Via Tolosana – One crosses Saint-Gilles, Montpellier, Toulouse, and the pass of Somport

languedoc2The Road of Toulouse or Via Tolosana was the most southerly French route, leading from Provence to the Pyrenean pass of the Somport.

It began at the Alyscans cemetery  and its myriad saintly tombs, just outside the city gates of Arles. Pilgrims proceeded to the cathedral of the city where relics of Saint Trophimus were held.

tolosana-sunset-7-copyArles had been the metropolitan see of Gaul in the fourth century and so had a long and rich history as an important religious centre.

Crossing the Rhone delta to the great abbey of Saint Gilles, pilgrims venerated the relics of this saint, one of the preeminent of the day, at his tomb in the cavernous crypt.

From the Rhone basin, the Guide mentions two alternative routes, one along the Mediterranean coastline to Montpellier and the relics of the martyrs of Agde, Tiberius, Modestus and Florence at the abbey of Saint Thibèry.

The other route led north from Saint Gilles towards the mountains of the pont-du-diable-1Languedoc and the remote abbey of Gellone which housed the relics of a very popular saint, the warrior monk Guilhem whose heroic feats during the time of the Carolingian emperors were retold in many epic songs.

The great destination further on was the ancient city of Toulouse and the shrine of Saint Saturninus at the vast pilgrimage church there.

From Toulouse pilgrims headed south towards the Pyrenees which they crossed via the Somport Pass into Aragonese territory and the town of Jaca.