Walking to Rome: Via Francigena Day 13

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The Via Francigena may have originated as a religious pilgrimage dating back to the 900s (if not earlier). But here, today, as Gail and I walk through the rolling farmland of northern France, we are reminded over and over again that the line we follow is as much informed by the Great War as it is by religion.

Yes, there are the small villages dominated by tall-spired churches. But even these carry the weight of war.  Continue reading

Walking to Rome: Vimy

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As I write this, back in Winnipeg, I am aware that tomorrow is November 11, Remembrance Day. Tomorrow, Gail and I will attend, as we do every year, the Valour Road Memorial Day Service, a short walk away from our Wolseley home. Valour Road, formerly Pine Street, commemorates three recipients of the Victoria Cross for their acts of bravery during World War One. Remarkably, all three lived on Pine Street in Winnipeg before heading into battle in France and Belgium.

It is a matter of good fortune that today’s entry in my day-by-day photo diary of our Via Francigena pilgrimage takes us to the Canadian National Vimy Memorial, just 10 kilometres north of Arras, where we are taking a rest day. Continue reading

Walking to Rome: Via Francigena Day 12

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Frévin-Capelle/La Grenouillère/Anna; Abbaye de Mont-Saint-Éloi; Église catholique; Saint-Martin d’Écoivres; Le Marais de Mareoeuil; Arras

Poor Mont-Saint-Éloi. 

Its abbey was established as far back as the 7th century. Over the next many hundreds of years, it rose to prominence as a major religious centre. That power sealed its fate in the late 1700’s with the French Revolution. The abbey was sacked and its stone walls dismantled, leaving just the west-facing porch and its two tall towers. 

Continue reading