Bishop Godescalc departed from Aquitaine to offer prayers

GodescalcThe first recorded pilgrimage across the Pyrenees to the shrine of Saint James is that of the bishop Godescalc of Le Puy-en-Velay in the Auvergne region.

This occurred in the winter of the year 951.

The monk Gomez of the monastery of Abelda recorded that Godescalc left Le Puy, then part of Aquitaine, with a large entourage of pilgrims in order to, “reach in haste the lands of Galicia to implore the mercy of Christ and the approbation of Saint James”.

Gomez copied a manuscript of Ildefonsus of Toledo concerning the Virginity of Mary, the Madonna, as a gift for Godescalc to take back to France with him.

At Le Puy a Black Madonna of Coptic origin was venerated. Le-Puy-GVThis cult was superimposed on an earlier one featuring a miraculous dolmen.

The dolmen, known as the Stone of Fevers was kept at the cathedral and the two cults continued to coexist.

Connections between Le Puy and Moorish Spain were strong and it is even recorded that Saracens travelled from Andalusia to Le Puy to offer gifts to the Black Madonna.

It is said that on his return, Godescalc arranged for the construction of a small chapel dedicated to the Archangel Michael on top of one of the volcanic pillars at Le Puy.

Le-Puy-StMThe chapel and the cathedral building offer many reminders of Moorish Spain.

Polylobed and horseshoe arches and the alternation of dark and light stone, in imitation of the great Mosque of Cordoba, suggest a fertile cultural exchange with Islamic culture.

The chapel, known as Saint Michel d’Aiguilhe still stands today.

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