Fiche : The way of Saint James
The Via Podiensis

Bishop Godescalc from Le Puy-en-Velay, a Marian sanctuary that has been famous since the fourth century, is said to have been the first foreign pilgrim to journey to Santiago de Compostela, around 950. Associating the city of Le Puy-en-Velay with the Spanish sanctuary, thousands of pilgrims coming to Le Puy’s cathedral in order to celebrate the Black Madonna progressively continued their journey toward the Iberian Peninsula.
In the twelfth century, the Puy Way, called Via Podiensis, joined up with the Tours Way (Via Turonensis) and the Vézelay Way (Via Lemovicensis) before Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port, the last French stop, and went on across the Pyrenees through the Roncevaux Pass. It then merged with the Arles Way (Via Tolosane) in Puente la Reina, Spain, into a single way that went all the way to Santiago (the Camino francés).
Today, the Via Podiensis is one of the Ways of Saint James most frequently taken in France. You will walk through mounts, gorges and valleys in the Massif Central that are sometimes over 1 300 metres high and therefore require good physical condition. Traditionally, pilgrims and hikers of all nationalities leave Le Puy’s cathedral between May and September; it is indeed strongly recommended not to engage on the Way outside that period, especially in winter, because of the harsh climate.
This guidebook divides the 250 km of this section of the Via Podiensis between Le Puy-en-Velay and Figeac into 11 stages, so that hikers can take the time to discover the wealth of the natural and cultural heritage of the site in the Haute-Loire, in the Lozère, in the Aveyron and in the Lot, where some sections and historic monuments (cathedrals, bridges, hospitals) are on the UNESCO World Heritage List.
You will, however, need 15 days to complete the journey, if you include the time it will take you to go to Le Puy (train station), an extra day to see the medieval city, a day of rest in Conques and your return journey (from Figeac’s train station). Note that there is also a train station in Aumont-Aubrac.
Following the footsteps of Aimery Picaud, the 12th-century author of the first pilgrim’s guidebook to Santiago de Compostela – the renowned Codex Calixtinus – and those of hundreds of thousands of pilgrims, you will go through centuries of history, reviving the age of cathedrals, major pilgrimages and Knights Templar, of highwaymen, religious wars and the Beast of Gévaudan. However, remember that this journey, whether it be spiritual or cultural, will above all be a human adventure.