Walking to Rome: Via Francigena Day 1

Our Chaucer Way pilgrimage ended in the nave of Canterbury Cathedral two days ago. Today we are back at the Cathedral, this time just outside the south transept. In front of us is a diminutive stone, no larger than a modest grave marker, with shallow relief carvings telling us this is the Starting Stone for the Via Francigena pilgrimage that will eventually see us at the door of St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome. Today, our goal is simpler, less ambitious. Backpacks are on our shoulders. Walking sticks are strapped to our hands. The requisite photo is taken. With that, we are off on our modest walk to Shepherdswell, some 18 kilometers from here.

Our route, which roughly follows that of Archbishop Sigeric’s much earlier pilgrimage between Rome and Canterbury in 990, follows public footpaths, all of which are part of the North Downs Way. The route will take us to Dover, crossing farm fields and passing through small villages on the way. Quiet. Rural. Peaceful. A good start to an epic pilgrimage.

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