Tuesday, May 5, 2015

St. Jean de Pied de Port

St. Jean de Pied de Port is a town in southern France that lies at the foot of the Pyrenees Mountains. One of the significant things about the location of this town at the foot of the mountains is that it lies in front of a pass through the mountains that pilgrims for the Camino need to journey through in order to get into Spain to continue their pilgrimage (francethisway.com)

Photo of Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port in Pyrenees-Atlantiques
Other than the Camino, this town also became an important stronghold for French troops when Spanish soldiers lay siege to the surrounding areas during the 16th century. In the 17th century, paths and ramparts were added to the town in order to improve the city's defenses. This was commissioned by King Louis XIV. Two sites to see within this town are the Notre Dame Gate, which is the most preserved gate in the entire city, and the Notre Dame Church.  Today, the town is mostly known for it's aid of the pilgrims, such as the hospital which is known for handing out food and aid to the poorer pilgrims, the various restaurants, and the pilgrim office for any pilgrims in need of pilgrimage passports or maps. This is also the town in which many modern day pilgrims begin their journey.
We were fortunate enough to spend a few hours in this city. One of the first things we did was climb up the hill and visit the pilgrims gate, which is the official starting point of the Camino. We als were able to see pilgrims actually go through the gate. It was a real illustration of the significance of this bridge and this town as a beginning step of  the Camino. I bought my first scallop shell at a souvenir store. We saw a lot of those, since they are a sign of the Camino. We saw them on buildings, in stores, and I also saw a door covered in carvings of scallop shells. That is what I call dedication. One of my favorite parts of this leg of the journey was that we got to sneak into a church while they were participating in worship. The acoustics were absolutely wonderful. The voices of the congregation soared from that church.
. We had seen churches before, but they didn't have parishioners within mass, so we were not able to experience churches in action.  However, I came right back down when we had to run out of the back of the sanctuary when the priest started processing out of the church. We didn't want to be caught crashing the mass. Afterwards, we sampled some French pastries. That was another high point of this stop. Yum!!!!

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