This “Walking The Via Francigena” series of posts follow us, David and Gail, as we continue our walk along the Via Francigena pilgrimage route between Canterbury and Rome. In the fall of 2019, we completed the first leg from London to Canterbury, known as the Chaucer Way, and onward to the small town of Tergnier, France on the Via Francigena. A pandemic got in the way but now, in 2022, our trek is underway once again, this time taking us from Tergnier to Besançon over 23 walking days and 580 or so kilometres.
Even though yesterday’s 40 km walk was a harsh start to our Via Francigena pilgrimage, it seems odd to be taking a day off so early in our trip. But Laon is not to be missed. Set atop a hill, surrounded by stone ramparts and crowned by a cathedral that, at a distance, is an odd composition of unusual towers, it is a city that demands at least a day’s exploration.
Up close, Notre Dame de Laon cathedral is nothing short of amazing. Its lacey stone towers are intricately decorated, inviting the eye to wander over each small detail. Deeply recessed entrance porticos and rose windows add depth to the west transept. Inside gives way to tall naves flooded with light from high clerestory leaded glass windows.
Laon itself is a small, tight medieval village, barely changed by time. Of course, it has changed being at the forefront of revolutionary ire, Napoleon’s need to conquest and two World Wars. But to walk its narrow streets is to walk back in time.
Read on to view the day’s photos and soundscape.
Click the images below to view a full-screen slideshow.