May 17, 2010

Parthenay - May 16

Parthenay is a classic, sleepy provincial town, except on Wednesday mornings when France's second biggest livestock market is held here.  In the Middle Ages, the town was an important halt on the route to Santiago de Compostela.

Throughout the Middle Ages, millions of Christians visited Santiago de Compostela in Spain to pay homage at the shrine of St. James (Santiago).  They traveled across France staying in monasteries or simple shelters and would return with a scallop shell, the symbol of St. James, as a souvenir.

It's easy to imagine the processions of pilgrims in the medieval quarter.  Steep and cobbled, rue de la Vau-St-Jacques winds up to the 13th-century ramparts, leading on from the fortified Porte St. Jacques which guards a bridge over the river Thouet.

Most pilgrims went in hope of redemption and were often on the road for years.  In 1140, a monk called Picaud wrote one of the world's first travel guides about the pilgrimage.  Today, travelers can follow the same routes, passing through ancient towns and villages with their magnificent shrines and churches.

A beautiful stained glass of St. Blaise.

I continue my fascination with hearts and heart-shaped objects.

This cat was enjoying the lazy afternoon, listening to his friend inside practice the accordion.

I'm beginning to think that it's always windy or that Karl has one leg shorter than the other...

Karl next to the well gate.

The town today as seen from the ramparts.

~ AM

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