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contemplating sculptures along the chemin de saint-jacques

Everyone knows the Camino de Santiago pilgrimage route that leaves Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port in France and then goes to Santiago de Compostela in north-west Spain. The lesser known route, but well-known in France and Europe, is the Chemin de Saint-Jacques that extends the same distance in kilometers as the Camino from Le Puy-en-Velay to Saint-Jean- Pied-de-Port.

Walking the Chemin de St-Jacques-de-Compostelle is fun for many reasons. You exercise each day; you meet people from France and elsewhere who are like-minded; if you are smart, you do not carry much weight and you will sleep in a warm bed every night; and because you are in France you will most likely eat good meals when you are starved.

Along the Chemin one finds many types of markers: arrows will tell you which direction to turn; some stones will have distance chiseled into them; Christian crosses are everywhere; stone markers dating back to the middle ages tell you that you have not deviated from your chosen route; and sometimes a scallop shell is nailed to a tree or a fence post.

By far the most fun and the most extraordinary markers are the sculptures. Many styles are represented. Sometimes they are large and modern and abstract.  (Click on any photo to see it larger and in more detail. Cliquez sur une vignette pour l’agrandir.)

Other sculptures are more like totems with a reference to the pilgrimage route carved into them. A cross, a pèlerin, a staff, and sometimes a three fingered gesture are chiseled into the wood or the stone.  (Click on any photo to see it larger and in more detail. Cliquez sur une vignette pour l’agrandir.)

And, often one sees a more life-like, representative pilgrim. They look like people from another era, the Middle Ages, and never are they resembling the modern pilgrim. These pèlerins wear robes and have hooded covers and carry wood staffs. They are all male.

Today one sees backpacks, and many of the walkers are women. The staff is replaced with two hiking poles.  (Click on any photo to see it larger and in more detail. Cliquez sur une vignette pour l’agrandir.)

Sometimes there is a curiosity, a small gesture along the route that guards a water trough  (Click on any photo to see it larger and in more detail. Cliquez sur une vignette pour l’agrandir.)

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