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one of the oldest towns in the gers–lectoure

I believe it was Graham Robb who wrote in The Discovery of France about the importance of the church steeples and the church spires of France. Travelers, including les pèlerins on the Chemin, would move from location to location, looking to the horizon for the next church steeple or spire. It signaled the next village, which would mean food and shelter.

If possible they towered above the forests; or even better the village would be built on a hill and the spire of its church would serve like a needle and a point of orientation. Think of a lighthouse on the shore of a sea and its raison d’être.

DAY 24 de Miradoux à Lectoure (peut-être 15km) sur Le Chemin de Saint-Jacques-de-Compostelle.

20131016_138_Chemin St Jacques

Imagine then that you are walking the Le Chemin de Saint-Jacques-de-Compostelle. Each day you must walk far enough to find shelter for the night, and you must look for food. You travel light, no tent, no cooking gear, no sleeping bag.

The next night will be spent in Lectoure, a very old village with a large cathedral with a very large tower. Lectoure has an enormous church for its size, suggesting its importance during the Middle Ages.

Look to the horizon.  After passing some time walking some kilometers, the tower appears and you know now where you are going.

20131016_141_Chemin St Jacques

Going to Lectoure entails following the Route de Lectoure (D953) which leaves Miradoux.  You must walk on some pavement. (Click on any photo to see it larger and in more detail.)

20131016_146_Chemin St JacquesTake heart because you will see two châteaux, le Château de Fieux and le Château de Gachepouy.

After a couple of miles you will arrive at a small village called Castet-Arrouy, which means red castle.

Your journey continues down and up and after passing a cemetery, you go to Rue Saint Gervais and to Cathédrale Saint-Gervais-et-Saint-Protais de Lectoure, a truly compelling Roman cathedral with a 15th century belfry tower, 45 meters high, that can be seen from a distance, as I have mentioned. (It was actually twice the height, but was destroyed by a storm in the late 18th century.)

While eating lunch in Lectoure, I met a couple who have just arrived.  They were going to a real estate agent to sign papers for their new home.  I learned that a number of expatriés were buying property in the area. (Click on any photo to see it larger and in more detail.)

20131016_149_Chemin St Jacques

Inside the cathedral one can explore freely. For me taking photos in places of worship feels awkward.  (In India it is absolutely forbidden.)

20131016_148_Chemin St Jacques

But there is no doubt that these religious spaces are gorgeous, and often a celebration of the human spirit and of a time passed.  Edward 1st, the King of England, set foot inside, as did other notables such as Cardinal Richlieu, Ann of Austria, and King Louis XIV and the Queen. (Click on any photo to see it larger and in more detail.)

Around Lectoure are many attractive buildings built of stone. One of these, once the Hotel de Castaing, is now the Hotel Restaurant de Bastard where I spent the night.

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