Fiche : The way of Saint James
The Via Podiensis

Bishop of Puy-en-Velay, Godescalc was said to be the first to make a pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela around 950 AD. As they associated the Velay area with the Spanish sanctuary, a lot of pilgrims went to the Puy cathedral to celebrate the Black Virgin. Then they went to Spain to end their pilgrimage.
In the 12th century, this road called in Latin the Via Podensis united to the Tours route (Via Turonensis) and to the Vezelay route (Via Lemovicensis) before Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port – last stage in France – to get over the Pyrenees by the mountain pass of Roncesvalles in order to link with the Arles way (Via Tolosane) in Puente la Reina and lead to Santiago (French Way or Camino francés).
Nowadays, this route is the most popular way in France to Santiago de Compostela. You will stroll in the Massif Central across mounts, gorges and valleys, sometimes in an altitude of 4200 feet high provided that you are in good shape. Traditionally, pilgrims and hikers from everywhere start between May and September. Indeed it is inadvisable to go in winter for instance because of the cold weather.
This guidebook splits up the 310 miles of this part of the pilgrimage route into 18 stages from Figeac to Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port in order for the hiker to discover the richness of the natural and cultural patrimony of the French departments of Lot, Tarn-et-Garonne, Gers, Landes and Pyrenées-Atlantiques. Some roads as well as some monuments are listed as UNESCO World heritage sites.
However you will need more than 20 days if you count the train trip to Figeac (SNCF station) but also the time off to visit main towns and the trip back (SNCF stations are Cahors, Moissac, Pommevic, Malause and Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port).
Aimery Picaud, a writer in the 12th century, was the author of the first guidebook to Santiago de Compostela – the famous Codex Calixtinus. You will go through centuries of History reviving the cathedrals era, great pilgrimages, Knights Templar, highwaymen, and wars of religion. Keep in mind that this route, would it be spiritual or cultural, is above all a human experience.