, Tuscan-like views. A time full of grace and pleasure.
You will pass through typical villages, such as Maquens and Villalbe, until you reach the Taure lake, in the middle of a pine forest. Shade and the scent of pine guaranteed. You really should not miss Alairac, a beautiful example of a circular village, and Arzens, an ancient fortified village.
You will enjoy the evening stage to Montréal, a hilltop village with a magnificent 14th century collegiate.
12.9 km further and you will arrive in the charming village of Fanjeaux, also on the top of a hill, which was a powerful castrum in the Cathar era. In Fanjeaux, you will also be walking in the footsteps of Saint Dominique, founder of the Dominican order. The stage between Fanjeaux and Mirepoix (25.9 km) is full of beautiful surprises and will be rounded off nicely with a night in the pretty, Ariege walled town.
Carcassonne and Saint James of Compostela, an ancient history
In the Middle Ages, the pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela was as spiritually important as the pilgrimage to St. Peter's tomb in Rome, or to the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem. History shows that pilgrims followed a route which led them to Béziers or Narbonne, and, from there, to Carcassonne. In his 'Guide du pèlerin' or Pilgrim's Guide, Aymeri Picaud, a 12th century monk from Poitiers, recommended a route via Saint-Guilhem-le-Désert, and also Saint-Thibéry. Actually, this is two different routes, not a longer version of one. Proof that the Way of Piemont, and Carcassonne, has always been one of the routes to Compostela. The Way of Piemont stretches from the edge of the Cévennes (the montagne Noire), then from Carcassonne, it leads into the Pyrenees. Here, pilgrims had to search for a route through the mountains, which were called 'ports'. A pilgrim searching for a lower mountain crossing would ask for an intercession from the Virgin Mary and the saints. The journey would include a visit to Saint-Thibery, on the river Herault, to pray to the Saints Tibère, Modeste and Florence.